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House District 29 decided by just 22 votes

SHERIDAN — Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, went to bed last night thinking he’d lost the race for House District 29 in the primary election by eight votes.

With 29 out of 29 precincts reporting, his challenger, Ptolemy Data Systems CEO Ryan Mulholland, was ahead by eight votes. However, the addition of absentee ballots to the tally later in the night bumped Patton into the lead by 22 votes, 600-578, in what had been a tight race throughout the evening.

Patton was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a National Conference of State Legislators meeting. He had planned on not attending the meeting in order to remain in town for the election, but he and his wife decided it was best that Patton uphold his commitment to attend, especially since he is co-chair of the NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee and was slated to help guide meetings.

Patton said when he thought he’d lost the race, he called his wife and they discussed what the future would look like without him serving in the Legislature as he has done for three terms prior, in addition to service in the 1960s and 1970s.

Patton then went to bed.

When he woke this morning he saw that he’d missed several calls from family members with the message that he had actually slid into the lead.

It was welcome news, though received with cautious reserve.

“It was only by 22 votes. I can’t jump up and down and celebrate and say, well, ‘Land sweep,’” Patton said.

“In most elections, it’s presumptuous to say you have a mandate. If my morality holds up, I must remind myself that I am a servant and not a master, and I will be as careful as I’ve tried to be in past consideration of my actions and my votes,” Patton added.

Patton said he realizes there could be a re-count since the vote was so close, so he is trying not to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. However, he said making it through the primary election does give him a stonger sense of permanence.

“My interim work now becomes more significant to me,” Patton said. “If I have the opportunity to get the committee assignments I want, I will have the opportunity to implement and modify the interim work we’re now doing.”

Patton is particularly interested in serving on the education committee and the capital finance committee. If the final outcome is that Patton is elected to serve another two-year term in the House of Representatives, he wants to address the instability of the education system, needed improvements in transportation around the state, especially air service in Sheridan County, and the needs and concerns of Sheridan County’s older residents.

Patton also wants to address what he sees as an inappropriate use of footnotes in budget appropriations, which can eliminate Legislative deliberation.

County Elections Supervisor Brenda Kekich said the elections office is trying to determine if a re-count for the race will be required. She said she hopes to have a definitive answer by Thursday.

Mulholland publicly congratulated Patton on social media Tuesday night and encouraged residents to get behind Patton and support him as he represents the district in Cheyenne.

2014 Primary election results, unofficial with absentee

With 29 of 29 precincts reporting and absentee ballots added in, the unofficial results for the 2014 primary election for Sheridan County are as follows. Final canvassing will be completed Friday.

In House Distict 29, incumbent John Patton (600) will keep his seat, topping challenger Ryan Mulholland (578) by a small margin.

In House District 30, Mark Jennings unseated incumbent Cathy Coleman 961-501.

The three incumbents will hold their sets on the county commission — Terry Cram (3,371), Steve Maier (2,951) and Bob Rolston (3,205). Challenger Dennis Fox got 2,355 votes.

In the race for county treasurer incumbent Peter Carroll (2,867) will keep his seat, defeating challenger Scott Hininger (1,932).

For Sheridan City Council’s two-year seat, Thayer Shafer is leading the pack with 1,083 votes compared to incumbent Robert Webster’s 876 and Mona Hansen’s 854. Shafer and Webster will move on to the general election.

In the race for Dayton mayor, Norm Anderson led the race with 123 votes. Robert Alley had 80 and Dennis Wagner has 72. Anderson and Alley will move on to the general election.

For Dayton Town Council, Craig Reichert racked up 136 votes compared to Clifford Reed’s 106 and Eric Lofgren’s 152. Chris Smith had 37 votes and Jeremy Smith has 97 votes. All but Chris Smith will move on to the general election.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, leads challenger Bryan Miller 3,677 to 894, in Sheridan County.

Gov. Matt Mead leads the race for governor at 3,124 votes. Cindy Hill has posted 572, and Taylor Haynes received 1,289 votes.

SC coach Smiley joins Weber State; Hammer takes reins

SHERIDAN — Sheridan College men’s basketball coach and athletic director Steve Smiley has accepted an assistant coaching position with Division I Weber State University, in Ogden, Utah.

Sheridan College assistant coach Matt Hammer will take over as interim head coach and athletic director. Hammer and Smiley played collegiate basketball together at Northern State University in South Dakota, under legendary head coach Don Meyer.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Coach Smiley, his wife Nicole and their children,” said Dr. Paul Young, Sheridan College president. “We have a longstanding history of excellence within our basketball program. Coach Smiley carried on that tradition in an outstanding fashion. Knowing the integrity, ability and acumen of Coach Matt Hammer, the basketball program remains in good hands.”

In his six years at Sheridan College, Smiley paced the Generals to an overall record of 153-44, the best in the Region IX conference during that period. Smiley was named the Region IX North Coach of the Year twice, and 21 Generals have earned scholarships to Division I programs under Smiley’s tutelage.

“Steve is a great coach and a tremendous leader,” Young said. “He cares about the student-athletes on and off the court, helping shape their lives and career paths in a positive way. I know I speak for not only Sheridan College, but the community as well in saying ‘Thank you’ to Coach Smiley for all of his contributions.”

Smiley will join Weber State head coach Randy Rahe’s coaching staff. Rahe led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in March, after claiming the Big Sky Conference championship. Rahe has earned Big Sky Coach of the Year four times in seven years. Weber State is the alma mater of NBA all-star Damian Lillard, the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Smiley and Hammer have maintained a close relationship since their days as college teammates. Hammer recently joined the Generals as an assistant coach, following two years as an assistant coach at Saginaw Valley State in Michigan. Hammer played professionally in Iceland for one season before taking coaching positions at Northern State and Aberdeen Central High School in South Dakota. Hammer was named South Dakota’s Mr. Basketball in 2002, while prepping at Elkton High School.

“Matt is extremely intelligent, humble and hard-working,” Smiley said. “He is an outstanding coach and an excellent recruiter, having built relationships with the incoming class of student-athletes. It’s ideal to have someone of Matt’s caliber already here.”

Hammer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education and a Master’s in Health, Physical Education and Coaching.

“I’m extremely honored and excited to be given this opportunity here at Sheridan College,” said Hammer. “I’d like to thank the Sheridan College administration for having faith in me to help lead this outstanding program. I’d also like to thank Steve for giving me a chance to become part of the Sheridan College family.”

The Generals return seven players from last season’s squad, which posted a 27-6 record, and seven incoming players will join the team this season.

Building trust

Equine trainer and breeder Sebastian Mariani pats the back of a 2-year-old mare after mounting it Friday morning at the Jan Pamela Ranch near Big Horn. The trainers have been working on the young horse for the past three weeks to get her used to different sounds, equipment and humans. Mariani uses an Argentinian method called “Doma India” for starting horses and building trust.

SCSD1 opts for homegrown school lunches

RANCHESTER — Sheridan County School District 1 administrators have ditched the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program in favor of a more homegrown variety — at least at its middle and high schools.

The federal program places strict nutritional restrictions on what the schools can serve under the program, including the number of calories ranges based on age groups.

For example, for kids in grade sixth through eight, the restrictions limit lunch to 600-700 calories each day on average over the course of the week. For high school students, the allowable range is 750-850 calories.

Schools throughout the country were getting around this rule by selling a la carte items to go along with the standard meals made available to students under the federal rules. But this year, the USDA will include those items in the nutritional requirements.

SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said the extension of the rules just won’t work for the local school district.

“The kids simply weren’t getting enough calories to not be hungry by mid-afternoon,” Smith said. “Let alone to immediately after school go to practice.”

Smith noted that SCSD1 children have longer school days since they are on a four-day schedule. Kids are typically in school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The school district has opted to drop the federal program at the junior high and high schools, meaning the loss of about $40,000 in funding each year. But, Smith is confident that an increased participation rate that could result from more food options will offset that funding loss.

“It really made what we can do a lot more flexible,” Smith said. “So we started looking at what we would want to offer and what we can do. We decided we wanted to increase the quality of the food.”

Administrators at the school had been looking at ways to partner with local producers for years, but were unsure of how to make it work in a climate where fruits and vegetables only grow for a few months out of the year.

After attending a conference at which an administrator from Vermont talked about how they made it happen, Smith said SCSD1 officials were re-energized to keep trying. School officials started calling local ranches and exploring options.

Smith and SCSD1 Food Service Director Dennis Decker toured the facilities at Holliday Family Farms and were contacted by Masters Ranch.

Decker said the district spent $9,853 on produce last year. Of that amount, roughly $2,963 was on the products the district will now purchase from Holliday Farms. Decker estimated spending $9,039 on the same amount of produce from Holliday Family Farms, for a cost increase of $6,076.

For the beef, Decker said the district will likely spend $5,158 more by utilizing Masters Ranch.

Decker noted though, that the numbers don’t account for the products the district will be able to sell students at a better, premium entree price.

This fall, SCSD1 will begin purchasing cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, radishes and other items from the farm located just outside of Dayton. In November, the district will purchase six cows from Masters Ranch and will have the beef processed in Miles City to be used at the SCSD1 schools. Smith noted that buying whole cows has presented its own challenges, as the school district must follow strict guidelines on what kind of processing facilities can be used.

“We’re hoping to encourage somebody closer to home to do the processing, but the inspections required, from what I’ve been told, are pretty onerous,” Smith said.

He also noted that Decker has started working with Holliday Family Farms to discuss what else the local producer could grow for the district in the future.

Smith said school district officials are excited to serve some of the dishes they haven’t been able to under the federal guidelines — lasagna, macaroni and cheese, country fried steak and other items.

“These are meals that are still healthy, but they offer the calories that our students need so they aren’t hungry,” Smith said.

Students will now have three entree choices available for lunch — the daily special, premium entrees and pre-packaged salads. In addition a full salad bar will be offered to students.

Smith said those students eligible for free and reduced lunches will still be able to participate in those programs.

While Smith said the cost of locally grown produce may be slightly more expensive, the bottom line for the school will not suffer. He said the district expects a 15 percent increase in sales, but only a 7 percent increase in costs.

After sending out a letter to district parents last week, Smith said the district has received nothing but positive feedback. In fact, Smith said, elementary school parents have asked when the program can be extended to the other schools in the district.

Smith said that the district will certainly work toward that goal, but right now there are too many younger children on free and reduced lunches for the district to cover the cost of those meals without federal funding.

“This is a big leap of faith for us,” Smith said of the district’s decision to ditch the federal program. “But it seems like the right choice for our kids.”

Planning a community’s future

SHERIDAN — With an estimate that places the population of Sheridan over the 20,000 mark by the year 2030, a group of Sheridan residents huddled over maps Wednesday night at the Best Western Sheridan Center and drew squares, circles and dotted lines to indicate how they would like to see the city accommodate that growth.

The exercise was part of a workshop to create a Sheridan Land Use Plan that will guide future development of Sheridan and will particularly be used to create a future land use map that will indicate preferred locations for residential and commercial areas and parks and pathways.

Approximately 20 residents split into three groups and plotted new residential and shopping areas, areas they’d like to see redeveloped and revitalized, areas they’d like to see preserved and roads and pathways to connect it all together. They were asked to do so while keeping in mind goals from Sheridan’s past planning documents and comments from a citizen survey regarding the growth of the city.

These included avoiding sprawl, maintaining the downtown and the small town feel of Sheridan, retaining open space and providing affordable housing, along with requests to provide bigger city amenities like a mall and stores like Target and Applebee’s, indicating the balancing act that growth will be for a city that hovered at the 10,000 mark most of the 20th century before swelling to a size that often attracts larger franchises.

According to a growth scenario based on current housing units and density, it was estimated that 642 acres of land will need to be developed by 2030 for residential use for the increase of 3,500 residents.

Orion Planning Group partner Robert Barber, from Hernando, Mississippi, reminded participants that growth can occur upward and inward, too, by looking at sites for infill development and converting downtown spaces into apartments. OPG was hired by the city to guide the development of the Sheridan Land Use Plan, with OPG Partner and Sheridan resident Joanne Garnett leading the way.

The three groups varied on details, but general concensus was reached that new residential areas could be located on west Fifth Street, north and east of Kmart on North Main Street, heading west on Loucks Street and Big Goose, near Kendrick Golf Course and heading east on U.S. Highway 14 East. One group also suggested redeveloping Downer Addition, North Sheridan Avenue and the area immediately west of the interstate with infill development to prevent too much sprawl.

All three groups also emphasized the need to preserve traditional neighborhoods and the downtown area, bringing in new vitality and energy by developing upper floor apartments along Main Street.

In general the groups hesitated to recommend large shopping areas at the edges of town or at every entryway, fearing that doing so could pull the focus away from Sheridan’s downtown. It was mentioned that new shopping areas could be located near East Ridge Road east of town, on West Fifth Street and in the new North Main area.

Sheridan Planning and Development Director Robert Brigg’s group talked about the need to redevelop commercial areas along Coffeen Avenue towards town, which is already starting with the construction of Petco near Albertson’s, a Tractor Supply Company near the Maverick gas station on Brundage and talk of a co-op to be placed where the vacant LBM restaurant stands.

Barber reminded the groups that the average amount of retail space in America per person is 23 square feet, meaning that an additional 3,500 people would only equate to about 80,000 square feet, or 7 acres, of new commercial land. The average Wal-Mart is about 220,000 square feet in size, meaning that redevelopment of existing commercial areas along Coffeen Avenue and North Main may be ideal rather than putting up new box stores.

“I love doing these events. They’re hands on. It gets the community talking about itself rather than having some expert talk at you. The tables themselves engage in the future of the community,” Barber said.

Barber said challenges for Sheridan as it grows will include facilitating infill development and preventing sprawl so there’s efficiency in its land use patterns and its downtown can be supported, redeveloping areas that need a facelift like North Main and meeting housing needs for an aging population.

Sprawl, in particular, degrades communities, drains vitality, destroys the environment and places economic strain on residents who must drive everywhere, Barber said, recommending that Sheridan seek to create a city with economy of scale that keeps people close to each other and to needed services, as well as social options.

All in all, Barber said Sheridan was on a positive development track and needs to maintain its pride in its downtown and infrastructure, seeking to do infill development and utilize existing spaces for more mixed uses.

• For more information on the Sheridan Land Use Plan, visit sheridanlanduseplan.wordpress.com or find “Sheridan Land Use Plan” on Facebook.

Growth goals from past planning documents

• Maintain a compact development pattern.

• Provide a diverse mix of housing, primarily in urban neighborhoods with adequate services.

• Locate commercial uses in designated commercial areas and centers.

• Retain open space and plan for parks to balance land use.

• Modify downtown development standards for more mixed use (business, residential, etc.).

 

Citizen comments on growth from a recent survey

• “Blindly developing a new Casper or Gillette will destroy what we have and turn the city into the places we all fled from to come here.”

• “It is important that Sheridan not lose its ‘small town’ flavor.”

• “It would be great to have a mall, Target and good modern movie theater. … This city needs to keep up with the times!”

• “Efforts need to be made to clean up and reuse vacant lots before expansion outside the city.”

• “No one should have to get in a car to get a cup of coffee or pastry or buy bread or milk.”

• “As I see it, the major problem facing our city is the lack of affordable housing.”

• “I think Sheridan really needs to work on getting more business here … anything that will stimulate the economy and keep people from going to Billings, Gillette, Casper or Rapid City to shop and eat.”

• “‘Be careful what you wish for’ – unbridled growth has turned once-beautiful small towns in California to horrible urban jungles.”

 

Survey shows consensus on planning goals

Results are in for the first community survey that was conducted as part of the Sheridan Land Use Plan project. The survey was used to identify the important planning issues of concern to community citizens. Out of 209 delivered surveys, 85 surveys (41 percent) were completed.

The survey solicited feedback regarding why respondents lived in Sheridan, how they rated local services, what types of improvements are or are not needed in Sheridan, their opinion about the importance of the city addressing certain land use concerns and input about planning goals.

A summary of the results includes:

• Over 80 percent of respondents agreed that: development should not impair water supplies, improve the quality of new development, ensure new development has adequate infrastructure, respect property rights and promote continued farming and ranching.

• 60 percent stated the lack of affordable housing is very important for the city to address.

• 78 percent believe Sheridan needs more employment opportunities and to reuse vacant buildings and lots.

• 74 percent rated Sheridan’s environmental quality as good

• 78 percent rated potable water supply and quality and passive recreation opportunities (parks, pathways) as good

• 78 percent responded that the area’s scenic beauty and mountain views are very important

• Over 65 percent replied that Sheridan’s air and water quality and it being a friendly community are very important

A ‘Wireless’ experience

Matt Davis speaks into the microphone as a radio announcer during a rehearsal for “Wireless: Live Readers Theater from the Golden Age of Radio” Tuesday at the Carriage House Theater. The act will include several transcripts from classic radio programs. Curtain opens this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Simple greetings

Seven-year-old Izabell Hendricks greets a goat tied to the fence in the goat tail tying event during the Sheridan County Rodeo Saturday at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds arena.

Big Horn Mountain Catering earns People’s Choice

SHERIDAN — Several hundred people attended the annual Taste of Sheridan event held at Thorne-Rider Park on Sunday.

Approximately 10 area restaurants participated in the event meant to showcase local culinary talents and raise money for the North Main Association.

Four judges tried a bit of everything prepared by the local restaurants and tapped Frackelton’s as the winner in the “Best Taste” category. The judges — Trevor Jackson, Todd Swanson, Kelly Miller-Smart and Kristen Czaban — chose newcomer Mountain Rose Bakery as the winner in the dessert category.

The People’s Choice top prize went to Big Horn Mountain Catering, while the second place award in that category went to the Sheridan Senior Center.

Man had nearly 400 narcotics on him when arrested

SHERIDAN — Sheridan police officers who arrested a local man Wednesday for a municipal court warrant found nearly 400 prescription narcotics concealed on his person when conducting a search at the detention center.

Police arrested Kyle Logan Fearnow, 26, at the Apple Tree Inn, which is his current address.

Sheridan Police Department detectives called to assist with the arrest executed a search warrant on Fearnow’s room and found more than 6,000 prescription narcotics in the room, along with a loaded gun.

Fearnow has been charged with multiple charges related to the investigation including felony possession of a controlled substance and taking a controlled substance into a jail. Additional charges are pending.

Attempts to reach Sgt. Travis Koltiska to confirm if the arrest was related to burglaries within the last year at Hospital Pharmacy and Hospital Pharmacy West were not returned by press time.

 

Is it local?

SHERIDAN — There is a “Portlandia” episode that features the two main characters peppering their waitress with questions about whether the chicken served is local, how much room it had to roam and if it had any friends on the farm.

Though a bit tongue-in-cheek — with the waitress presenting documents about “Colin’s” life on a nearby farm — the episode touches on an issue becoming more important for food consumers and producers alike.

The issue of growing, processing and selling local food came before the Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday. The commission voted to recommend to county commissioners approval of an amendment to county zoning regulations that will allow on-farm sales of local produce, products made from that produce like jams and salsa, and accessory items like books that promote healthy, local eating.

Essentially, the amendment will allow area agricultural producers to build a retail structure on their farm, such as a tent or farm stand, in order to sell their locally grown food, much like they would at a farmers market.

It will also allow for small-scale processing, including cleaning, sorting, grading, packaging, milling and storage.

The amendment is geared toward the sale of produce like fruits and vegetables, County Planner Mark Reid said, although it could include meat and livestock products if a farmer applied for and received a conditional use permit to do commercial slaughtering and processing.

The request for a zoning amendment came from local farmers like Brad Holliday of Holliday Family Farms near Dayton and Chris Shaw of Shiloh Valley Family Farm south of Sheridan, who were both present at the meeting to speak in favor of the amendment.

Sheridan resident Kentz Willis, who appreciates the value of locally grown foods, and Shannon Anderson and Gillian Malone, with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, were also present at the meeting to speak in favor of the change.

“I can sell you hay bales all day long from my farm, but I can’t sell you a tomato,” Holliday said.

A few years ago, Holliday began raising and processing chickens on his farm near Dayton. He has a conditional use permit to sell chicken from a retail store on his farm, and he also sells online, at farmers markets and through venues like health food stores, but he can’t sell produce from his retail outlet.

County regulations do not prohibit sales of produce from homes or a “you-pick” format. This amendment will allow retail sales from a retail outlet, potentially generating additional income for local farmers.

“The time is right, the need is here. People want to know where and how their food is grown,” Holliday said.

Planning commissioners generally spoke in favor of the idea but were cautious to tweak the language in order to limit the size and scope of sales, not wanting this amendment to somehow allow a Del Monte-sized operation to move in and set up business.

Changes included: a tweak to the definition of “agriculture” to include “on-farm, or local retail sales” to clearly allow farmers market sales; removal of a line in the amendment limiting the number of employees allowed; and a line stating that at least 75 percent of the sales shall be from products grown on the landowners’ farms. The last change will allow sale of accessory items and items that may include a small amount of ingredients not grown locally such as sugar.

Commissioners also included a caution with their recommendation of approval to county commissioners to decide if retails sales should be allowed in rural residential and urban residential zoning. The amendment includes RR and UR zones, as well as agricultural, but planning commissioners were unsure if it should.

In other business, commissioners:

• recommended for approval a conditional use permit for Neltje to expand her Turned Antiques business on U.S. Highway 14/16 south of Sheridan with the addition of a 25-by-50 foot metal building similar to the other two buildings already in use

• recommend for approval erection of a 191-foot Verizon cellphone tower 1.6 miles north of U.S. Highway 14/16 near Clearmont on Gary and Vicki Jo Koltiska’s ranch. The tower is similar to one located 250 feet north of the proposed site.

• recommended for approval the erection of a temporary 20-foot Verizon cellphone tower on the Sheeley Ranch near Dayton. The tower will be taken down once a permanent tower can be installed in the town of Dayton, a process which is already underway.

Group continues gathering support for aquatics project

SHERIDAN — A group of local residents calling themselves Citizens for Community Recreation continued their outreach efforts Wednesday by meeting with the Sheridan County Commission to discuss a new indoor aquatics facility and potential funding for it.

The group, which includes board members and leadership from the YMCA, Sheridan Recreation District and area foundations, has also gathered approximately 1,500 signatures in support of its efforts.

The group’s goal is to solve what has been a long-standing problem for the Sheridan community — access to efficient, family friendly aquatic facilities.

While the community has several options for those seeking recreation in a pool, most of the facilities in Sheridan County are aging and Kendrick Park pool has neared the end of its life.

As part of the group’s efforts, they’ve taken what would be a potential footprint for a new, indoor facility and placed it on a map over properties that could be used for the project. The desire, and advice from other studies done on aquatic centers, to keep the pool centrally located and not as a stand-alone facility have brought the group time and again to look at the soccer fields located next to the YMCA. The fields are currently owned by Whitney Benefits.

Jay McGinnis, executive director at the YMCA, has said his nonprofit organization could take over operations of the new aquatics facility, thus eliminating the need to build a stand-alone structure. The addition of the new aquatics facility would allow the YMCA to transfer its staff and operations capabilities to the new facility and decommission the YMCA’s current pools, leaving additional space for expanded programming at the community center.

“But we can’t do it by ourselves,” McGinnis told the county commissioners Wednesday, emphasizing the need for a public, private partnership.

The meeting was a part of the commissioners efforts to visit with various groups requesting Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funding.

McGinnis said, though, that the Citizens for Community Recreation weren’t necessarily asking for One-Cent funding. Instead, he said, the group is asking the county to consider where the funding could come from. The citizen committee has also been speaking with private donors and has a verbal commitment from the city of Sheridan to participate in the project. McGinnis said he believes the group of volunteers and the YMCA could raise between $6-7 million for the project in private funding.

The total expected project cost is estimated at $13.8 million, which includes the aquatics facility and the development of additional park space for athletics to potentially replace those that will be built on near the YMCA.

McGinnis said the citizen group behind the efforts would like to have most of the funding committed before moving into design or building phases. He noted that groups tend to lose fundraising momentum if they get too ahead of themselves. He did provide examples of what the facility could include, such as a zero-entry pool, slides and other family friendly amenities.

County commissioners expressed interest in the project and acknowledged the need in the community, but said they are unsure where the millions of dollars needed for the project could come from in the county’s budget. The commissioners said they’d like to have a joint meeting with the Sheridan City Council to discuss the project and said they would consider potential funding options as well.

Turnout high for candidate forums

SHERIDAN — Candidates seeking statewide or legislative seats in the 2014 election hit upon nearly every popular talking point in Wyoming politics during the candidate forum held Tuesday at Sheridan College.

The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee organized the event, which had a much higher turnout than past years’ forums. The increased participation reflected national polling numbers that register how unhappy citizens have been with the government’s performance. In January, a Gallup poll showed that 65 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the nation’s system of government and how well it works. That was the highest percentage in the polling since 2001.

Nearly every candidate Tuesday night spoke to those concerns, criticizing government overreach and stressing the need to return the government to the people.

Candidates speaking at the forum included individuals running for the U.S. Senate, Wyoming governor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction and local house districts.

Some of the candidates who could not attend had representatives read letters on their behalf.

Below are some of the highlights from each race represented at the forum.

 

U.S. Senate

Sen. Mike Enzi

• Harlan Rasmussen read a letter on Enzi’s behalf.

Bryan Miller

• Miller is a Sheridan High School alumnus who served 23 years in the military. In his introduction and closing remarks he commented that he is “weary of the same old song and dance” in national politics.

Q: Given the current economic situation how would you approach fiscal responsibility?

A: Miller said he wants to rein in the federal regulations burdening states.

He noted that agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency have no authority to dictate rules to the states and said the agencies’ roles are redundant because the state has its own agencies to handle those issues. He said he would bring those jobs and that authority back to the state, lowering the amount of money spent on bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

Q: Describe your perspective on energy independence.

A: Miller described Wyoming as the battery of the U.S. with its large amount of natural resources. He noted though, that much of the land is owned by the federal government, which is keeping those resources from being accessed. He said Wyoming should own all of the land within its borders — whether that means it is owned by private citizens or the state government.

Q: Do you support Internet taxing?

A: Miller said he does not and noted that taxing is “as toxic as Common Core.”

Other comments: Miller also discussed EPA decisions that have impacted the state and the federal government’s constitutional authority to pass drug legislation.

 

U.S. Representative

Rep. Cynthia Lummis

• Letter was read on her behalf by Melinda Abbott.

Jason Senteney

• Letter read on his behalf.

 

Governor

Matt Mead

• Letter read on his behalf by Tyler Julian.

Cindy Hill

• Letter read on her behalf.

Peter Gosar

• Letter read on his behalf.

Taylor Haynes

• Haynes was born on a produce farm in Louisiana, but now owns a ranch, works as a urologist and runs an insurance company. He noted that Wyoming has “made a lot of noise” in regards to federal policies and over his viewpoints, but said Wyoming has to lead the charge against federal overreach.

Q: Asked to discuss his thoughts on immigration.

A: Haynes noted that while immigration into the U.S. is a well-defined process, illegal immigration and the efforts of government to circumvent the process for African “refugees” is an insurgence that will threaten the state’s labor force and culture.

Q: Thoughts on Senate File 104, or the Cindy Hill Bill.

A: Haynes said he’s thought it was unconstitutional from the beginning and is 100 percent against it.

Q: Asked to discuss his thoughts on EPA’s rulings in the state.

A: Haynes said he believes they are unconstitutional and the EPA has no authority to make such rulings in any sate.

 

Secretary of State

Pete Illoway

• Letter read on his behalf.

Ed Buchanan

• Buchanan emphasized his five-point plan to improve the state’s business office. His goals include improving customer service and government transparency, being proactive against fraud, conducting an internal audit and serving as an ambassador for the state.

Ed Murray

• Murray noted his four pillars for leading the office — continuing to progress in terms of technology, fighting fraud, increasing voter turnout and growing business.

Clark Stith

• Stith emphasized that he is the “small government” candidate in the race and said he has pledged to reduce the size of the Secretary of State’s Office by 9 percent in the first four years.

Q: Asked to comment on their stance on term limits.

Stith: He argued that the state already has term limits; they are called elections.

Murray: Said he is for term limits and noted he believes the Founding Fathers envisioned a government led by ordinary citizens, not career politicians.

Buchanan: Said he is against term limits and that he believes elections accomplish that goal.

Q: Do you feel funding levels to local government are appropriate?

Murray: Murray said he believes local governments are being strangled by a lack of funding and the state needs to establish a more predictable revenue stream for the communities.

Buchanan: He said local government does need a better way to predict funding from the state, but noted that in the past the state hasn’t always had the money to give. “There’s no amount of money government won’t spend,” he said, adding that funding will likely never be enough, but programs are in place to help struggling communities.

Stith: He advocated for better predictability in funding as well and noted that the way communities must lobby and compete for funding from the state is absurd.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Bill Winney

• A retired commander of a nuclear submarine, Winney said he observed the Wyoming Legislature for 10 years and began focusing on education issues about six years ago.

Jillian Balow

• With experience in education, management and administration, Balow said she believes the education system in the state is broken, largely due to a lack of leadership by current officials.

Sheryl Lain

• A former teacher and self-proclaimed national expert on education, Lain said she’d like to focus on stopping the federalization of education.

Mike Ceballos

• A former telecommunications businessman, Ceballos said he’d like to create stability in an agency that has been more of an anchor than a sail in recent years. He’d also like to re-establish a positive relationship between the superintendent’s office and the Legislature.

Q: Do you support the federal mandate that is Common Core?

Winney: Winney said no and added that the mandate does not allow teachers to be flexible.

Balow: She said she’s concerned about the assessment burden that is attached to the Common Core. While high standards for students are necessary, she said, Common Core is less about standards and is more of a movement that is not right for Wyoming.

Lain: She reiterated her desire to move away from the federalization of education and said she believes that more rules and regulations result in lower student achievement.

Ceballos: While Ceballos noted that the Common Core’s ties to federal funding is problematic, he cautioned constituents about “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” He said he would work to establish standards that with Wyoming and keeps kids from living in their parents’ basements permanently.

Other comments: The candidates each also discussed the role of the Legislature in education, which ranged from strictly funding to advisory. Balow noted that the Legislature has had a lack of confidence in the Department of Education recently and has been forced to overstep its authority.

 

House District 29

Rep. John Patton

• Patton noted that while the district is completely within Sheridan’s city limits he does not limit his representation to those constituents, but rather the state and county as a whole. He also said he is running again to give back to a community that has given him and his family so much over the years.

Ryan Mulholland

• Mulholland noted that he believes crating job opportunities and diversifying the economy are key issues. He’d like to see the state better able to withstand the busts of the energy industry.

Q: Please comment on your second amendment stance.

Mulholland: He noted that he has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and believes gun rights are a constitutional privilege. He also noted that Patton has a C rating from the NRA.

Patton: Patton said he likely owns more guns than Mulholland, but believes in personal responsibility when it comes to gun ownership and laws. He noted that there is nothing in the constitution that says you have a right to be irresponsible.

Q: Should the superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position?

Mulholland: He spoke to Senate File 104 and noted that the legislation took away the voice of the people, who had voted Cindy Hill into office. If you want to change the way government is run, he said, you should put it to a vote of the people.

Patton: Appointment versus elected isn’t the problem, Patton said. He noted that education starts in the homes and communities of the state, not the superintendent’s office.

Other comments: The candidates also discussed fiscal responsibility.

 

House District 30

Rep. Kathy Coleman

• Coleman noted in her introduction that she has always taken on leadership positions in politics, and, she must be good at them because she keeps getting asked to step to the plate. She also noted that while she has been relatively quiet in Cheyenne, she has been learning the processes and finding solutions to her constituents’ problems.

Mark Jennings

• He emphasized that he is an average citizen who has spoken with others who are concerned about overspending, tax increases and the apparent disregard for states’ rights.

Q: Discuss your Second Amendment stance.

Jennings: He said gun rights are a “fundamental thing.” He also noted that they are not just about hunting and personal protection, he said the rights were established to keep the government a little bit leary of tyranny.

Coleman: Coleman noted that you can’t take every gun rights bill at face value. She spoke with constituents on a variety of bills and when the intent of the law is lost in the process, she would opt to vote against it.

Other comments: The two candidates also discussed fiscal responsibility and the need for economic diversification.

Researchers discover bluebirds philandering in Bighorns

Big Horn — Sex. Deception. Infidelities. Fathers raising youngsters that they think are their own, but actually are the offspring of another.

While this might sound like the typical plot of almost any soap opera, it is actually a glimpse of the findings that bird biologists Scott and Bonnie Johnson have discovered in their years of research in the Bighorn Mountains.

Scott Johnson, a biology professor at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, has been coming to the Big Horn area for bird research since 1985.

“I had just finished my master’s degree and came to Wyoming for romantic reasons,” Johnson said. “That didn’t work out but I started doing research on my own. I taught at Holy Name School and I had a very understanding head nun who let me have my first period to use as my planning period. I used it to do the morning bird research. I would come in and teach in my rubber boots and jeans and change clothes between second and third period. It usually took me until lunch to get fully dressed.”

Johnson was joined a few years ago by his wife, Bonnie, and together, based at the Gallatin Ranch, they have studied the biology and behavior of house wrens and bluebirds.

During their years in the area, the pair has conducted research in the Big Horn and Burgess Junction areas. Initial research projects focused on house wrens and more specifically, what the role is of the male bird’s song.

“A couple things we discovered is they use song to attract mates to their territories,” Scott Johnson said. “We did an experiment where we had a speaker playing a recording of a male song next to a nest box where there were no males. Females came and started building a nest even though they couldn’t see a male. Of course we had control boxes where there was no song and no females came.”

“I think some of the more interesting stuff we discovered was extramarital mating behavior or affairs of the avian kind in the house wrens,” he continued.

Early on, the pair noticed that males would sneak into the territories of their neighbors. They primarily did so when the females on those territories were fertile and laying eggs. Most of the time, the intruding males were chased out by the resident male, but if not, they were seen performing their mating display.

“So it suggested these males were making territorial intrusions to try and increase their mating success and spread their genes,” Johnson said.

Later in the 1990s, the Johnsons said the development of genetic testing techniques allowed them to verify what they were seeing in the field.

“We were able to use genetic analyses to confirm that some of the young were fathered by males not on the territory,” Johnson said. “In fact, about 40 percent of the nests had at least one offspring not fathered by the resident male. Some had no offspring of their own in the nest.”

Johnson added that when they began to study mountain bluebirds, they discovered they were even more philandering than wrens and genetic testing revealed that two-thirds of chicks in nests were not the offspring of the male associated with the nest.

One example of the deception that male house wrens can practice is their tendency to attempt having a clutch of chicks with more than one female. During their observations, the Johnsons noticed that once their first female mate was on the nest and incubating eggs, some male wrens would go to a high perch and sing a song signaling to other females that they were unattached and in search of a mate. The Johnsons found that depending on the season, anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of males would have two female mates at a time.

“Not unlike another species we know,” Bonnie Johnson said.

However, the Johnsons still are unsure why this behavior is a benefit to the birds, as once the first nest’s eggs hatch, the male abandons the second female. They do not help raise the second feathered family and consequently, the chicks have low survival rates.

“It is a very bad deal for these mistresses,” Scott Johnson said. “They (chicks) do very poorly. The second female has to do it all on their own.”

The Johnsons’ findings have been published in more than 50 scientific papers and added significantly to scientific knowledge about birds and bird behavior.

“They are relatively easy to study,” Scott Johnson said about why they have chosen house wrens and bluebirds to study, out of the dozens of species that inhabit our area. “The house wrens are fun because they are constantly busy. I admire them because they don’t waste any time. You rarely see them sitting and doing nothing. And the bluebirds are just stunning to look at. I never get tired of watching them. The other thing that is intriguing about them is how they manage to nest in a challenging environment, that high altitude. Up at Burgess Junction they are nesting at about 8,300 feet.”

“They face all kinds of conditions within a breeding season,” Bonnie Johnson added.

In addition to a healthy habitat and an abundance of bird life to study, the Johnson’s said the Sheridan area has been an ideal place to conduct research due to the support they have received from individuals and groups. They said the Gallatin and Garber ranches, as well as staff and management of The Brinton Museum and Bear Lodge have allowed them to have great success in their work.

However, even under the great research conditions offered in our area, unexpected and unwelcome things can happen.

“A disheartening surprise this year was an as yet unidentified disease affecting bluebird chicks on the mountain,” Johnson said.

He noted that they are discovering nests with approximately half the chicks dying or missing (when a chick dies, the female bluebird will push the body out of the nest where it is usually quickly taken by a predator).

Despite otherwise good conditions this year for raising chicks, the chicks are succumbing to a disease that causes black, dead tissue around their mouths, misshapen beaks and emaciation. Photos and samples have been sent to two wildlife veterinary research centers in search of an answer.

“We may end up studying the effects of that disease next year because this is really rare,” Johnson said. “We just don’t see wide spread disease in songbird populations. It is sort of a very recent discovery and we’ll keep working on it.”

Squeal-filled night at the fair

Members of the Legerski’s Sausage pig wrestling team grab ahold of their pig and move toward the barrel Sunday night at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. The team finished second in the men’s division, behind the Pot Bellies. Pictured, from left, for the Legerski’s Sausage team are Logan Garstad, Hayden Legerski, Nate Kane and Nate Berg (front).

Foundation formed to manage Coffeen history

SHERIDAN — When you hear the names Whitney, Kendrick or Eaton, you likely make immediate connections to a person, a place, a legacy, an historical reference or a combination of all those things.

When you hear Coffeen do you think of a street, or the family behind the name?

A recently formed foundation called CHIEF is hoping to use a large personal collection of historical items to re-educate the community on the vast historical impact the Coffeen family, especially Henry A. Coffeen, had on Sheridan County.

The Coffeen Historical Information Education Foundation was started by Patricia Coffeen shortly after her husband, a fourth generation descendent of Henry A. Coffeen, passed away.

“Before he passed we started getting an interest with what we were going to do with this stuff and he said, ‘It’s history, it’s time to dig this stuff out,’” Patricia Coffeen said on their family collection. “But it wasn’t until after he passed that I sought legal counsel because it was all on my shoulders but I’m no historian.”

The significance of the collection has begun to be uncovered as now Wyoming Room librarian at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Judy and members of community historical societies take an interest in the items.

“Big Horn City Historical Society took an interest because his (Henry A. Coffeen) beginnings were in Big Horn. We had pictures that we didn’t even know the value of back then but the ladies did and that’s what spurred our interest to reveal it,” Patricia Coffeen said. “Judy would come right to our home and would scan and scan and scan.”

With the scanning and preservation help of Slack, little by little the collection began to be archived including photographs, sheet music, copies of speeches and much more.

“She had literally thousands of dollars worth of history in her house and didn’t know it,” said local historian and teacher Tyson Emborg on the collection. “If you get on eBay or go downtown to one of our stores, one Teepee magazine is worth a couple hundred dollars and she just had them sitting at her house.”

“CHIEF actually got its beginnings when I started realizing how much history was there,” Coffeen said. “My husband kind of knew it but he was very quiet and humble and didn’t want to throw the name around, but he knew that the history needed to be preserved. So then we took off with it.”

For 18 months straight, Slack visited the Coffeen household every Tuesday to scan more items into the digital archives and as more pieces of history were dug out, more connections to other local figures and important advancements for Sheridan County were revealed.

“His son, Herbert Coffeen, was a nationally famous photographer and a lot of the collection are his photos. Those are extremely valuable,” Emborg said. “So there’s more than just Henry within the collection. It’s quite significant.”

“But it all starts with Henry and goes from there,” Coffeen piped in.

 

Who was Henry A. Coffeen?

According to Emborg, Henry A. Coffeen started in Ohio before moving to Illinois where he ran for an Illinois house seat, but was defeated by Joseph Cannon.

He worked as a college professor and traveled giving lecture series on history, including a lecture in Buffalo that would eventually land him in Big Horn.

“For that time, at the turn of the century, for a community like Sheridan, where you don’t have a college and you didn’t have the Internet, it was quite an event to bring in a speaker to talk about ancient world history, stuff you had never heard about,” Emborg said.

While in town, a cousin living in Buffalo showed Coffeen around and he must have liked the area because in 1884 he decided to move to Big Horn and open a grocery store.

Coffeen’s daughter started dating Edward Gillette, who had recently surveyed the area now known as Gillette  — and named after him — and he told Henry Coffeen that the railroad was going to be coming through Sheridan.

As a result, Coffeen moved his store to Sheridan, nail by nail and plank by plank, and reopened in the site that is now the WYO Theater.

During his time in Sheridan, Coffeen’s contributions are almost too numerous to attempt to track, from a national level down to putting Sheridan and the education of the community children in the forefront.

Truly a founding father of the town, he signed the petition to get Sheridan County done, he was on the constitutional convention for the state of Wyoming, he was one of the first mayors of Sheridan, he ran as the second member to the House of Representatives for the state in 1892.

His other contributions include helping the school district, bringing the first library to town by writing a letter to Andrew Carnegie seeking funds, working at a state level on behalf of women’s suffrage, developing the taxation of minerals that keeps Wyoming in the black when other states are in the red, starting the first Sheridan College in the second floor of his store and donating various pieces of land for projects throughout the community.  He was also instrumental in bring Fort Phil Kearny to Sheridan and much more.

“If it’s anything from 1884 to 1912 that benefitted the community,” Emborg said, “Henry is going to have been in on it.”

At one point, in 1896, Coffeen was even considered for a slate by William Jennings Bryant to run for vice president of the United States, prompting the famous politician to visit Sheridan.

“He’s like a lot of the people in the community we experience who did a lot of phenomenal civically minded work throughout the community that has great benefit over time, but over time you forget that the area children go to school rather than work in the mines, or women have the right to vote and that you have drinking fountains in the school, and who gave us all of that,” Emborg said.

“Kendrick was a Democrat and Coffeen was a Democrat so a lot of what he started was shadowed and advanced by Kendrick when he took over, so you’re looking at Kendrick rather than looking at Coffeen but really Coffeen started it,” he added.

 

Moving forward with history

Trish Coffeen said the focus of CHIEF is to use the history materials for educational purposes.

“We were going to turn it all over to the community but we didn’t want trinkets and money making stuff made, we wanted to continue to honor the name,” she said. “The whole collection has now been scanned and the future of the foundation is ensuring proper use of materials.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the family or seeing the original documents is welcome to do so via the documents available at either the Wyoming Room or the Sheridan County Museum.

Emborg continues to dig through the history to make community connections, work on his ongoing historical research surrounding the cemetery and bring information back to his classrooms.

Books on Henry A. Coffeen have been written largely based on the documents in the collection, offering an in depth look at his political and overall influences.

Finally, the new elementary school formally known as simply Coffeen Elementary will soon be dedicated and opened to the community under its new name, Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School.

A special cornerstone in the school will feature an image of Coffeen from the family collection and displays created by the foundation will be permanent fixtures in the halls.

“Not only was Henry a founding father of Sheridan but maybe more importantly, especially for our venue, was his involvement in education and how critically important he valued education,” Sheridan County School District 2 Director of Elementary Education Scott Stults said about the name change. “So I think it’s extremely fitting ad very fortunate that we have the opportunity to honor him and his work, and keep that memory alive.”

Ready for the spotlight

Twelve-year-old Sydney Butler, left, and Connor McKey, 13, watch over their pigs as Genie Mayfield, center, sprays water on the animals during the intermediate showmanship class of the swine show Thursday evening at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. The youth were judged on their ability to present their pigs to the judge during the show.

Adriaens’ transition to chief of staff raises questions regarding police pension

SHERIDAN — Mayor John Heath said Wednesday that interim Chief of Staff Rich Adriaens is spending a majority of his time working at the police department to help with the transition there while also attending meetings with city department heads about an hour each morning as he moves into his new role.

Adriaens was appointed interim chief of staff by Heath July 14. Heath said he needed help juggling all the appointments and day-to-day operations of his new position as mayor and noted in a memo sent to city employees that former Mayors Jim Wilson and Della Herbst also had chiefs of staff.

Heath said Adriaens is currently splitting his time about 90/10 between police and city work and that as the months progress that ratio will change to 80/20, 70/30, 60/40, and so forth until a smooth transition can be completed at both the city and the police department.

The question of how Adriaens is spending his time has been raised because it could affect which pension plan — law enforcement or regular city employee — he is able to use.

According to Wyoming Retirement System regulations, contributions to retirement plans are based on duties, not job title or even which budget an employee is paid from.

Even though he was named chief of staff for the city, Adriaens has been allowed to continue contributions to his law enforcement pension. This caused concern among some Sheridan residents because contributions to law enforcement pensions are higher than regular pension contributions, potentially costing the city, and thus taxpayers, more money.

At his old police chief salary of $107,654.04, the city contributed $9,258.24 per year (8.6 percent of his salary) into the retirement fund for Adriaens. At his increased salary of $137,427.10, the city would contribute $11,818.08 per year into his law enforcement pension but only $10,471.94 (7.62 percent of his salary) if he was enrolled in the regular employee pension plan.

There is a provision in state statute that allows a temporary, six-month employee to not be enrolled in the regular retirement plan, but after that time if a position becomes permanent, retirement contributions must be made. Under that provision, and if he spends a majority of his time doing police duties, Adriaens is allowed to continue contributions to his law enforcement pension.

However, once his duties become primarily city-related, Adriaens must use the regular employee pension plan, which Heath assured would happen.

The Wyoming Retirement System typically requires the city to pay retirement contributions retroactively to the date of hire for a temporary position that is made permanent. This could cause problems since it would mean Adriaens would receive double pension payments, which is not allowed.

When alerted to that possibility, Heath said he would have City Clerk Scott Badley and Human Resources Director Heather Doke look into the matter with the Wyoming Retirement System and make sure everything was being done correctly.

Adriaens will be able to keep his law enforcement pension even if he switches to a regular pension plan, but he will only be allowed to contribute to the regular pension.

Heath said it is his plan to hire Adriaens permanently as chief of staff in six to eight months. He said he may wait until the new City Council is in place in January following upcoming elections to give them the courtesy of being in on that decision.

At this point, Heath said he does not wish to move to a city administrator form of government.

“I am still the CEO of the city, if you will, and he (Adriaens) does basically more of the day-to-day things that will free me up to go out into the public, ask the public what do they want to see, what can we do to better your life experience here in Sheridan,” Heath said.

Heath said the input he gathers from the public will be taken by Adriaens to the executive staff and implemented throughout city departments.

“That chief of staff is really a critical part of a new administration, like myself. I don’t have the expertise that Sen. Kinskey had, but my management background gives me an insight on how to put good people in the best positions,” Heath added.

As part of the change in leadership, police Capt. Scott Chandler was appointed interim police chief, a position he has held before in 2009 before Adriaens was hired as police chief. He also acted as interim chief before former Police Chief Mike Card was hired in 2005.

With the appointment, Chandler received a raise of $8,650 from $83,867.77 to $92,517.90. Adriaens’ raise was $30,000 from $107,654.04 to $137,427.10.

Heath added in an interview with The Sheridan Press that Adriaens’ salary is much less than it would be if the city had hired a chief of staff or city administrator, which Heath is allowed to do by statute, at a price tag of $170,000 or more from outside the city. He said that could be considered a cost savings for the city.

Cornerstone, time capsule prepared for new school

SHERIDAN — Kicking back with the Thursday edition of the paper in hand, the front page story “The Corner Stone Laid” tells of a “clear, bright and balmy day” in which a time capsule is sealed behind “a beautiful piece of Wyoming marble taken from the Stocks quarry near Big Horn.”

The ceremony, in honor of Sheridan’s new school, was executed by the Sheridan Lodge No. 8 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Wyoming.

Although this particular article comes from a copy of The Sheridan Post printed May 28, 1891, this story is set to repeat itself soon as the AF&AM of Wyoming will oversee the dedication of the cornerstone for the new Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School on Aug. 9.

Cornerstone ceremonies have been performed by the Masons across the nation for generations, with George Washington — Grand Master of his masonic lodge — even performing a similar ceremony for the dedication of the nation’s U.S. Capitol building.

The dedication of Sheridan’s first brick school building in 1891 was not only of particular importance at its time, featuring an elaborate ceremony complete with a parade and midnight ball, but is also significant today due to its key players and pieces.

Henry A. Coffeen was a member of Lodge 8 and served as Deputy Grand Master during the dedication of the school.

Along with lists of significant names and other documents, he and the other Masons sealed two pieces of wood in a time capsule that survived a journey only to one day be discovered on a back shelf of Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library.

Now, the new Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School will feature its own cornerstone-concealed capsule housing copies of all of those old documents and pieces of the wood, along with new additions.

The wood includes one piece of the war ship USS Constitution, which was sunk during the Revolutionary War, and a piece of the apple tree at Appomattox Court House, the site where General Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant met to negotiate the terms of surrender during the Civil War.

Along with pieces of each of those, a piece of wood from Fort Phil Kearny has been added to the new capsule, so a piece of local history can be present.

On Aug. 9 history will repeat itself as the ceremony commences at 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the new school on South Sheridan Avenue.

Sandy Baird is secretary of Lodge No. 8 and was instrumental in the creation of the upcoming ceremony and he took time recently to explain some of the items going in the capsule and some of the words engraved on the cornerstone.

Baird said traditionally a cornerstone features very basic information on the Masons and there is a second stone dedicated to the owner of the building, but that will not be the case for the Coffeen stone.

SCSD2 Board of Trustees member Scott Hininger and Jimmy Jon Dunlap on behalf of the Masons worked together and agreed to one shared stone which features an image of Henry A. Coffeen as well as some language special to the Masons.

“Anno Lucis” is engraved in the stone and means “Year of Light” which Baird says he believes refers to the beginning of time.

Though the AF&AM date back several centuries, much of their history and tradition is unknown as they have only been open about their fraternity since the 18th century and recorded documents from their earlier days are scarce.

The oldest known reference to the Masons is in a poem written in the 1390s, but Baird said while the research he has done is somewhat unclear, it appears the Masonic calendar set to the year of light dates back to the 14th century.

Behind the stone, one large copper box will be hermetically sealed with two smaller copper boxes inside.

One box will be filled by the school district with the help of Judy Slack from the Wyoming Room at the library, and the Masons will fill the other.

Baird said the box will be sealed after the ceremony so notes from the event may be added to the capsule.

The original capsule contained a copy of the front page newspaper story covering the event and the new capsule will contain a copy of The Sheridan Press, along with copies of The Press publications “Destination Sheridan” and other publications such as books on Henry Coffeen and on Sheridan County history to give the capsule a sense of time and place.

All of the contents will be discussed by Coffeen Elementary Principal Nikki Trahan during the formal ceremony also set to feature Master of Ceremonies Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan; a historical briefing by Tyson Emborg; and the dedication of the stone by Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Wyoming William D. Townsend, III.

The ceremony is open to all members of the community and the organizers look forward to sharing not only the tradition of the fanfare but also the history behind it, the capsule, the school and the man for which it was named.

SCSD2 Director of Elementary Education Scott Stults said the event is significant because, “It’s been said history can disappear very quickly if we don’t choose to continue to help educate our youth.”

Crews continue monitoring two fires on Bighorns

BIGHORN MOUNTAINS — Crews continued to build line around at least one fire in the Bighorn Mountains Monday.

Bighorn National Forest Officials said the lightning-caused Roane Creek Fire, approximately 30 acres in size and located 2.5 miles south of Highway 14A in the Pete’s Hole area, was 60 percent contained on Monday. Officials expected full containment of the fire today.

An area closure remains in effect around the fire area. The closures include Forest Service Roads 121, 122, 131, 122 and Trails 104 and 151.

A total of 98 personnel were assigned to the fire, including three helicopters, one water tender, two Hotshot crews, firefighters and support personnel.

On the north end of the Bighorns, crews continued to monitor the Pack Fire and conduct mop-up operations Monday. The fire is located approximately 10 miles north of Burgess Junction in steep terrain. The five-acre fire was expected to be fully contained Wednesday.

Officials said they expect fire activity to increase this week. Firefighters patrolling the forest have also found abandoned campfires.

“An unattended campfire can smolder for days or weeks until a hot windy day turns it into a wildfire,” Fire Management Officer Kevin Hillard said. “Human-caused fires are 100 percent preventable. We need the public’s help to curb this growing problem.”

Dayton Days cheer

Carolyn Workman “Tweety” waves at the crowds gathered during the 38th annual Dayton Days parade Saturday on Main Street in Dayton.

Local polo enthusiast gives lessons, rents horses

SHERIDAN — Polo is fun and affordable. That’s the message Ethan Galis is trying to convey through his lessons at the Big Horn Polo Academy.

Galis began playing polo in college at the University of Texas at Austin, and he calls himself an addict. Just when he thought he was burnt out of the sport, he was sucked right back in by an internship opportunity with the U.S. Polo Association.

Galis received an email from the USPA looking for someone to help develop other college students and recent graduates in the sport of polo, and that email came just in the nick of time.

“Truth be told, I was about ready to call it quits with polo,” he said. “I didn’t have the horses or anything to keep me in the sport, but then I got the email from the USPA about an internship.”

That same internship program brought Galis to Sheridan this summer.

It is Galis’ goal, in teaching the sport of polo, to get others to simply enjoy the sport as much as he does. Well, almost as much as he does; the guy’s hooked. He lives for the sport.

He says Sheridan’s polo community is a great place for him because the laid back mentality the riders have is similar to his.

That’s not to say he doesn’t get competitive, though.

Galis began competing in various equestrian disciplines when he was 9, was team captain and president of the UT Austin polo club and has attended clinics and worked under different mentors. He definitely has experience on a horse.

When talking to him, you can hear his competitive side creep out, but the seemingly never-fading smile on his face suggests how much fun the sport can be.

Galis wants to relay that passion of polo to as many new players as possible, which means making it affordable.

“There are those clubs out there that make it a little bit easier financially, and Big Horn is definitely one of those clubs,” he said. “They’re more focused on getting people out and making it extremely reasonable.”

He wants to show people that it’s not impossible to play polo and have fun without emptying their bank accounts.

“There’s another side of polo that people don’t get to see,” Galis said about the common misconception that polo is a rich man’s game. “What we called it in Texas was Redneck Polo. You rent a horse and maybe at the end of the day you’re only paying 80 bucks for a good clean chukker.”

Although polo is seasonal in Wyoming, he gives credit to the Sheridan community for making it successful.

“The beautiful thing about this place is that all these people are just looking to have fun playing polo,” he said of Sheridan.

Sheridan has two polo clubs, the Big Horn Polo Club, a public club, and the Flying H Polo Club, which is private.

Although the Flying H features a higher and faster level of play, Galis was impressed at how they don’t encroach on the Big Horn club, and vice versa.

“The two clubs work together really well, and you don’t really see that in a lot of places,” he said.

Galis, who works mostly with the Big Horn Polo Club, is using his summer in Sheridan to prepare himself for one day reaching his ultimate goal of starting his own club in Texas.

Not only is he using his time here to perfect his teaching skills, but he’s also keeping an eye on how things at the Big Horn Polo Club are run.

“Houston has a very competitive environment,” he said, speaking of the Houston Polo Club, the biggest in the country. “But I’d like to get something a little more affordable in Texas. I’d like to set up something similar to this (Big Horn Polo Club) in Austin that’s affordable and more club based and more relaxed.”

For now, though, Galis has his mind focused on Sheridan and keeping young players engaged in the sport. He’s been pleased with the turnout through the first half of the summer but is always hoping for more riders.

Galis hosts polo lessons three times a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — and encourages anyone that is interested to give it a shot, even if you don’t have a horse of your own (he has them for rent.)

Those interested can contact Ethan Galis at (817) 991-1366.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local group seeks funding, ideas for aquatics facility

SHERIDAN — A group of residents calling themselves the Citizens for Community Recreation announced this week plans to change the landscape of Sheridan’s recreational pools.

The group hopes to build an indoor aquatics facility that would host family swim programs similar to what is currently provided by the YMCA and the Sheridan Recreation District. It would also be available for open swims like what are offered at Kendrick Pool in the summer.

Sheridan Recreation District Executive Director Richard Wright said he got involved with the group because the district has a vested interest in aquatics programs in the community. In addition, he said, none of the groups in Sheridan pursuing a solution to the aging pool system have the resources to go it alone.

“We’re searching for ways and ideas from the community — the best way to tackle this challenge that we all kind of inherited,” Wright said Thursday. “We’re all struggling with aquatics — the school district, the rec district and the Y. It is very important to the community.”

 

But what’s wrong with the pools Sheridan already has?

Pools have been a point of discussion in the community for some time.

In 2012, a steering committee formed to determine the plausibility of rebuilding the outdoor pool at Kendrick Park.

The pool was originally built in 1937 and is owned by the city.

The facility operates at a loss nearly every year, though it has been largely subsidized with profits from the Kendrick Park ice cream stand.

Much of that deficit can be blamed on ongoing maintenance issues related to the facility’s age. TSP Architects completed an assessment of the pool earlier this month. The report outlines costs required to keep the pool operational for another five to 10 years.

“This report does not attempt to address deficiencies and remedial solutions to return the facility to ‘as new’ condition,” the assessment’s introduction reads. “To do so would require replacement of most or all of the existing components.”

The list of fixes suggested by TSP to extend the life of the public pool total more than $725,000.

The YMCA pools, while newer, also have infrastructure challenges. YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis said the original pools were built in 1964 and they function for health and fitness classes alongside swim lessons. But, the design limits additional opportunities.

For example, he said, there is no zero-entry pool, which makes it difficult for children under the age of 6 to touch the bottom of the pool. This can make swim instruction difficult.

In addition, the stairs into and out of the pool area from the locker rooms are narrow and difficult for those with disabilities to navigate. The deck area around the pools is not best suited for family open swims.

While open swims tend to be the highest attended activity at most pools, it is the smallest activity at the YMCA because of the facility’s limitations.

The infrastructure problems facing both Kendrick Park and the YMCA pools mean solutions are needed to provide future aquatics opportunities to the Sheridan community.

 

Does Sheridan need a pool?

In 2013, the Sheridan Recreation District conducted a survey regarding the possibility and community need for a new pool.

The survey had about 630 responses. Of those, 95 percent thought Sheridan should have an outdoor pool and about 90 percent thought it should stay where it is in Kendrick Park.

Community members’ use of the pool also remains strong. The recreation district recorded attendance of more than 18,750 throughout the 2012 season and Wright said numbers are typically around or above 20,000 visitors each summer.

An assessment recently conducted by MIG consultants out of Portland also indicates a need for aquatics facilities in the area. The report indicates that swimming is popular in Sheridan and there is some unmet need for recreational swimming.

 

What happens next?

As a way to solve Sheridan’s pool problems, the Citizens for Community Recreation hope to build a new indoor facility with a combination of public and private dollars.

The group has discussed where the new facility could be located and what it could include, but hope to hear additional input from the community.

Studies have also shown that community pools located on the outskirts of town typically don’t do as well as those located centrally, so the Citizens for Community Recreation hope to keep the facility close to its current location.

McGinnis said he believes a new indoor facility would cost approximately $10-12 million, depending on the features included. Members of the organized committee have said they believe they can raise about half of that, maybe more, in private donations.

The other half, though, would likely come in the form of support from the city of Sheridan and Sheridan County.

McGinnis added that there is a petition circulating that allows community members to voice their support for the use of tax dollars for the project.

In addition, on Aug. 2, Kendrick Park pool will be open free to the public from 1-7 p.m.

Members of the Citizens for Community Recreation will be on site to answer questions in regards to their plans and to gather input from the community.

K-Life helps local youth reach new heights

Eight-year-old Landis Zebroski finds a foothold during the K-Life rock climbing trip to Piney Creek Canyon in Story. The trip was offered for free by K-Life for the youth — many of which had never climbed before.

Voters consider Gosar at forum

SHERIDAN — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pete Gosar said Tuesday during a stop in Sheridan to rally supporters that he thinks having a Democratic governor working with a Republican Legislature produces a stronger, more well-balanced state.

“As a Democrat, and as a minority, I think you understand how to compromise in how you deal and work with folks. I think that’s an art that is a bit lost on a super majority,” Gosar told The Press following the meeting.

“Whenever there was a Democratic governor and a Republican Legislature, I think it worked better than a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature, and I think it’s the balance, and the ability to compromise, and the ability to have all points at the table. You get more perspective, you get better decisions, is what I believe, and I think that’s been missing the last four years,” Gosar added.

Gosar is running against Republican candidates Matt Mead, Cindy Hill and Taylor Haynes for the seat.

Approximately 20 people attended the gathering Tuesday and asked Gosar to elaborate on a variety of topics including Common Core education standards, Medicaid expansion, hunting and fishing access, energy development and the minimum wage.

• Common Core: Gosar supports the Common Core education standards. He thinks they have been misconstrued as having more control than they actually do. He said they are a basic set of standards that still allow Wyoming teachers to decide how best to educate in their classrooms. He also noted it would be costly to the state to eliminate the standards.

In a similar strain, Gosar said the Nest Generation Science Standards should not have been blocked from implementation by the Legislature, especially in the manner it was done, using a footnote in the budget in the last few days of the session. He said he would have used a line item veto to allow the standards to be implemented.

• Medicaid expansion: Gosar supports Medicaid expansion, which he said could help nearly 18,000 Wyoming residents obtain needed health insurance coverage and care. He said he does not understand why Mead has resisted the expansion until recently changing his mind to support it.

“Now it’s full speed ahead, and I’m not sure voters will support that,” Gosar said.

• Hunting and fishing access: Gosar spoke against recent budget cuts for the Game and Fish Department that eliminated youth education programs and limited fish stocking numbers, among other things. Gosar said he would like to improve hunting and fishing access by using “rainy day” funds to revive Game and Fish programs.

“Wyoming is well known for its hunting and fishing, and it’s reckless to not reinvest into that industry. I think it’s been reckless the last few years,” Gosar said.

Gosar said he thinks Wyoming needs to stop stashing money away just to stash it away, noting that he thinks an $8-10 billion rainy day fund is excessive.

He said he would like to see the state operate like a business by investing its resources back into its people and industries that are suffering from budget cuts and restraints even though there is money available.

Gosar said he would take the same approach of using reserve funds to eliminate the waiting list for people with developmental disabilities who are waiting to receive waivers to obtain services.

• Energy development: Gosar pointed out that he is the son of an oil man and that he supports energy development in the state. However, he said, development needs to include innovation by energy companies, college research programs and individuals to make sure Wyoming can adapt to future needs and federal regulations.

• Minimum wage: Gosar supports raising the minimum wage. He thinks doing so will help lift families out of poverty and stimulate the economy as more money is spent in Wyoming communities. He said he understands that raising the minimum wage may result in some job loss, but that the overall number of people helped outweighs that cost.

• Other issues: Gosar said he will work to close the wage gap between men and women in Wyoming, that he supports gay marriage, that he wants to repeal Senate File 104, which stripped the superintendent of public instruction of many of her duties, and that he supports legalizing medical marijuana.

‘As You Like It’

Casey Hoekstra as Oliver struggles with Nate Cheeseman as Orlando in the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” performed by the Montana Shakespeare in the Park 2014 tour Friday evening at Kendrick Park.

Clean Water Sheridan hires legal counsel to stop fluoridation

SHERIDAN — Clean Water Sheridan has hired an attorney and announced it will file for a declaratory judgment and mandatory injunction against the city of Sheridan in order to halt the addition of fluoride to Sheridan’s water supply.

The group, which became an official nonprofit association Wednesday, is contending that a vote in the general election of 1953 that enacted a ballot resolution to end water fluoridation can only be overturned by a new vote of the people.

According to a press release, Clean Water Sheridan further contends that City Council overstepped its bounds in 2010 by passing a resolution that negated the results of the binding vote of 1953.

The 2010 resolution directed the public works department to adjust the level of fluoride in the water supply to optimal levels.

At this point, the Environmental Protection Agency has set the maximum contaminant level for fluoride in a water supply at 4 parts per million. The EPA has also set a secondary standard recommending the maximum level be 2 parts per million. Secondary standards are nonenforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects, such as skin or tooth discoloration, in drinking water.

Sheridan officials will use a supervisory control and data acquisition system to keep fluoride levels in Sheridan’s water at 0.7 ppm.

Public Works Director Nic Bateson said the city hopes to have a fluoridation system installed at both water treatment plants by some time in August. The systems were originally slated to be installed by June, but the complexity of the conventional upgrades and the high summer water demand at the treatment plants pushed the total project timeline back.

Bateson said the revised timeline for fluoridation system installation in August has not changed. He said he is not sure when the system will be started up but that the city will notify the community when the system is installed and when fluoridation begins.

Clean Water Sheridan was established more than a year ago to fight the addition of fluoride to Sheridan’s water, operating a grassroots effort that included public education and gathering signatures on a petition against fluoridation.

The group became an official nonprofit association on Wednesday, just a week after hiring Cheyenne-based attorney Robert Moxley to represent its case. Moxley specializes in civil rights litigation and cases involving government overreach, according to his website.

Marty DaBell, a member of Clean Water Sheridan, said the group received an anonymous donation in June that provided the needed funds to hire legal counsel.

“We knew it would likely come to the point where someone in power would have to make a decision,” DaBell said.

DaBell said the group tried to find a local attorney but was unsuccessful. Moxley was recommended as an option.

Clean Water Sheridan contends that fluoride can cause medical problems for bottle fed infants, diabetics and kidney and thyroid patients, according to its press release. The group also contends fluoride is available to anyone who wishes to use it but costly and difficult to remove for residents who do not wish to consume it.

Those in support of water fluoridation say it strengthens teeth and helps prevent tooth decay, especially in lower-income families who may not be able to afford regular dental visits.

 

Musicians import sound from the Alps

SHERIDAN — The connection is unavoidable: say “alphorn” and people shrug uncertainly, but say “Ricola,” and people smile and nod, their memories tracing backward to watching Saturday morning cartoons and being enraptured by the commercial with the men in funny clothes standing on a mountain, playing a long, funny horn.

Admit it; you’re shouting “Riiiiiii-co-laaaaaaaa” right now — either in your head, or for the more brave, right out loud.

That horn tucked in America’s collective memory is an alphorn.

And in Sheridan, alphorns are no longer relegated to a TV commercial from the past.

A group of four Sheridan musicians has started Big Horn Alphorns, a musical group featuring the exotic instruments that brings a little bit of the Alps into Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains.

“Like anything new, it’s always like you’re hesitant to do it, but it’s fun. The sounds are really great,” Big Horn Alphorn member Edre Maier said. “I like playing out where people can get interested. We sound horrible, but they think we sound great. It’s a sound they haven’t heard, and they’re just enthralled with it, and I think that’s exciting.”

At this point, the group tries to practice every Wednesday, but the location changes. Sometimes it’s at the Kendrick Park bandshell, sometimes it’s in Whitney Commons and sometimes it may be on Grinnell Plaza or at a beer fest.

“It’s sort of a keep your eyes out for the alphorns situation,” Big Horn Alphorn founder Dale Hoffman said.

“And come running with beer,” Maier added at a recent practice, showing the group’s tight-knit, lighthearted feel about playing an admittedly odd instrument together.

Big Horn Alphorns was founded about a year ago by Hoffman, who had seen his first alphorn performance two years ago while in Germany for his son’s wedding. He and several other guests from the states went to Neuschwanstein Castle, and at the base of the mountain in a little village, there was a group of alphorn players.

“I talked to this one, and he let me play his alphorn, and it kind of got me hooked,” Hoffman said. “By a year later, I had my own alphorn.”

Hoffman bought his alphorn from Alphorn Bau Neumann in Germany. When it arrived, he invited fellow community band musicians Maier, Patricia Dray and Doug Moore over to his house to show it off — which, of course, involved letting each horn player play the alphorn and led to a similar “hooked” kind of feeling.

“When Dale calls, we come running,” Maier said at a recent practice.

“Not quite. Walking, maybe,” Hoffman retorted.

“He’s pretty persistent, though,” Maier said. “‘You would like to do this, wouldn’t you?’ ‘No.’ ‘You’d like to do this, wouldn’t you.’ ‘Well, maybe.’ ‘You’d like to do this.’ ‘All right.’”

The group bought three more horns, and well, here they are playing polka and waltzes and generally bringing a little culture and a little fun to Sheridan.

Most alphorn music is written for three or four parts, Hoffman said. He plays the bass notes, using a larger wooden mouthpiece than the others. Moore and Dray, both trumpet players, play the middle notes, and Maier, a French horn player, hits the higher notes.

The horn has no valves and is controlled solely by lip movement.

“It’s the speed of the buzz,” said Moore, the music teacher at Sheridan Junior High School. “Lower the speed, the lower the note, the faster the speed, the higher the note.”

Each member said it was the uniqueness of the instrument and the opportunity that drew them into the group — even with a price tag of approximately $2,500 for the horn. The camaraderie of playing together has kept them going, even when the sounds are a bit off.

Moore said the instrument is limited to about eight notes in a two to three octave range: the fundamental, the octave, the fifth, the third and an out-of-tune seventh.

“I’m the out-of-tune seventh,” Maier piped in.

Out of tune or not, the Big Horn Alphorns are worth a listen.

Now, go ahead, you know you want to yell it one more time…

 

 

Fun facts

• The alphorn is a long, wooden horn made of pine or fir played primarily in places like Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Hungary and Romania. It has no valves and is played entirely with lip movement. The length of the horn determines what key it plays in. Historically, the horn was carved from a solid piece of wood, but it now is often formed from three pieces of wood and can be taken apart for storage.

• Archaeological evidence shows the oldest surviving alphorns date to 1400 A.D. Other sources say Celtic tribes that first settled the northern Alps some 2,000 years ago first used these instruments.

• In the right weather conditions in the Swiss Alps, an alphorn can be heard 24 miles away.

• The horns played by the Big Horn Alphorns are in the key of F, which means they are 12 feet, 3 inches long.

• It takes five years to dry the block of wood used to carve the bell of the horn.

 

 

Adriaens named city’s chief of staff

SHERIDAN — City Human Resources Director Heather Doke has confirmed that Police Chief Rich Adriaens has been appointed by Mayor John Heath as interim chief of staff for the city.

As such, Adriaens will act as chief operating officer to facilitate day-to-day operations of staff.

According to a memo sent by Heath to city employees earlier this week, Adriaens has filled this role part time for the last couple years. Adriaens was key in implementing a five-year budget plan and the city’s first two-year budget, Heath said in the memo, as well as providing leadership and oversight when ambulance service was contracted out to Rocky Mountain Ambulance a couple years ago.

Heath said one of Adriaen’s key roles will be to implement strategic and budgetary plans for the city. Heath will continue to focus on community outreach and promotion of the city and city events. He will also act as a liaison to local, state agencies and organizations to ensure strong partnerships.

“In Sheridan’s past, several mayors have used a chief of staff to facilitate the day-to-day operations of staff,” Heath said. “Mayor Della Herbst had Ram Holly, and Mayor Jim Wilson used Jackie Flowers in the role. I intend to operate as the CEO of the city and I expect Chief Adriaens to operate as the chief operating officer.”

Another go

Ronda Holwell of Sheridan makes her turn around a barrel in the first go-round of barrel racing during the slack event Tuesday afternoon at Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne as part of Frontier Days. Holwell recently competed in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo as well.

Longmire Days countdown

SHERIDAN — The third annual Longmire Days will commence Friday in Buffalo and just as the hit TV Show “Longmire” continues to grow in popularity on A&E, this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever before.

“Longmire” is a crime drama television series based on the mystery novels written by local author Craig Johnson centered around Walt Longmire, a Wyoming county sheriff.

The show debuted on June 3, 2012, as TV network A&E’s top original series premiere of all time with 4.1 million viewers tuning in for the pilot episode.

Viewership grew and season two started off with 4.3 million viewers.

Now in its third season, this Monday night’s show had the seventh highest viewership of all cable shows, even while competing with the Major League Baseball homerun derby.

The Longmire Days festival brings the show to life and to town as actors and the author of the books come for a weekend of activities around Buffalo.

Locals and visitors are as excited for the events in Buffalo this weekend as the nation is about the show and organizers are anticipating attendance at this weekend’s events to double over last year.

“Last year we saw between 3-5,000 people on just two months notice to plan the event, let alone get the word out on it,” Buffalo Chamber of Commerce Office Assistant Brittiny Morrison said. “This year we’ve been getting the word out since February and March and we’re expecting to see 7-10,000 people come through town.

There are many new features on the agenda for this weekend including a children’s acting workshop produced by Louanne Stephens — who plays Ruby on the show — in Crazy Woman Square on Saturday. Other activities will include screenings of episodes at the Buffalo Theater, a “Dinner on the Mountain” at Meadowlark and a question and answer session at the theater.

The “Dinner on the Mountain” Saturday will feature a pig roast, live music and a cash bar and though there is no guarantee actors will be present Morrison said it is yet another fun thing to do around town with a “Longmire” theme.

The Q&A at the Buffalo Theater will allow attendees to submit a question for the actors and author present who will include Robert Taylor, Cassidy Freeman, Katee Sackhoff, Adam Bartley, Zahn McClarnon, Stephens and Johnson.

Pre-registration is required for this event and admission will cost $10 per person.

Some of last year’s favorite events are back and many have been enhanced or extended.

A second autograph signing has been added. The session in Crazy Woman Square will still be held, but attendees will also have the option of an indoor signing Friday morning at the old Clear Creek Elementary.

Attendees are welcome to bring items from home for autographing and “Longmire” merchandise will also be available for sale at a variety of locations but not at the site of the signing.

The Bucking Buffalo shop will have a temporary storefront downtown selling official “Longmire” merchandise in the vacant space previously occupied by Annie’s Antiques.

The Chamber of Commerce will have a variety of items available for purchase including posters, magazines and sheriff’s badges, though Morrison said those are not conducive to autographs.

The Office will have some of the items you can find elsewhere and will also be selling T-shirts.

The skeet shoot is also returning but at a new location that promises to accommodate more participants.

HF Bar Guest Ranch houses multiple sporting clay courses and will open two for the event.

Pre-registration is required for the skeet shoot and costs $125 per person to cover guns, targets, ammo and a donation to a charity of the cast’s choosing which is Homes for our Troop for Longmire Days 2014.

Participants must use the weapons supplied by the ranch and hearing and eye protection is encouraged.

A food court has been added this year, expanding the dining options of the community, and the annual Craig Johnson book signing at the library will include a new seminar this year entitled “So You Want to Write a Mystery.”

To bring the event to a close, an evening of jazz will be performed in the square by “The Ferg” Sunday from 6-8 p.m.

A full schedule of events can be seen at www.buffalowyo.com or more information contact the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce at 684-5544 or officeassistant@buffalowyo.com.

Arrests over rodeo week up, but nonviolent

SHERIDAN — As the dust settled from the Sheridan WYO Rodeo action last week, spectators poured onto Main Street for the annual street dance held Friday and Saturday nights.

In the middle of it all, the annual butt dart competition was played for prizes.

The object of the game is to put a quarter in between your cheeks, or somewhere in that vicinity, and complete an obstacle course without dropping the quarter.

Kelly Leeper has been a finalist in the butt darts competition every year but this one.

“I thought one of the Koltiskas was playing around with me and let me go through the course after I dropped it. But it turns out I still had it in my butt cheeks,” Leeper said Saturday night after his turn in the competition.

Butt dart antics aside, the week of rodeo festivities ended up being what the Sheridan Police Department has come to expect, Sgt. Travis Koltiska said.

“Overall, it was what we expected out of the weekend. There were really no surprises. There was not an overly large increase or decrease in the numbers of incidents we dealt with,” Koltiska said.

Arrests for the week did increase though, from 27 last year to 46 this year. Koltiska said most of the arrests were alcohol related and non-violent. There were 10 DUIs compared to two last year, he said, and 15 minors in possession of alcohol this year compared to just four in 2013.

Koltiska did note that 33 of the 46 arrests, though, were for individuals not from Sheridan.

In addition, fighting, a usually common occurrence during rodeo week, was down.

“It was a calm crowd overall. Fighting is something we’ve dealt with a lot in the past, but this year there were very few fights. That was something we were happy to see,” Koltiska said.

Throughout the week, cases primarily involved driving under the influence, public intoxication and some instances of minors in possession of alcohol.

However, Koltiska said the police department took a lot of steps to try to minimize the amount of cases of minors in possession of alcohol. Before the rodeo, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and the police department worked together to purchase identification scanners that operate on Apple system smartphones. The scanners can scan barcodes and magnetic strips on IDs to determine if the ID is valid.

“We have some bugs to work out with them, but overall they made ID scanning quick,” Koltiska said.

Last year, the police department utilized ID scanners that were much slower, causing long lines and entry delays into the street dance. The new scanners and an extra entrance on the north end sped up entry times.

The scanners can be programmed to conduct a variety of functions including detecting duplicate entries that may come from minors passing around a valid ID or using both a paper ID and a real ID to try to get more than one person in.

Koltiska said more than 3,000 wrist bands were sold Friday night for the street dance and close to 4,000 for Saturday night.

“Even though the street dance ends at 4:30 Sunday morning, we have ancilliary cleanup to do with people we find overindulged who tried walking home and didn’t make it or who walked in the wrong direction, which happens more than you would think,” Koltiska said.

Koltiska addressed the idea that people feel like they can’t walk or drive after drinking because they’ll be picked up for DUI or public intoxication one way or the other by saying safety is paramount. Anyone walking home to avoid drunken driving, which is good, Koltiska said, still needs to be able to know where he or she is going and be coherent enough to function safely.

“You can walk home if you’re intoxicated, but you can’t walk home if you’re so highly intoxicated that you’re a danger to yourself,” Koltiska said.

For example, on one of the three arrests for public intoxication over the weekend, the person had a blood alcohol level of .31, nearly four times the legal limit. Another was at .18, which is still nearly double the legal limit.

For next year, Koltiska said the police department will try to plan better for directing traffic after the parade, especially in the area of Fifth Street and Main, Val Vista and Broadway streets, which saw some congestion and bottlenecking this year due to pedestrian traffic heading to the powwow at the historic Sheridan Inn.

 

Press reporter Kendra Cousineau contributed to this report.

Another one in the books

Devan Reilly of Sheridan rides Broadmore for a score of 74 in the bareback riding event during the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Saturday night at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds arena.

Friday night rodeo more than sold-out crowd could ask for

SHERIDAN — If Friday night’s performances at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo were any indication of how the weekend is going to go, the capacity crowd is sure to be in for a wild night of rodeo tonight. Wednesday and Thursday nights go-rounds were nothing to complain about, but Friday’s show was as much as the sold-out crowd could have asked for, and then some.

From the gentlemen who paint the lines for the Indian Relays, to the pickup men, there seemed to be a little extra energy in the air as the night kicked off.

Whether it was the enjoyment of the parade earlier in the morning, or the relief that the work week was over, the people at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds had a little extra giddy-up in their step.

Lynwood His Bad Horse Jr. definitely had some extra pep in his step during the World Champion Indian Relay Races as he put on a clinic, exchanging horses with ease on his way to a run away victory in his heat. But the night was just getting started.

Before the crowd even knew what hit them, Orin Larsen was marching out of the arena after putting on a show in the bareback ride. His score of 86 was the best of the night, and good enough to put him atop the leaderboard after three nights of rodeo.

Chad Rutherford also had an excellent ride and really got the crowd fired up when he dismounted from his 83-point ride and pumped his fists in front of the grandstands.

The rain clouds began to hover overhead but luckily held off during the steer wrestling competition, although it would have been pretty exciting to see the bear-like men duke it out with the 500-pound beasts in the middle of a torrential downpour.

The crowd still found plenty of enjoyment watching the cowboys and the steers go at it, including a takedown from Tait Kvistad that would have made even Macho Man Randy Savage proud. Kvistad’s time of 5.16 seconds was the fast time of the night in steer wrestling.

The crowd was given a brief break to rock out with rodeo clown Crash Cooper, as four “lucky” contestants got to show off their air guitar skills in front of the already raucous crowd.

While the crowd was rocking out in their seats, the calves were doing some rocking of their own as they came out in the steer roping competition with more energy than an angst-filled teenager in the mosh pit at an Iron Maiden concert.

While three of the seven ropers didn’t record a score, only Neal Wood’s time of 13.1 seconds broke the 15-second mark and didn’t even tease Chance Kelton’s 9.8-second top time.

One of the highlights, though, of the evening came during the saddle bronc riding contest. Although Sheridan College rider Taygen Schuelke was a late scratch from the event, the rest of the riders picked up the slack to impress the Sheridan crowd.

Ty Thompson posted an 83 on Wednesday, which held on through Thursday’s go-round and was the high score heading into last night. It didn’t last long, though.

Twin brothers Jake and Jesse Wright went back-to-back on Friday, posting scores of 85 and 83, respectively. Jesse Wright hadn’t even jumped off of his bucking bronco before letting out a massive “woo-hoo,” impressing even himself with his ride. But it was Snyder, Texas’s, Sam Spreadborough who stole the show. His 87-point ride was a thing of beauty. His score was the top score of the night and will be the score to beat heading into the final night of the rodeo.

Although only four of the ten team roping teams posted scores, they were sure to put the pressure on one another, as all four teams finished in under 6 seconds. The team of David Motes and Evan Arnold was the fast time of the night, finishing in 5.4 seconds.

The tie-down ropers got a piece of the top-scoring action, as well. Ryle Smith and Justin Macha both recorded times of 8.8 seconds, putting them in a three-way tie atop the leaderboard with Scott Kormos’s performance on Thursday.

The barrel racers had a tough act to follow as they tried to catch Sammi Bessert’s lightning-fast ride of 17.09 seconds from the night before. The cowgirls struggled a bit compared to their competitors on Thursday. While five riders ran below 17 1/2 seconds on Thursday, only Callie DuPerier came in under that time with a 17.49 on Friday.

But just in case the already high-score filled evening wasn’t enough for the fans, the bull riders put the icing on the Sheridan WYO Rodeo cake in the final event of the night.

All five riders that posted scores scored at least 80 points. Kody Lostroh’s 85-point ride from the opening night had been a tough score to beat until last night. Both Cole Echols and Trey Benton III surpassed that mark, posting an 87 and an 89, respectively.

As the arena emptied and the cowboys removed their chaps, the crowd filed out of the fairgrounds with smiles across their faces. If tonight’s final performances are even close to as good as they were a night ago, then calling it one helluva rodeo would be the understatement of the year.

Strategy focuses on the exchange

SHERIDAN — Much has been said about the tradition and history behind the Indian Relay Races seen at the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo but when you get down to the heart of the event, it is a sport rich with skill, strategy and practice.

There are four players on a relay team: the rider, the holder, the mugger and the stopper.

Though the attention of the audience is often on the rider, the other three players are equally key in achieving a win.

The mugger holds the harness of the horse and points its head in the direction it will need to run once mounted, prior to the rider hopping aboard.

The holder keeps the horse still in position for a smooth exchange by the rider from horse to horse.

The stopper gains control of the horse as it slows for the rider’s dismount, also ensuring a flawless transition.

Each relay team has its own strategy and practice rituals, but there seems to be a general consensus among the athletes that the key to a win is in the exchange.

“It’s about fast horses, of course, but it’s more about the exchange,” said Maverick White Clay from team Bad War Deeds. “A fast exchange will win a race.”

White Clay explained that strategy must be utilized throughout the race from a good start standing next to the nape of a still and focused horse to the smooth release with a correct landing.

It would appear that White Clay’s advice was spot on as his team took first place in their heat of the races Thursday night at the fairgrounds, though watching each of the heats shows there is surely more to the event than that.

The race begins with the shot of a gun as the riders fling their right leg over the horse and the holder releases and the mugger directs.

As the rider approaches the first exchange to switch to the second horse, he slows his horse only slightly as the stopper steps forward to help control the speeding animal.

The holder and mugger have already regrouped on horse two for another smooth start and this is the moment the audience had better be alert, because as the rider removes his right leg for a brief moment on the ground the momentum of the horse being dismounted propels the rider toward the fresh horse and in less than five steps the rider is on the bare back of a new animal.

With a small set of defined skills needed to win, practice is often about two things: the animals’ speed and the riders’ agility.

“We usually are galloping at practice; most training is about getting the wind in the horse,” White Clay said. “Some days we practice the exchange as it would be in the race and we try to race the track they will compete on to familiarize the horse with it.”

Tim Birdinground is the holder for team Curly Relay — named for members of the group being descendants of General George Custer — and he said the key is a good starting position and that practice is all about the transition for his team.

Birdinground added a reminder that practice may prevent injury, but there is no guarantee. During rodeo last year, their stopper was run over.

While trying to slow the horse coming in from his lap, he lost control and was brought to the ground but survived relatively unscathed.

Though the team consists of four men, there is one additional athlete essential to the relay: the horse.

Birdinground said the ideal age of a relay horse is between 6-8, and they start training their horses around age 2 or 3.

However, team Bad War Deeds was busy painting an 11-year-old horse alongside their 6-year-old and said the horse can be a success at any age.

Regardless of the focus of the practice, the expertise of the team during the competition or the horse being ridden, the unique sport of the Indian Relay Races is sure to be a crowd pleaser at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo for years to come.

John Heath chosen as new mayor

SHERIDAN — John Heath, former City Council president, was appointed as the new mayor of Sheridan in a special meeting held at noon today. He will finish out former Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey’s unexpired term through 2016.

Kinskey resigned his position as mayor at the meeting after being appointed Monday to fill the Senate District 22 seat left vacant by the death of Sen. John Schiffer last month. He will represent all of Johnson County and rural areas of eastern and southern Sheridan County.

Kinskey is scheduled to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday. He will complete Schiffer’s unexpired term through 2016.

The change in leadership caused a further changing of the guard as new council members were nominated to fill the roles of council president and vice president.

The council unanimously chose Councilman Alex Lee as president and Councilman Bob Webster as vice president. Lee formerly served as vice president. In his new role, Lee will be acting mayor when Heath is away.

The meeting had somber moments as Kinskey made his farewells and council members thanked him for his leadership and said their goodbyes. On the other hand, there were moments of celebration — complete with a standing ovation by council and the audience — for Heath’s nomination to the role of mayor.

The council chambers in City Hall were filled with city staff, family members and representatives from the county and surrounding towns including Commissioner Mike Nickel, Dayton Town Councilman Dennis Wagner, Clearmont Mayor Chris Schock and former City Councilman John Bigelow.

“This is a bittersweet moment for two reasons,” Kinskey said in his resignation speech. “First, because this transition is occasioned by the death of our dear friend, state Sen. John Schiffer. John was a good man. He was a great legislator. He was a tireless advocate for Wyoming. He was a family man. As Saint Paul wrote, he fought the good fight; he finished the race; he kept the faith.”

“This moment is one of mixed emotions for a second reason,” Kinskey continued. “Simply put, I love my job. It has been my honor to serve the people of Sheridan. I appreciate the trust they have put in me and the City Council. There is no greater calling than service to others, and there is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

Kinskey continued his speech by saying he was confident he was leaving the city in good hands. He then handed the gavel to Heath to continue the meeting. The council voted to accept Kinskey’s resignation before Lee nominated Heath to serve as mayor. Councilman Jesus Rios seconded, and all approved.

“I am proud to accept this role on behalf of the citizens of Sheridan. I want to thank my fellow council members for their vote of confidence and their service, and I pledge my commitment in time and energy to continue to put Sheridan and the citizens of Sheridan first,” Heath said in his acceptance speech.

Each council member took a moment to say thank you to Kinskey and to welcome Heath as their new mayor, many citing what they had learned from each man.

When comments were opened to the public, Bigelow stepped to the microphone.

“John, big boots; your feet are that large. You can do it,” he said.

Following the meeting, Heath said that he was eager to begin the job and aware that it would be a 70-hour a week position. Although Heath would not have guessed even three weeks ago that he’d be mayor of Sheridan, he said when the possibility arose that Kinskey may be leaving, he did ask his fellow council members to consider him for the appointment.

“As president of City Council, prior to being mayor, I was very much involved in the day-to-day business, and this is exactly what we’re going to do,” Heath said. “We’re going to continue to move forward. There is no change in direction: growing the economy, bringing jobs back into our community, like we say up here, working with existing businesses, making sure that they prosper, making sure this is a beautiful city so people can come, enjoy, live, retire, raise children.”

The process for appointing a new mayor is delineated in Wyoming State Statute, which states that city council will choose a new mayor from one of the city council members. Typically, the appointed mayor serves until the next general election, at which time whoever is elected fills the seat through the unexpired term.

However, a second state statute rules that a vacancy in the second year of the mayor’s term after the first day of the filing period to run for election will result in whoever is appointed to fill the seat finishing out the unexpired term.

City Clerk Scott Badley said there is no timeline set by state rules for when the vacant City Council seat must be filled. He said the council will likely announce the vacancy at its next meeting July 21 and will then decide how to fill it.

The seat could be filled in a similar manner to the vacancy filled by Rios earlier this year where applications are accepted from the public and an interview and selection process conducted, or the council could wait to fill the seat during the upcoming election. Badley said he did not know what process the council would choose.

Let’s get WYO’d

Scotty NeSmith of Morristown, Tennessee, dismounts for a score of 71 in the bareback riding event during the first night of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Wednesday at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds.

The boots are off

SHERIDAN — The boots were flying last night at Kendrick Park as the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo Boot Kickoff was held, marking the official beginning of rodeo week. The Boot Kickoff began with stick horse barrel racing for kids 8 and under. Four-year-old Adeline Miller, and her stick horse Skipper-Bucker, were getting some practice rounds in before the race.

Alongside Miller, was her friend 5-year-old Drake Martinson, who took second place at last year’s Boot Kickoff and said his strategy was to “run really fast.”

“I don’t have my horse this year, so I am borrowing Skipper-Bucker,” Martinson said.

Practice always pays off as Miller took third in the 4-year-old and younger category.

The winners for the stick horse barrel races were Kolby Smith, for the 4 and younger category, Kyndal McFadden in the 5 and 6-year-old category, and Abagail Olson for the 7 and 8-year-old category.

Then the boots came off.

Sierra Powers won the 9 to 12-year-old category with a kick of 59 feet, 10 inches in the boot kicking contest, and Alec Adell took home first in the 13 to 17-year-old category with a kick of 93 feet.

For 18 and older, the boot kicking was divided into men’s and women’s categories. Katie Lloyd finished first with a 76-foot-9-inch kick, and Phil Sonners won it for the men with a whopping 100 feet, 11 inches covered beneath his flying boot.

Whitney Benefits commits $25.3 million to college

Whitney Benefits trustees and Sheridan College trustees announced today an unprecedented plan, including the largest gift in the history of the college ­ — a $25.3 million commitment to Sheridan College from Whitney Benefits —  to continue to build capacity for additional students, bolstering the Sheridan County economy.

“We have looked at the data for some time now and it is clear that Sheridan College plays a significant role in the stability of our local economy,”  Whitney Benefits Vice President Roy Garber said. “The strategic plan adopted by the college trustees back in 2010 is on-course and we are focused on helping more students succeed.”

The commitment from Whitney Benefits to the College includes the necessary $1.3 million required to complete the $8 million Mars Agriculture Center and Science Center renovation project, $16 million to support the renovation and expansion of the fine and performing arts wing of the original Whitney Building, $2 million to support infrastructure and parking improvements on the main campus and $6 million for approximately half of the Tech Center renovation and expansion project.

“Currently, we serve over 2,000 students per semester,”  SC President Dr. Paul Young said. “This plan and infusion of energy and capital will significantly aid in our efforts to grow the academic areas that align with the local job sectors experiencing growth and positive change.”

The renovation and expansion of the fine and performing arts wing located at the north end of the current Whitney Building, referred to as the Whitney Center for the Arts, will include space to enrich the learning experience for all students.

“This is absolutely necessary and has been for decades,” Northern Wyoming Community College District Trustee Norleen Healy said. “I have been involved with the college for over 30 years and enhancements in these areas have always been on the list. State-of-the-art recital halls, practice areas and performance spaces are paramount for the performing arts in order for us to compete regionally and nationally.”

In addition to improvements to learning spaces for music and other performing arts, the Whitney gift will provide flexible, creative space to support the fine arts programs including wood and metal fabrication labs, foundry space for pouring aluminum, bronze and eventually iron, and multi-use exhibition space, which will catapult Sheridan College’s Fine Arts Program to the forefront of regional programs, Young said.

“These plans and ideas go back decades,” Whitney Benefits Trustee Stephen Holst said. “It is a testament to the stakeholders of this fine institution that we will see them come to fruition.”

The Mars Agriculture Center will be a 13,000 – 15,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, and will be located on the south end of Sheridan College’s main campus, adjacent and connected to the existing Science Center, which will also receive upgrades during the project. The center will focus on providing real-world experiences for students. In addition to high-tech classrooms, a herbarium, a greenhouse, and a soils and agroecology lab, the new center will include a computerized commodities trading floor classroom to support students studying in the ag-business program.

“The real benefit to laying out a plan like this is that the dollars committed can be leveraged time and time again,”  Whitney Benefits Trustee Everett McGlothlin said. “We are hopeful that others will continue to support the students of Sheridan College in order to continue the positive momentum and help change lives.”

The $6 million earmarked for the expansion and renovation of the Technical Education Center is approximately half of the total needed to provide a healthier, safer and more secure facility for students to gain vocational degrees and employable skills. College officials plan to request the additional funds from the State of Wyoming during the 2016 legislative session.

“Our strategic direction focuses on doing our part to help Wyoming and the nation as a whole to prosper. We are so very fortunate to have many, many people here who believe in this goal and are willing to take action on behalf of the future generations who will continue to benefit from their efforts for years to come,”  Young said. “Thank you to Whitney Benefits.”

The next steps for the Mars Agriculture Center and Whitney Center for the Arts projects include selecting architects and construction managers, which college officials hope to have completed by early fall. The design phases will likely last through this fall, with a ground breaking as early in spring 2015 as weather will allow. College officials hope to have the projects completed by late summer, 2016. For updates regarding these projects, please visit www.sheridan.edu/construction.

It’s Kinskey

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey will take on a new role in coming weeks as county commissioners from both Sheridan and Johnson counties have appointed him to fill the Senate District 22 seat left vacant by Sen. John Schiffer’s death last month.

Kinskey received 67 percent of the vote.

“The late Sen. Schiffer did a fantastic job and I’m honored to be able to follow in his footsteps to represent all of Johnson County and Sheridan in Senate District 22,” Kinskey said after the vote. “Now we have some real work beginning. My first call will be to Tony Ross, the Senate president to see if he wants me to continue on judiciary and transportation or if he wants to change those assignments so I’ve got to find out about that. Those are good committees, and Sen. Schiffer did good work. I’d like to continue with those assignments. There’s a broad range of issues that need to be addressed. Cheyenne has a tremendous impact on our communities and I think it’s important I hit the ground running.”

Eleven residents applied to fill the seat, with three residing in Sheridan County. The Senate district includes all of Johnson County and primarily the eastern portion of Sheridan County.

After approximately three hours of introductions, question and answer sessions and two votes, a selection committee comprised of Sheridan and Johnson County Republican Party precinct members chose the three candidates who were considered by the commissioners. The precinct men and women met last Tuesday.

The three finalists included Kinskey, who received 27 votes, Buffalo businessman Jim Gampetro, who received 31 votes, and Johnson County Deputy and Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Wright, who received 32 votes.

There were a total of 49 precinct members voting, 26 from Johnson County and 23 from Sheridan County. Each member could vote for up to three candidates, out of six total, in the final vote by the precinct members.

The decision by the county commissioners was a weighted system based on the population of residents from each county in SD22.

The total population of residents represented in Senate District 22 is 18,588, with Johnson County comprising 46 percent and Sheridan County comprising 53 percent. That means the vote of Sheridan County commissioners will be worth 53 percent. However, that is balanced out by Johnson County having 26 precinct members who can vote on the selection committee while Sheridan County has 23 voting precinct members.

With Kinskey’s seat as mayor now vacant, City Clerk Scott Badley referenced Wyoming statutes to indicate how Kinskey’s seat as mayor of Sheridan would be filled should he be selected.

According to state law, if the mayor’s seat is vacated, it will be filled by one of the council members by appointment of the council until the next general election, at which time the seat will be up for election and whoever is elected will fill Kinskey’s term through 2016.

Land trust works to expand network around Red Grade Road

BIG HORN — In coming years, the Bighorn Mountain foothills traversed by Red Grade Road could become an even more accessible and explorable backyard adventure for Sheridan County residents who already hold the area near and dear.

Renowned for its year-round ATV and snowmobile recreation options, the area is set to become a nearby haven for non-motorized recreationists, as well, with the recent announcement by the Sheridan Community Land Trust of its intention to create a trail system on state, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands between the graveled parking lot at the start of Red Grade Road and the Bear Gulch parking area approximately 2.5 miles further up the mountain as the bird flies.

Walkers and wildflower lovers seeking a little solitude, mountain bikers seeking a downhill rush, moms and dads seeking a chance to impart love of the outdoors to their children and more will all have the chance to get deep into the mountains in a 20-40 minute drive once the trails are complete.

 

A little background

 

The proposed trail system, set to include 15-20 or more miles of “purpose built” trails tailored to specific uses such as quiet mountain saunters, more intense hikes and cross-country and downhill biking, is currently in the design stage. SCLT Executive Director Colin Betzler said it is hoped work on phase one, of four proposed phases, can begin in spring 2015.

“Red Grade is an icon,” Betzler said. “But the community needs to come together to address issues and opportunities in how we care for Red Grade access areas.”

Over the past few years, SCLT staff have seen an “exponential interest” from the community in safe, scenic and easily accessed non-motorized, natural surface trails, according to a press release from SCLT. With that in mind, SCLT’s Recreation Work Group, comprised of community volunteers, set out to identify potential areas for a trail system.

The area around Red Grade Road became the premier spot due to its large tracts of public lands, well-established public access on Red Grade Road and its proximity to more than 60 percent of Sheridan County’s population, not to mention its terrain and scenery. In January of this year, the land trust’s board of directors adopted a strategic plan for the Red Grade Trails project and began working with the state, BLM and Forest Service, as well as property owners within one mile of the proposed trail.

Betzler said input from surrounding residents has been mostly neutral or in support, with a few expressing concern or opposition. Not wanting to stress or disrupt nearby landowners, Betzler said SCLT staff and professional trail designers are taking great pains to keep trails and parking sites tucked out of view with plenty of vegetated buffer zones between the trail and nearby houses and ranch lands. This is better for landowners and trail users, alike, Betzler said.

With its emphasis on conservation and providing recreation opportunities to Sheridan County residents, SCLT is working to ensure that the trail is completed with minimal impact to the land, Betzler said. This means a professional trail designer has been hired and that few, if any, trees will be removed to accommodate the trail. In fact, Betzler said, even concerns from wildflower lovers will be taken into account by lifting “carpets” of wildflowers off the trail route and re-planting them elsewhere in the vicinity when actual trail building begins.

Betzler said the trail system is expected to cost between $500,000 and $1 million and take up to five years to complete. The SCLT will undertake a significant capital campaign to raise funds from grants, local foundations and private donors. Betzler did note that the board is trying to think out of the box and has proposed including extra funding to help pay for overtime costs for law enforcement agencies that patrol the area.

 

Designing recreation

 

With an inclinometer, some flagging tape, a GPS and an eye honed for scoping out trail placement with 25 years of experience in 12 nations, 42 states and three of Wyoming’s state parks, a professional trail designer with the International Mountain Biking Association’s Trail Solutions division has spent the last couple weeks trekking east and west of Red Grade Road in order to meticulously design a “hub and cluster” multi-use non-motorized trail system in the area.

“IMBA is the Cadillac of trail design,” Betzler said. “They will make it so it’s not a hodge podge of trails here and there, but so the whole trail will interface at good points and work as a cohesive whole.”

 

IMBA trail designer Joey Klein has worked on trail design at Curt Gowdy State Park, Guernsey State Park and Glendo State Park in recent years. He said trail design has shifted from a blanket shared use system to one that manages users more wisely and provides trails designed for specific uses in “experience zones.”

“This gives users more choices and protects their experience,” Klein said.

For example, one experience zone may place a trail closer to the road in order to capture uphill and downhill swells for downhill mountain bikers who are more concerned with jumps and thrills than solace and looking at wildflowers.

On the other hand, another experience zone will put solace-seekers into the trees and away from society within minutes of walking away from the trailhead, while another trail may take intermediate to experienced hikers to “the balcony” near the Poverty Flats area for a gun barrel view of the Bighorns, Klein said.

Each hub, or parking area, will feature trails that offer an outward climb and an inbound descent, as well as trails set for specific uses such as biking or family-friendly hikes. Betzler said there are five proposed parking area hubs including the graveled upper lot used for snowmobile access, Red Grade Springs on state land, the Aspens lot on BLM land, a new hub to be built in the Poverty Flats area and the Bear Gulch parking lot. He said each lot will be enhanced and improved in the trail development process.

“This is a great landscape. It hasn’t been ravaged and we’re going in with a great deal of respect,” Klein said.

Already trails and parking areas have been moved from their proposed position to accommodate landowner requests and take into account cultural areas identified by a Forest Service archaeologist, Klein said.

The trails will be built with a combination of small machinery and hand tools by professional trail builders. Once the design is submitted and approved by all relevant agencies, work can begin. Phase one will include trails on state land nearest the graveled upper parking lot, and phases two through four will work west from there.

“This concept does not have anything close to it in our area. It just doesn’t exist. There is a demand for it,” Betzler said. “We just want people to make an emotional connection so they know their mountain and are passionate about it.”

 

• For more information on the Red Grade Trails, visit sheridanclt.org/red-grade-trail-experience-your-backyard/.

Also, drop by Black Tooth Brewing Company from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday for “Crafting Ales for Local Trails,” a Boot Kick-Off After Party. During the event, Black Tooth will donate $1 of every pint to SCLT’s recreation projects, including Red Grade Trails. Maps and information will be available.

 

 

Setting the sky ablaze

Dave Avery, left, and Justin Bishop load shells into three-inch mortars during setup for the Fourth of July fireworks show Wednesday afternoon at the Big Horn Equestrian Center. Each mortar shell is fired according to a timed sequence set by the firing control computer. The fireworks display is timed to by choreographed with music that will be broadcasted over the air by local radio during the show. Bruce Burns with his crew of certified pyrotechnics and volunteers have been working all week to get ready for the popular fireworks display at the polo fields. The fireworks show will light up a 10 p.m. Friday night.

Fireworks!

Seven-year-old Austin Geertz, left, and Nathan Geertz, 12, light fireworks outside at the Whiz Bang Fireworks store Tuesday night on the north end of Sheridan.

Koltiska heads to rodeo royalty competition

SHERIDAN — Next weekend as many of the residents of Sheridan County are joined by tourists and athletes to attend the main events of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, one resident will be heading out of town to attend another rodeo.

Not to be mistaken for an insult against the local showcase, the absence will be not only in honor of the community but also the state.

Sheridan High School incoming senior Gabrielle Koltiska has been named Wyoming High School Rodeo Queen and will attend the National High School Rodeo Association competition in Rock Springs July 10-20 to represent the state of Wyoming and vie against 47 other queens from across the nation for the title of National H.S. Rodeo Queen.

The 17-year-old student has been riding horses since she was 4 years old and has previously held titles of junior princess and princess in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo royalty.

A regular at the high school rodeo, this was the first time the barrel racer and pole bender competed in the royalty competition at the NHSRA.

To win her title, she competed in a horsemanship competition consisting of reigning patterns that tested how well she worked with her horse, a modeling competition, a test on the NHSRA rulebook, an interview with judges covering topics such as current events, PRCA rodeo standings and more, as well as delivering a two-minute prepared speech on a topic of her choice.

Koltiska chose to highlight her home state in her speech titled “Wonderful Wyoming,” focusing on the history of Wyoming, the Western heritage with the sport of rodeo and highlights of the area including Yellowstone National Park.

A barrel racer first, her horse came up lame just before the state competition so Koltiska did not make it to the national competition for sports and is grateful to still represent her community at the national level through her royalty title.

“I really feel honored to be able to represent the state at the sport of rodeo,” she said. “Rodeo is my passion and to represent with an upper title instead of just as a competitor is really an honor.”

She takes the title — and the responsibility that comes with it — seriously, stating that it is the job of the queen to uphold the reputation of the sport while serving as a role model.

“It takes a lot of work just to represent Wyoming around the state, not only to be able to represent the sport of rodeo but also to be out there in the public,” she said. “Little girls love rodeo queens so to be there as a role model is important.”

The daughter of a college rodeoing mom and a dad who did high school rough stock, Koltiska has rodeo in her blood and says her love of the sport has only grown through the years.

Now heading to nationals, her love will be matched with her pride in Wyoming as she makes her grand entry to the week of events on horseback carrying the state flag, and she is hopeful that she is prepared to bring the national title home to Wyoming.

“Our state follows the national competition as close as it can to prepare the newly crowned queen for nationals,” she said. “For the next year, if I don’t win, I will still be going to every high school rodeo in the state and carrying flags at all of them, attending state board meetings, attending a national board meeting and making appearances at other rodeos, representing our community and our state to the best of my ability.”

If she does win, trips to other state rodeo finals will be added to her very busy schedule.

Koltiska is also a member of 4-H and the FFA but maintains her focus on academics through the busy season, keeping her grade-point-average above 3.6.

“In the spring, from April until I get out of school, I am gone every weekend so it gets a little crazy but school is always my number one priority because after work, if there’s no school, I won’t get into the college I want and be able to do things with my life I want to do,” she said. “School always comes first in our family. It’s busy but I always manage to pull everything together.”

One thing Koltiska wants to do with her future is run for queen of the Sheridan rodeo.

But first, she is focused on the NHSRA National title and in order to achieve all of these things she will be seeking sponsors.

“There are a lot of costs involved from gas and food to stalling a horse while there,” she said. “I’m continuing to talk to businesses and locals to see if I can get sponsorships to help me get there and when they sponsor they are on the banner and that will travel with me around the entire state throughout my reign.”

Other than her sponsors, Koltiska added that she could not do this competition, and would not be where she is today, if not for the support of her parents and her grandma and grandpa.

Interstate 90 limits in Sheridan County to remain at 75 mph

SHERIDAN — Motorists driving the wide open roads of Wyoming will soon be able to put the pedal a little closer to the metal on nearly 500 miles of interstate highway.

Beginning Tuesday, Wyoming Department of Transportation crews will begin the process of changing speed limit signs to 80 mph along approved sections of interstate roadway across the state.

The increased speed limit was approved by the state Legislature in its 2014 session.

While WYDOT hopes to complete the sign changes by the Fourth of July weekend, motorists should be aware that during the transition, the 75 mph speed limit will remain in effect until new 80 mph signs are in place.

Three sections of I-25 totaling 268 miles, three sections of I-80 totaling 116 miles and two sections of I-90 totaling 104 miles will be changed for a grand total of 488 miles. More than 125 speed limit signs will be replaced.

WYDOT District 4 Public Relations Specialist Ronda Holwell said I-90 within Sheridan County will not be increased to the 80 mph limit.

“Accidents were the number one reason,” Holwell said.

“The severity of crashes between Sheridan and Buffalo was high,” she added.

The section of I-90 between mile post 12 south of the Montana state line all the way through Sheridan also experienced a higher crash rating, so it was decided to not increase the speed limit on any sections of I-90 in the county since only about 10 miles would meet eligibility requirements.

“We didn’t want to go up and down,” Holwell said.

However, Holwell said WYDOT will continue to study and monitor the interstate in Sheridan County throughout the year. It is possible it would be a candidate for variable speed limit signage since a majority of accidents occur in the winter months.

Interstates near Sheridan that will feature the increased speed limit include I-25 from Buffalo to Casper, 64 miles of I-90 from Buffalo to Gillette and 40 miles of I-90 from Gillette to Sundance. The speed limit will drop to 75 mph from approximately 15 miles west of Sundance to the South Dakota state line due to the higher number of accidents along that stretch of road, Holwell said.

WYDOT conducted a variety of tests to determine which sections of interstate highway could safely be increased to the 80 mph speed limit.

Factors considered were physical roadway characteristics such as curves, grades, width and proximity of interchanges; current traffic patterns including average speeds, traffic volumes and the proportion of commercial trucks and passenger vehicles; and safety statistics including crash rates and severity of crashes.

Highway Patrol Capt. Carl Clements said the overall philosophy on speed limits for the department hasn’t changed. Citations will be issued for drivers traveling more than 5 mph over the posted speed limit. Transition times from one speed limit to another — from 80 mph down to 75 mph near a city on the interstate, for example — will be allowed within reason.

Clements said the Highway Patrol does have a few concerns about how increased speed limits could increase the severity of crashes.

“The studies done show that most cars are already traveling above the 75 mph limit anyway,” Clements said. “While the increase is not dramatic, what happens when you increase speeds and do have an accident, the chances that the dynamics of that crash can cause injury or death rise significantly. We’re not looking at more accidents, but the severity of accidents could become greater.”

Clements said crash statistics will be studied throughout the year to see if there is an increase in the number or severity of crashes, or if crashes are occurring in places not anticipated because of the higher speed limit.

“Our emphasis is on distracted driving,” Clements said. “Along with higher speeds, when drivers are texting, taking calls or checking the internet, as speeds increase, that distraction is a huge contributing factor to crashes.”

 

USDA helps resident buy first home

SHERIDAN — Owning a home carries a lot of responsibility. There is a lawn to be mowed, electrical and plumbing systems to maintain and bills for the utilities and the mortgage to be paid.

Owning a home is also a source of pride and autonomy, as Sheridan resident Tammy Carlson discovered Friday when she closed on her first home and received a plant and a giant cardboard key as a welcome to home ownership from United States Department of Agriculture representatives who helped Carlson reach this day with a USDA Rural Development subsidized loan.

Jessica Taylor, area specialist for the USDA Rural Development Sheridan office, and Shauna Gibbs, rural housing program specialist for the USDA state rural development program in Casper, also used the celebration of the closing on Carlson’s home to commemorate National Homeownership Month for the USDA Rural Development program.

“I think it’s a dream of most Americans to own their own home. In rural communities where credit is limited, it is more difficult to purchase a home, a lot of times, and so this program is specifically designed for rural residents,” Gibbs said. “It helps people fulfill the American Dream of owning a home, so we are very happy that we can contribute to that kind of success.”

Carlson is a single mother who had been living with her mother to help her through some tough times. In December, Carlson and her daughter, Lexis Legerski, decided they had reached a point where they could be on their own again.

“I guess that’s what it means to both of us is to be on our own and put money toward an investment,” Carlson said.

“With this backyard that I have, I’m looking forward to making my own little backyard getaway, and having a garden and fixing it up and making it my own.”

Legerski has already painted her furniture — her bed turquoise and her vanity coral with vintage black and white accents — to put in her bedroom. She said she is looking forward to having her own space in her and her mom’s home.

Taylor said the direct loan program with USDA Rural Development assists very low to low-income families through subsidies that help the homeowner with his or her housing payment. The loan term is typically 33 years with a 3.75 percent interest rate. The loan is subsidized based on income and can be adjusted if income levels change.

“She’s a single mom, and she advised me that she didn’t dream to own a home without this rural development program, so I was happy to assist her with that,” Taylor said.

Gibbs added that the USDA offers several ways to assist participants who run into hard times financially to prevent them from becoming delinquent on their payments.

Taylor said to date this year, the USDA Rural Development program in Wyoming has provided 22 loans for the direct loan program, which helps applicants purchase a home, and a repair and rehabilitation program that provides loans and grants to very low-income applicants to make their home safe, sanitary and decent through updates to windows, doors, insulation, water and sewer lines and alterations for handicap access.

Taylor handles all direct loans for the state and said the state program has already spent 97 percent of its allocation from the federal branch of the USDA. Still, people who are in need are encouraged to contact Taylor and apply for assistance. If funds are not available this year, applicants will be placed on a waiting list.

According to a press release, in 2013 alone, USDA helped more than 170,000 rural residents become homeowners, investing more than $23.4 billion in loans, grants and technical assistance to provide affordable, safe housing for rural families. In both people served and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year in the history of USDA single-family housing programs.

“Since the start of USDA’s single-family housing programs in 1949, USDA employees have helped nearly 3.4 million rural residents buy homes of their own,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “Many of these are lower-income, first-time homebuyers who are earning a leg up into the middle class. Homeownership is a critical step on the ladder of opportunity as it helps build equity and increase assets. Simply put, homeownership means long-term financial stability and security for these rural families.”

 

• For more information on USDA Rural Development home loan assistance, call Jessica Taylor, area specialist for the USDA Rural Development Sheridan office, at 672-5820, ext. 4.

UPDATE: Additional details released in accidental shooting

SHERIDAN — Authorities have said the 11-year-old male victim in Thursday’s accidental shooting was struck in the head by a bullet from a .22-caliber rifle when another child tried to either hand the weapon to the victim or put it back in the ATV in which they were traveling.

Sgt. Mike Gale with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office said the boy stumbled and the weapon discharged, striking the victim in the head, but not penetrating his skull.

At least one parent was at the house, near where the accidental shooting took place, but Gale said the victim’s parents were not aware the boys had the weapon. Gale added that the SCSO investigation is still open and it is unclear to whom the rifle belonged.

The victim was taken to Sheridan Memorial Hospital after the incident and the SMH doctor on-site made the decision to transport the boy to Billings via Life Flight.

Despite initial reports to the contrary, the county’s law enforcement dispatch was notified by Sheridan Memorial Hospital staff of the incident, though it was several hours later.

At that point, the SCSO contacted the Billings clinic where the boy was being treated and worked with the Billings police to conduct the followup.

Though most states require health care providers to report gunshot wounds to local law enforcement there is no such statute in the state of Wyoming. Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle said Friday that the only mandatory reporting requirements in state statute that he was aware of apply to child abuse or the abuse of vulnerable seniors. A bill requiring health care providers to report gunshot wounds was proposed in 2002 in Wyoming.

Montana law requires the treating person to place a report by the fastest means possible within 24 hours of the initial treatment. SMH Chief Medical Officer John Addlesperger stated that there was not a written hospital policy he was aware of regarding reporting gunshot wounds but that it is his personal policy to do so.

Addlesperger was not on duty at the time of the incident.

“If there is no foul play then fine, but give them the chance to investigate,” he said. “There really is no downside to having law enforcement involved and it’s pretty standard to involve them, but again there is no written policy on the books that I am aware of.”

Wyoming law does, however, require that any person in charge of any garage or repair shop report any motor vehicle that shows evidence of having been struck by any bullet within 24 hours after the motor vehicle is received by the garage or repair shop — giving the identifying number, registration number and the name and address of the owner or driver of the vehicle.

The case is still under investigation and the SCSO declined to release the name of the victim or the other minor involved at this time. He reported that the child underwent surgery Thursday night and the surgery went well.

“I did call and speak with the father just now, and he said it was a miracle, but the child will likely be released today,” SCSO Dave Hofmeier said Friday morning.

Early investigation indicates it was likely an accidental wound inflicted by another minor, apparently a male friend of approximately the same age as the victim.

“We’ve talked to the families and all parties and got assistance from the Billings PD and everything we have learned, there is nothing that points us to any other outcome than accidental,” Hofmeier said. “What we will do is continue the investigation and go from there, but I can tell you solidly I’m 99.9 percent this is an accident.”

If proven accidental, there would be no charges involved.

Gale offered one safety tip to those who own or are around firearms.

“Always treat every firearm like it is loaded,” he said. “And don’t load your firearm until you need it.”

Culinary Institute offers diners, staff chance to experiment

SHERIDAN — Did you know there is a restaurant in town where you can bring your own bottles of wine or beer? Or that there is a local eatery where the low-price menu is constantly changing to feature one-of-a-kind selections like cherry saffron infused rice or chocolate beet cake?

If you’ve been searching for a new lunch spot in town, it’s time to try the Wyoming Culinary Institute, which opened its doors for the special summer session June 2 and serve lunch five days a week until Aug. 1.

During the school year, the restaurant is operated by sophomore students enrolled in Sheridan College’s culinary arts and hospitality management programs and only serves lunch and dinner on Thursday and Friday.

When school lets out and many students head home, the program shifts to operate under the care of paid students temporarily employed by the college from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday.

The operating hours are not the only thing that changes in the summer.

During the school year students working at the restaurant are doing it for the learnings and are not paid or allowed to accept tips from patrons. During the summer the employees are certainly hoping to be tipped.

During the school year the students rotate positions throughout the building, including spending time in the kitchen as well as serving tables. During the summer, the staff are hired to certain positions and stay there.

However, some things remain the same throughout the year including the student-driven menu and creative selections.

Chef Instructor R.J. Rogers said the students have complete creative control over their menu offerings.

“It’s all the work of the students, unless I just really miss cooking and then I may jump on the line,” he said with a chuckle. “But I let the students cook what they want and they are happier with it that way.”

The students meet for menu development meetings and choose recipes from textbooks to create or rework.

Suggested entrees are analyzed for availability of resources and preferences before being placed on the menu and whichever item a student suggests becomes their responsibility to execute.

Every day before a shift, the staff meets to taste an item from the menu or special of the day to learn more about it and ensure it is meeting expectations.

Double major Sheryl Jack, who is studying both culinary arts and hospitality management and is working at the institute this summer, said trying the different foods is her favorite part.

“I just love playing with the food, thinking about what it should taste like, smell like, look like,” Jack said. “It also gives us an opportunity to tweak the dish before serving it, which is a great way to learn.”

The restaurant offers several “of the day” specials in the summer including a burger taco, fish, soup, dessert and more daily offerings.

Jack said she has already seen things like Korean tacos and beet cake, which she said was surprisingly good.

“We’re pretty famous for the desserts but last week we had a chocolate beet cake and it was amazing and it sold like hotcakes,” she said. “That was something I had never seen before and it’s beets so everyone was skeptical but it had this amazing ganache frosting and everyone loved it.”

Every worker at the restaurant is enrolled in Hospitality Practicum 4, a one-credit class at SC.

The culinary program at SC takes a progressive learning approach with four classes a year. Students begin with basic classes including knife skills before moving to sauces and stocks and eventually learning things like grill and broil.

Rogers said some students are studying in order to be bakers or caterers but roughly 75 percent of his students want to be chefs some day, though there will be hard work in their future to reach that goal.

“We don’t crank out chefs, we crank out cooks,” he said. “Someone that will be a valuable asset to the kitchen and will work their way up to a chef, but you don’t just walk out of culinary school as a chef.”

Rogers would know after his long career as a chef. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he spent a year cooking in Germany and has been a chef in a number of states throughout the country.

One of only three certified executive chefs in Wyoming, Rogers stands behind not only his students’ education but also the restaurant they operate.

“It’s a nice place to get good food, scratch made, by hard working students, and it’s affordable,” he said.

The programs at the college offer high caliber training — another instructor in the program, Tim Rockwell, is the second of the three certified executive chefs in the state — and is in such high demand a new application process will soon be installed that may require students to have prior cooking experience.

During the school year, the WCI facility is used by studying freshmen Monday through Wednesday when not open for public service but the college has discussed earmarking some of the funds recently received from the state to be used for an expansion to the WCI building in order to offer more opportunities for freshmen, additional students and possibly even additional serving hours.

Until that happens, or for those simply seeking a good meal, the institute on Sheridan Avenue will continue to offer daily and weekly specials unique from any other restaurant in town.

If you are still doubtful of that, come out next week and try a bite of the alligator dish currently in the works.

“That’s something great about this program, the best part really, is we get to experiment a lot,” Jack said. “There are a lot of flavors you are not going to find anywhere else in Sheridan.”

Friends, family gather to honor senator

KAYCEE — Just days after the death of 68-year-old Wyoming Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, on Thursday, family, friends, neighbors and colleagues gathered in the largest indoor space Kaycee had to offer to honor a man known for his hard work, integrity and ever-ready words of encouragement.

The gymnasium at Kaycee High School was filled to near capacity with people representing the wide swath touched by Schiffer’s influence: ranchers, old school mates, mayors from surrounding towns, representatives from the military and the U.S. Forest Service, supporters of the arts, state officials and fellow legislators, including the entire delegation from Sheridan County, Gov. Matt Mead, former Gov. Mike Sullivan, neighbors and children from Kaycee and more.

For a rancher whose response to his diagnosis May 31 of liver cancer was “it is as it is,” the gathering may have seemed a bit much.

“Many of you know dad didn’t want any services, but on this one, he lost the vote,” his son Ben Schiffer, of Buffalo, said.

Those gathered chuckled and nodded their heads. Schiffer was remembered again and again as a humble man concerned more with the welfare of others than himself.

As his son noted, Schiffer loved the state of Wyoming, and he loved serving the people of Wyoming on community boards, in the state Legislature and day-by-day helping to fix a neighbor’s fence or reading books to children at the school.

“I’ve been thinking the last couple days about celebration, and it’s been a little tough for me to get to the celebratory point, but the more I thought about it, the things I thought were most important were the things that he loved,” Ben Schiffer said in his remarks.

He listed family, friends, his grandsons Eli and Trell Schiffer, horses, rain, a little bourbon now and then, to talk, to hear a good story and dogs. In fact, the senator died Thursday at his home in his wife Nancy’s arms, nestling his beloved cow dog Phoebe against his chest.

“He loved this state, and he loved working hard for it, and he loved making it a better place. Along those lines, traveling as he did for committeework and back and forth to Cheyenne, he loved to look at the grass, see who had the best grass and see whose reservoirs were full and then talk about it. Obviously, he loved to laugh. He loved Colorado College hockey. And dad loved to watch his cows when he turned them out, just watch them,” Ben Schiffer said, choking back tears as he added how much his dad loved living and working in Kaycee.

“Dad loved things when they were hard because it made for a good story, but by the same token, he liked it when it was easy because that also made for a good story,” Ben Schiffer added.

That sentiment was echoed by Schiffer’s daughter Wynne Schiffer, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who read a passage of scripture and spoke briefly to recount memories of going out to ride horses around the 48 Ranch early in the morning with her dad.

“We used to get up at 4:30 in the morning and ride. Pretty soon, it was just dad and I, and he would always say, ‘It gets colder before it gets warmer.’ That’s where we are now,” Wynne Schiffer said, her voice breaking.

People around the gym nodded their heads and dabbed their eyes, agreeing that yes, those who knew Schiffer were in the cold part of the morning, but the warmth would come.

Even by the end of the service, friends and family lingered in the gymnasium, clustered in groups and sharing stories and laughs about the senator, just as his wife, Nancy, had wished.

“I was trying to figure out what to tell, knowing there was no way I could express the depth and the scope of what he meant to each of us, and I could just hear a John-like voice saying, ‘You know, Mark, you might just want to listen to what Nancy wants.’ And there it was. Nancy told me she wanted John’s eulogy to be people talking to one another and telling stories about John,” Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon, a long-time friend and business partner of Schiffer’s, said in his eulogy.

“Each of us has a unique relationship with John, and he was so much to all of us, that Nancy’s wish is right on,” Gordon added. “Tell stories about John, and tell them for a long time. Talk about his code of honor, his humor, his passion and his love for Wyoming, because we will not have another like my friend and partner John Schiffer.”

Kaycee resident Theo Hirshfeld agreed with that sentiment. Hirshfeld met Schiffer in the 1960s while working for Northern Feed and Seed. Schiffer was a customer who became a friend, and the families spent several Thanksgiving dinners together.

“It was great, and I’ll never forget those moments or him. They were terrific. We’d go pheasant hunting and trip over the snow and over the fences, but we had a good time. We never really bagged anything; we just went out visiting,” Hershfeld said, adding that Schiffer was a “mensch,” which is a German word meaning, roughly, “more than a gentleman.”

Ray Cash, a neighboring ranch owner, described Schiffer as an everyman’s man who worked hard for his community.

“He was kind of a bull slinger, just like everybody else is in this town, full of a lot of noise. He had good interaction in this town. He was quite active in it. In fact, he was the one that got this school here,” Cash said. “He was just one of those people, just around, and everybody knew him. He was boisterous, joking, carrying on all the time. He’ll be missed.”

The liturgical celebration of life included responsive readings, hymns and scripture readings but was also peppered with a reading of the poem, “Fixing Fence,” written and read by former Wyoming Poet Laureate David Romtvedt and songs from Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Ed Bruce’s warning of, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” played during a slide show of images depicting Schiffer roping and riding throughout his years.

Schiffer, who served two tours in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam as a commanding officer of a river patrol boat in the de-militarized zone, received military funeral honors in which an American flag was presented to Nancy in his honor. He was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Naval Bronze Star for his service.

Donations were made to the John Schiffer Foundation, which supports a variety of local charities. Following the service, it was noted that Nancy Schiffer had invited everyone out tothe  ranch to eat and tell more stories. In typical smalltown Wyoming style, the directions to the ranch were something like up the hill, around the pond, past the cluster of mailboxes, to the end of the lane where you’d reach the Schiffers’ white ranch house.

Belly up to the griddle

Lonnie Wright keeps an eye on the pancakes cooking for guests at the Big Horn Fire Department’s annual breakfast. The volunteers welcomed members of the community to the fundraiser, where they raffled off several items and gave tours of the department.

Relay heroes

Fynn, the super dog, watches all of the action Friday night at Kendrick Park during the 2014 Relay for Life event.

High school students experience nursing profession

SHERIDAN — In less than one day, 48 high school students participating in two week-long camps dedicated to exploring the nursing profession had their media-induced stereotypes of nurses shattered.

Goodbye to the most evil nurse of all time: Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Goodbye to sexy nurses, both competent and evil, like Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan from “M.A.S.H” and Elle Driver in “Kill Bill.”

Goodbye, even, to TV nurses in shows like “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” who are portrayed as helpers while physicians do the critical and autonomous jobs usually done by nurses like giving medications and educating patients about treatment options.

“Some students just think nursing’s about bed pans and white hats and not really a good career,” Director and Nurse Educator at the Wyoming Simulation Center Crissy Hunter said.

“I think it’s movies, I really think that. You have movies where they just call nurses, ‘nurse.’ You have the hierarchy that physicians are better, and I think that’s just not true anymore,” Hunter added. “I think that, being a nursing instructor, I see how the nursing students themselves are just afraid to talk with a physician or talk with other people, so I think this camp and getting them involved and exposing them to the different facets of nursing right there dispels the myth.”

 

Act like a nurse, be a nurse

 

This year was the first offering of the Dream Big…Be a Nurse High School Summer Camp. Two sessions June 9-12 and 16-19 allowed 24 participants each to experience a realistic introduction to nursing in order to address future health care needs by attracting high school students into the nursing profession.

The camp was also designed to boost self-confidence and dispel misconceptions and fears about nursing as a college major and a career.

The Wyoming Simulation Center is a 5,000-square-foot mock hospital complete with a six-bed patient ward, nursing station, classroom and two “high-fidelity” rooms that are wired for video and audio to recreate and record high-risk scenarios with manikins that respond appropriately physiologically to any treatment given. It is in its third year of operation as a partnership between Sheridan Memorial Hospital and Sheridan College.

On the first day of camp, students made collages about their perceptions of nurses.

“Whereas their perceptions are warm, and loving, and caring, they still didn’t get to the meat of what nurses do, and I bet if they had the chance to re-do that on Thursday, it would be different,” Hunter said on the second day of the first camp.

Even by the second day of camp, myths had been dispelled as students had already spent several hours in official hospital scrubs training for real-life hospital situations. A tour of Sheridan Memorial Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center also served to show participants that nurses perform vital tasks using extensive medical knowledge.

“They all have some interest, whether it’s nursing or being a physician, they all have interest in the medical profession. I was kind of nervous to see if it was just going to be no motivation and, ‘I dread being here,’ but they were excited from day one,” Hunter said. “We outfitted them in scrubs, so I feel like dress like a nurse, act like a nurse, be a nurse.”

 

Saving Ruth

 

In one room, six students gave injections — into oranges, which most closely resemble human skin and muscle in toughness. In another room, six more students gathered around Kim Dunlap, an emergency medical technician with Rocky Mountain Ambulance, and practiced splinting broken arms and legs on each other. Later in the camp, they were set to enact a scenario with a real kid who needed help after getting into a bike accident.

Across the room, “Ruth” came into the hospital complaining of not feeling well for two weeks and having trouble breathing.

“What is the first step?” SMH emergency room nurse Josh Barker asked.

Check her lungs, the students responded.

“She’s having trouble breathing, but she’s talking to you, so sit her up and check her vitals,” Barker added.

SMH Nurse Educator Amy Turpin read the vitals: oxygenation at 82 percent and still breathing on her own.

The students decided to use the smaller O2 delivery device.

Suddenly, Ruth’s oxygenation dropped to 70 percent, and she stopped breathing. Barker lowered the bed while students hustled to grab the bigger respirator and try to save Ruth.

Seconds sped by. Hands tried to speed faster.

“She’s dead,” Turpin said.

Faces fell.

Barker let the group try again. They revived Ruth and laughed nervously with each other as she began to breathe again on her own.

“There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with not breathing,” Barker said, reminding them to pretend Ruth and her life were real. “Talk to her, comfort her.”

Meanwhile, in one of the high-fidelity rooms, Sheridan College Nursing Instructor Tobie Alsup stood beside “Noelle” and held up a diagram. She asked each of the six students to check Noelle with their first and middle fingers and report what they found.

Seven centimeters. It was time.

One student watched the monitor for the mom’s vitals and another watched the monitor for the baby. Two students placed Noelle’s legs in the stirrups and offered words of comfort. One student stood by with needed instruments. And one more student donned a yellow hospital gown and green surgical gloves while Noelle, voiced by Sheridan College nursing student Molly Morgan, groaned in the pain of delivery.

Minutes later, Noelle’s baby was placed on her stomach as the students “cut” the umbilical chord and congratulated Noelle on the birth of her little girl. Minutes after that, the placenta came out, garnering questions from the nursing students about its size and how long it takes for the process to finish.

“Basically what we’ve done is we’ve taken what we learn over the course of four semesters and simplified it down in a way that they get it in a week’s period of time,” said Morgan, who volunteered her time at the camp and as a chaperone for out-of-town campers. “Getting them informed on what the medical profession I think is important because it takes a lot of the fear of not knowing away and it allows them to see in a safe environment that it is incredible. You’re dealing with people’s lives, and you’re interacting with them daily, and they’re in a state that they need care, and to provide that is a beautiful thing.”

 

Dream big

 

Hunter dreamed up the idea for the Dream Big…Be a Nurse High School Summer Camp last year as a way to utilize the simulation center in the summer and recruit a diverse array of high school students into the nursing program at Sheridan and Gillette colleges. She applied for and received a State of Wyoming Workforce Development grant that covered the entire cost of the camp, including scrubs with the Wyoming Simulation Center logo and dormitory lodging for out-of-towners, for all 48 participants.

She also received sponsorship from Sheridan College, Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Sheridan County Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Rocky Mountain Ambulance, Sheridan Fire-Rescue and Wyoming Life Flight that ensured the camp would be free for participants.

Hunter recruited current nursing students and additional college faculty to teach and mentor the students.

“You can see the high school students gravitate more to the nursing student than to the older educator,” Hunter said. “It’s a learn one, teach one kind of mentality.”

Hunter said the college plans on keeping in touch with participants to continue encouraging them to pursue nursing and see where they end up in life. After all, this camp could be crucial to addressing the coming nursing shortage facing the nation — and even Sheridan’s local hospitals.

“It was just an idea, and to see it come to fruition like this is just amazing. To see the 24 students just so enthralled and so interested, it’s great. I mean, these are life-changing experiences,” Hunter said. “They predict by 2020 that we’re going to have 300,000 job openings in the nursing profession around the United States because of the gap of the aging nurse population. I think that any initiative to encourage the youth to choose nursing will help bridge the gap in 2020. It’s an amazing profession.”

Jorey Kyllonen, a senior at Sheridan High School, said he’s always been into sports and medicine and is considering physical therapy as a profession. He strives to take any opportunity available to experience as much as he can.

“It’s cool that more guys are starting to get into the medical profession; it shows that guys have an understanding for it, just as well as women do,” Kyllonen said.

Local students and sisters Gabby and Grace Edeen, a senior and sophomore at SHS, both said they already had an interest in medicine but the camp helped them understand the profession even more.

“It’s changed my mind a lot because I wanted to go into dental hygiene, so I’ve considered being a nurse of some sort now,” Gabby Edeen said. “I like the idea of helping someone in a big way.”

And participant Ashley Mooren came from Gillette to attend the camp after hearing about it in her biomedical class. She felt it would be a good chance to put her book knowledge and passion for medicine into more real-life situations in her pursuit of becoming a neo-natal nurse following her recent graduation from high school.

She reiterated the need for nurses: “I feel nurses are very important because they’re the ones keeping us alive in these hard times,” Mooren said. “We’re always going to have illnesses, and until we come up with things to help that, we’re going to need nurses.”

Ruths will always need to be saved, and Noelles will always need to give birth, and who better to be there for the sick than a new wave of intelligent nurses breaking stereotypes ingrained for decades?

Mars gifts $4 million to SC for new agriculture center

SHERIDAN — Sheridan College officials announced Friday a $4 million gift, the largest gift from an individual in the history of Sheridan College, from Jacomien and Forrest E. Mars Jr. of Big Horn for the creation of a new Mars Agriculture Center.

The new center will be a 13,000-15,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, and will be located on the south end of Sheridan College’s main campus, adjacent and connected to the existing Science Center, which will also receive upgrades during the project.

“We are building a world-class agriculture program here in Sheridan, Wyoming, and, thanks to the generous support from Forrest and Jacomien, it will have a world-class home,” Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said. “This latest gift builds on a history of support from Forrest Mars Jr. for our ag students and programs, including one-half million dollars for the Natural Resources and Ranch Land Management Program and one-half million dollars pledged last year to support the creation of an additional agriculture faculty position.”

The center, Young said, will focus on providing real-world experiences for students. In addition to high-tech classrooms, a herbarium, a greenhouse and a soils and agroecology lab, the new center will include a computerized commodities trading floor classroom to support students studying in the ag-business program.

“The academic study around agriculture is different today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, with a global emphasis on business and science,” said Dr. Ami Erickson, SC Dean of Ag, Science, Math and Culinary.

“We have a record number of applicants and current students in our programs, and if we are going to teach our students the skills necessary to compete and contribute in the global world in which we live, updating our learning space is the next step.”

The total cost for the project is $8 million. The state of Wyoming allocated $2.7 million toward the project during the last legislative session.  Young is confident the remaining $1.3 million will be raised by the end of the summer.

The next steps for the project include selecting an architect and construction manager, which college officials hope to have complete by the end of the summer. The design phase will likely last through February 2015.

“We should be ready to send out bids on the project by February or March of next year, and be ready to begin construction in mid-May,” Young said. “We anticipate opening the doors for students at the new Mars Agriculture Center by the start of fall semester 2016.”

Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, dies at 68

SHERIDAN — Colleagues of Wyoming Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, have confirmed that the longtime state legislator died this morning at age 68.

Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, said this morning that Schiffer had been feeling ill for a couple of months, but believed it to be pneumonia. On May 31, he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Berger said Schiffer had received chemotherapy in Casper recently, but his fever ramped up and he died in his wife’s arms this morning while awaiting an ambulance.

“He was such an unassuming man,” Berger said this morning. “He’s been my mentor since I started in the Legislature. He was always the first person I called to say, ‘John, how do I do this?’”

Schiffer had served in the Wyoming Senate since 1993, as the president of the Senate from 2007-2008, Senate Majority Floor Leader in 2005-2006 and Senate Vice President in 2003-2004.

This year, Schiffer served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee, among others.

Schiffer and his wife, Nancy, have two children.

Check back here, and in tomorrow’s edition of The Sheridan Press, for additional details.

County renews contract with private ambulance firm

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County commissioners renewed the contract for services with Rocky Mountain Ambulance, LLC, Tuesday morning. The board also voted unanimously to subsidize the emergency medical service to the tune of $170,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2015.

County Administrative Director Renee Obermueller explained the contract review is standard procedure.

“We look at this contract annually,” she said. ‘We’ve had a meeting with Rocky Mountain (Ambulance) to see where they’re at with charity care, write-offs, the new (Affordable Care Act) and how its affecting Medicare payments, and this is one of the other avenues of the county we have to look at.”

Obermueller acknowledged the contract for medical services is unique in that the private company is subsidized by the local municipal and county government.

“It’s a county service, but we’re also subsidizing that service,” she said, adding this year’s subsidy has been negotiated down $5,000 from last year.

Commissioner Steve Maier reflected that the subsidy is essential for public safety.

“Nobody likes to do a subsidy, but the reality is we’ve asked them to provide service countywide, which includes the mountain, it includes Arvada, it includes a wide variety of distances and they can’t turn people down,” Maier said.

“So they, like the hospital, have a significant write-off and we get to review their financials.”

Maier provided more commentary in an effort to thwart any potential sticker shock for board members.

“There was a time not too long ago we had a public ambulance service that was being subsidized in the million-dollar plus. Working with the private sector, we’ve got it down to a total of a couple hundred thousand dollars and I think the service has been good.

“Nobody likes subsidies, but we want to guarantee our citizens service anywhere in Sheridan County, so we have to do this,” Maier said, adding that he appreciates the contributions of the county’s numerous fire departments and municipally owned ambulances that assist in emergency responses within the area as well.

 

Also at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Sheridan County BOCC:

• awarded a contract to install a fireproof pond liner at the Sheridan County Airport Fuel Farm to ShotCrete Montana, based out of Absarokee, Montana. ShotCrete will install a product called Milliken CC-8 Concrete Cloth in compliance with regulations established by the Department of Environmental Quality. The project will cost $27,296.

• acknowledged the receipt of a conceptual master plan for the Sheridan County Airport. Ryan Hayes, of Mead & Hunt Consulting, presented a plan to reorganize the existing county air terminal and add floor space to departments when and if enplanements increase.

“This is to recognize that when the enplanement situation turns around, when the air service situation turns around at Sheridan County Airport, you will have a plan to move forward that involves a new terminal building,” he said, indicating another main priority of the new facility plan would be to separate commercial and general aviation traffic.

• unanimously approved the continuation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the Wyoming Guardian Ad Litem program.

“The GAL program, in summary, offers legal assistance to children in need,” Obermueller said. “This could be for supervision cases, parental rights, etc. These attorneys are funded by the state and we, as a county, are required to pay 25 percent of their fees.”

• agreed to begin the process of vacating a portion of Upper Big Horn Sheridan Road that is on the property of the county airport. The heavily used portion of the road will remain open.

• renewed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding with the Wyoming Department of Health’s Public Health Division to support a local maternal and child health program.

“We do staff a county nurse to fill this position, but it is 100 percent funded by a grant,” Obermueller said.

• agreed to accept Countywide Consensus Block Grant Funding.

“The legislature again approved in the (2015-2016) biennium, $70 million to be distributed statewide. Sheridan County’s portion of that is 5.62 percent of that, which is $3,936,635,” Obermueller said.

The money will be divided among governmental entities in Sheridan County after individual resolutions are approved.

New mine could create more than 200 jobs

SHERIDAN — Last month, the Kentucky-based Ramaco, LLC, announced plans to open a coal mine between Sheridan and Ranchester. The endeavor represents an economic opportunity for the local economy, but also a pioneer effort to bring Appalachian mining techniques to Wyoming.

Initial mining plans for the proposed Brook Mine, which will be located in an area near the existing Acme exit of Interstate 90, are to use a “highwall” mining technique to excavate coal. Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins said he hopes to create between 200 and 225 high-paying jobs — foremen, engineers, etc. — when the mine opens in a few years.

The proposed mine encompasses approximately 15,000 acres of mostly private land acquired by Ramaco in 2011. The proposed site also includes a swath of land that will remain undisturbed because it contains a historic floodplain. With environmental considerations aside, Atkins said he aims to mine 6-8 million tons of coal per year.

“It turns out there’s a whole lot of coal here,” Atkins said, suggesting the previous land owner may have underestimated the fossil fuel resources on the land. “We’ve got almost 1.1 billion tons of coal.”

The vast majority of the mine land — 90 percent — is privately owned by Ramaco.

Ramaco’s business plan’s profitability hinges on both a relatively low-cost mining technique and the fact that the mine will not be required to pay federal bonuses or royalties.

“This is 20 years’ worth of mining just on the first mining plan we’ve done,” he said. “And, as we start poking holes and find more coal, we may expand to more areas. This could probably go on for several decades.”

The proposed new mine land is bisected by both Interstate 90 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, rail line.

 

Highwall mining

 

The technique of highwall mining entails digging a shelved trench into terrain and then using a HWM machine to excavate coal. The machine consists of an auger, or drill, that burrows as far as 2,000-feet into the hillside. An accompanying conveyer belt then transports the coal backward through the drilled hole to be transported.

In this case, Atkins said plans are to truck the coal to a rail yard that will be situated near what is now known as the Taylor Quarry.

HWM is considered a variation of surface mining, as people do not physically go underground to recover the coal. The HWM technique is a distinct departure from the conventional approach to western mining, but is used extensively in the eastern United States.

“A lot of the type of mining done out in Wyoming is what I call ‘moon scaping’,” Atkins explained. “Some people call it an ‘open pit’ or ‘truck and shovel,’ where you remove all the topsoil and keep going down.

“That works in places like Gillette that have huge seams. Coal seams here aren’t that thick. They’re more shallow,” he said, adding that HWM is a perfect fit for the coal seams found near Sheridan.

The aftermath of a highwall mining operation is a hillside with multiple holes drilled side-by-side, creating a “honeycomb” appearance.

 

Marketing

 

Atkins said coal from the Northern Powder River Basin represents a unique economic opportunity for Ramaco.

“In terms of thermal coal, we felt this is probably the strongest or one of the strongest regions in the country to mine,” Atkins said, explaining that coal found near Sheridan contains a relatively high British Thermal Unit (BTU) ratio and lower sodium than other coal mined in the region.

Atkins remained optimistic that the “war on coal” raging on a national level will not have a long-term effect on profits from the new local mine.

“I think that as that is implemented, things will change because I think it will be shaped by regulatory change, legal change and things like that,” he said. “Having said that, the utilities we sell to will likely be in the Midwest, and they will not be as badly impacted. Our coal fits very well with what their burning requirements would be.”

New stipulations from the Environmental Protection Agency have dictated emissions from new coal-fired power plants reach unprecedented low levels of carbon emissions. The constricted operability of some existing power plants and tight regulations for new facilities has created a cutthroat domestic market. Atkins said he’s confident Brook Mine coal will fill a niche.

“The reality is there are some coals that can be used in the same utilities from different mines, and there are some utilities that can only burn certain types of coal,” he said, adding that he sees the mine’s future product as unique to that mined at existing nearby mines, including the Decker and Spring Creek mines.

“It’s not as much head-to-head competition as you might suspect because even though you think of coal in generic terms, it really has specialized chemical properties that each coal is a little different and each utilities boiler accepts certain types of coal and not others.”

Atkins said he hopes to market two-thirds of coal mined from the Brook Mine domestically, while the remaining one-third would be marketed overseas using existing North American export terminals.

“We have come up with a route to avoid the mess going on in the Washington and Oregon area,” Atkins said, indicating Ramaco has considered shipping coal to Asia via an export terminal in Canada. Ramaco also owns a terminal south of New Orleans.

 

Getting started

 

Atkins said Ramaco is currently working with multiple local engineering groups, to include drilling companies and environmental consultants, to get the Brook Mine off the ground.

He’s also waiting on a finalized socioeconomic study that would outline the potential economic impact of the mine, which he intends to make public.

“What we hope is we’ll file this summer and that process will take a year or more than a year, and we’ll start mining in 2016,” Atkins said, knocking on the wooden conference table at Sheridan’s Ramaco office on Sugarland Drive.

Atkins said the current mine plan is divided into two phases, each encompassing its own area.

Ramaco’s present goal is to have an initial Phase 1 surface mining permit application submitted by August in hopes of having the permit issued by the end of 2015. The Phase 2 application is expected to be submitted in the fall of 2015 to begin mining in 2017.

“Wyoming has a reputation for trying to get things done and move these projects forward, rather than trying to come up with reasons not to do things,” Atkins said. “We’ve had the same experience and we’re happy up to this point.”

Atkins added that while nothing is ever “in the bag,” Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality and other regulatory agencies have been accommodating to Ramaco’s development ambitions.

 

 

Cowgirls kick off rodeo season

Kade Koltiska competes in break away roping during the Sheridan Cowgirls Association Rodeo on Thursday evening at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. Koltiska will be going to the National Junior High School Rodeo in Des Moines, Iowa, later this month.

Nichols: No stranger to country scene

SHERIDAN — Joe Nichols may not be singing about Sheridan in his song “Wal-Mart Parking Lot” in which he tells of the “Wal-Mart social club” of small towns saying “all summer long the nights are hot, hanging out here in the parking lot” but he could have been.

An Arkansas-born singer, Nichols describes himself as a traditional county music singer with a mix of modern.

“I grew up listening to traditional country music so that’s my brand. Today I think the challenge is to integrate the traditional with what is happening with country radio today, so I’m a little bit different but with more of what has already been,” Nichols said. “Some country purists might not appreciate that but I like to throw it back to the old days and at the same time stay fresh.”

Nichols will share his brand of country with Sheridan on Friday at 8 p.m. as he takes to the stage during Big Horn Country USA, the local three-day music, art and camping festival featuring Lady Antebellum, Big and Rich, Brantley Gilbert and more.

Nichols said he is looking forward to returning to Wyoming and hopes to get out and explore Sheridan if his schedule will allow.

“Wyoming’s a beautiful state, beautiful part of the country,” he said. “I’m a little outdoorsy. I’m not much of a hunter because I wasn’t raised around that, but I do love to fish and target shoot.”

He is also looking forward to seeing the other artists slated to play at the Trail End Concert Park next weekend.

“It’s good to see friends, all those great people I don’t see on a day-to-day basis. I’m sure I’ve played with some or all of them at some point,” he said. “Plus, I just love watching a good show, so hopefully everyone brings it.”

Currently on tour with Lady A, Nichols is thrilled on a regular basis with the talent he is surrounded by.

“Well we got an offer to do the tour with Lady A and considering the lineup, I mean, look who we’re playing with,” he said. “Billy Currington is a great artist. Lady A are great people, great performers, great singers.”

Nichols is no stranger on the country scene. He has been topping charts and packing audiences for more than a decade now since his first no. 1 single “Brokenheartsville” rose to the top of the Billboards in 2003.

Over the 11 years that followed, other chart toppers solidified his place among country music fans including “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” “Gimmie That Girl,” and his latest No. 1, “Sunny and 75.”

To him, the individual successes are not his greatest achievements but rather his permanency in the field.

“My biggest accomplishment is my longevity,” he said. “A lot of people take-off and become headliners immediately but then they fade over the years. We’ve had some really bright moments without hitting that headliners spot yet, but I’m still here.”

Not one to live life with regrets, Nichols said he would have chosen his relationships in the business world more carefully if he could do it again, but is happy with his place in life.

“I am who I am and I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m livin’ this life because of it,” he said.

The years have afforded Nichols a series of good memories and interesting experiences.

“I have lots of crazy stories from the road but none that you could print,” he chuckled. “Each day feels like a crazy story in its own.”

One story he did recall was being asked to sign a can of turkey spam while in Wisconsin, with little to say about the odd request beyond, “yeah, I just don’t know.”

Ever the performer, Nichols said the best venue he can play is the one filled with the best audience, and some songs get them going a bit more than others.

“’Tequila’ always gets a good response, but for crazy reasons as you can imagine,” he said. “Right now ‘Sunny and 75’ gets the crowd into it, it’s such a feel good and have a good time song.”

He added that if he could design a perfect show, with the best crowd at the best venue, it would offer variety and time.

“A sea of people and a perfect performance, that would be the best show,” he said. “I would pull out obscure songs and the people would listen. I would get to rock out for a long time; if we were given three hours we’d love that. I could do everything from my favorite covers to my current singles if I had the time, it would be a great time.”

In the end, the country superstar’s passion and humbleness are probably best reflected in his song “Singer in a Band:”

“A soldier in a field of mines, with each step he lays it on the line… I’m humbled when you take the time, to hear my life in verse and rhyme. But when it comes to heroes I know, I’m just a singer in a band.”

 

UPDATED: Murder victim identified as James Lee Drake

SHERIDAN — Paul Brookhouse, 57, has been arrested on one charge of second degree murder for killing James Drake on Thursday. A $100,000 cash bond was set in Sheridan County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon.

Sheridan County Sheriff Dave Hofmeier said this morning that deputies and emergency medical services were dispatched to 24 Dee Drive at approximately 6 p.m. Thursday night for the report of a gunshot wound. When deputies arrived on scene they located a deceased male, who was later identified as James Lee Drake, 62.

In an initial hearing in Sheridan County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon, Judge Shelley Cundiff read the affidavit of probable cause to the defendant, who participated in the hearing from the Sheridan County Detention Center. According to the affidavit, when deputies arrived on scene, Brookhouse was standing at the end of the driveway with his arm in a sling and what appeared to be blood on his clothing. He reportedly spun around with his hands in the air, as if to indicated he was unarmed.

Brookhouse also indicated the man who had been shot was in the basement of the home. When deputies asked if the wound was self-inflicted or if somebody else did it, Brookhouse responded that it was somebody else.

When deputies entered the home and found Drake, he was face down on the floor with what appeared to be two gunshot wounds to the side and one to the head. A .22 revolver and a Ruger revolver were at the scene.

Brookhouse allegedly told deputies that he was the one who did it and put his hands behind his back, readying to be handcuffed.

Hofmeier added that the case remains under investigation and staff from the state crime lab were on scene Friday.

Second degree murder — defined as purposely and maliciously, but without premeditation killing someone — is punishable by 20 years to life in prison.

Fishing day

Fourteen-year-old Jarrod Roberts, left, and friend Hayden Burgess, 13, cast at Sam Mavrakis Pond off Eighth Street on Wednesday afternoon. The pond is a popular spot for Sheridan residents, young and old, to fish.

Annie Jr.

Micall Hoopes scrubs the floor of the orphanage during a rehearsal for “Annie Jr.” on Tuesday at the WYO Theater. This will be the third Annie Jr. performance in Tandem production’s 20-year history in Sheridan. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. June 18-21 at the WYO Theater.

Nonprofit providing warmth in cold places

SHERIDAN — Warmth, comfort and relaxation are feelings commonly associated with a blanket but to a child, it can mean much more.

To a little person wrapped in a big quilt there is often a sense of security, like being enveloped in a hug.

Many children develop attachments to their belongings, “security blankets” in particular, but what if circumstances beyond their control remove them from their homes, from their sense of security or from their belongings?

A nonprofit organization in Sheridan is using their hands to warm others’ hearts with one-of-a-kind quilts, many of which are donated to the Child Advocacy Services of the Big Horns.

Love in Stitches was started by Cynthia Whiteman and Penny Covalt in February of last year and was just recently awarded their 501(c)3 status.

Covalt was previously involved with Project Linus, a national organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need, particularly critically ill children.

The only chapter in Wyoming is in Cheyenne and she was interested in bringing the cause to Sheridan, but the group was not looking to add new chapters at the time.

Whiteman was a long-time quilting hobbyist. Her mother made quilts when she was young and she took up the family hobby when she became a mother herself.

Covalt approached Whiteman about the cause and the duo decided to start their own organization.

The ladies have been making quilts and donating them to various charities with the majority of the cost for the quilts coming out of their own pockets.

Now, as a registered charitable organization, they can begin to accept donations and with that hope to expand their services.

In February, the newly official group decided to make a quilt for each of the children graduating from the Head Start preschool in the spring.

The largest single donation the team has made, 36 quilts were made for the 5-year-olds leaving the state-funded school.

“We’re hoping to start doing that annually now that we know we can handle it,” Whiteman said, “but we don’t want to take away from the other places we’re supporting either.”

To date the CASBH has received a majority of their creations and Visitation and Exchange Coordinator Hesid Brandov-Ysrael said much of the time the quilts go to children who have nothing.

“Some kids are allowed to or have time to pack-up their own items before leaving their home, but some kids leave with nothing,” she said. “For a child to have their own quilt is really something special.”

Brandov-Ysrael said many of the quilts end up going to foster children who have been removed from their home.

“A lot of our kids are younger so they cannot really express gratitude,” she said, “but the smiles on their faces when they receive the quilt says it all.”

Though Whiteman said roughly 60 percent of their quilts went to CASBH last year, she was quick to add that sometimes adults need a nice blanket too.

“One of the lenders at First Interstate Bank approached us and said she had a customer whose house flooded and they had to get out quickly and lost everything so we made them some quilts,” she said. “Children are really the basis of our group but we want to help all people in need.”

Love in Stitches has a goal of crafting 100 quilts this year, even though the group only consists of four official members.

Covalt’s mother quilts for the team but lives five hours away and sends the blankets back to Sheridan whenever her daughter comes to visit.

The fourth member, Irene Stevens, knew she wanted to help the cause but didn’t know one important thing: how to sew.

“Irene didn’t even know how to thread the sewing machine but after just a couple days of reviewing patterns and things with me, she started,” Whiteman said. “It’s not something that is really hard to learn, it just takes patience and a creative mind.”

The group meets monthly at Sunrise General Assembly Church to set goals and log completed quilts for donation, but Whiteman added that quilters who wish to help without becoming an official member are welcome to donate their creations to Love in Stitches to be placed in a needing home.

And for those who do not want to put needle to cloth, the team always needs people to help with the other aspects including cutting fabric and ironing — jobs currently being done by the women’s teenage children.

Other than helping hands, Whiteman says the biggest current need of the group is supplies.

“Fabric is not cheap,” she said. “Quilts have to be made with a certain type of fabric so some of what we’ve received couldn’t be used but we don’t like to be wasteful, so we use that and all of our scraps to make pet beds and donate them to the Dog and Cat Shelter.”

Pending the receipt of more supplies and crafty people, Whiteman says the next step for Love in Stitches is to expand blanket coverage to the children’s wing of Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

“Sometimes kids need a warm hug in a cold place, so to have a blanket for the kids in the CASA program, the court system or the hospital… sometimes just having a security blanket that they can take with them wherever they go is the key,” she said. “It feels good to get it done, see it and know it will be somewhere it will be appreciated.”

Monster trucks!

Willie Morris, Luke Morris and Sam Wilcock, from left, react as the monster trucks enter the arena during the Mega Promotions Tour Monster Truck Show on Saturday night at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds

$10K reward offered in attorney’s office fire

SHERIDAN — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — along with the Sheridan Police Department and Sheridan Fire-Rescue — today announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting fire to the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office.

SFR and SPD responded to the fire, reported at 4:30 a.m. June 4, at 148 S. Brooks St. Investigators have determined the fire was intentionally set.

“ATF is committed to solving this investigation, and we are asking the community to come forward with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this senseless crime,” Special Agent in Charge Luke Franey of ATF said in a press release.

The fire is being investigated by the ATF Cheyenne Field Office, Sheridan Police Department and the FBI. Anyone with information about this crime should contact the following agencies:

SPD: 307-672-2431.
ATF Hotline: 1-888-ATF-TIPS (888-283-8477)
ATF Cheyenne Field Office: 307-633-9400.

All information will be treated confidentially, and callers may remain anonymous upon request.

Positive effect of taxi program not seen in countywide DUI arrests

SHERIDAN — Despite robust public education efforts and the implementation of a “Tipsy Taxi” program, there has been no significant reduction in overall driving under the influence arrests in Sheridan County over the last few years.

Under the Tipsy Taxi program — a joint effort between businesses, community prevention specialists and law enforcement — bar patrons are issued a voucher to receive a free or discounted ride home.

The Tipsy Taxi started running in Sheridan in July 2012. In the first few months of operation, the taxi averaged around 100 to 150 rides per month and total DUI arrests originating from the Sheridan Police Department went down 23 percent from the year prior, according to statistics provided by Sheridan Police Chief Richard Adriaens.

However, at the same time they went down for SPD, went up for other arresting agencies, including the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol. In addition, DUI arrests in the city and county are again on the rise.

Numbers received from Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle indicate that so far this year, there have been 103 DUI arrests conducted by all law enforcement agencies in the county between January and the end of May. This year’s baseline number going into the summer season suggests the county will likely surpass last year’s total number of 258. In 2012, there were 219 DUI arrests, and 182 in 2011.

The SPD reported 197 DUI arrests in 2010, 174 in 2011, 134 in 2012 and 140 in 2013.

Adriaens said the effect of the Tipsy Taxi program was significant for his agency in the beginning, but it is beginning to taper off.

“There’s always a plateau,” he said. “The effect will be less and less if the program doesn’t grow.”

The entirety of the program today is the same as when it started out — one or two vehicles operated by a local taxi company designated specifically to give drinkers a ride home. Adriaens indicated the biggest drawback he’s heard about the program is that sometimes, patrons wait a long time for the taxi to arrive.

“Our biggest complaint about the program is that the wait gets too long, but the other side of that is that inebriated people sometimes aren’t always the most patient,” Adriaens said.

Adriaens also indicated the uptick in DUI arrests are a reflection of more activity that occurs with generalized economic recovery evidenced by increased local sales tax collection. He commended the county’s other law enforcement agencies for their increased efforts and enforcement activity as well.

Within Sheridan County, one of the more significant statistics related to drunken driving is the number of accidents that occurred, as opposed to traffic violations. DUI accident citations jumped up 20 percent between 2011 and 2012, from 20 to 24, respectively. DUI-related traffic citations went up only 5.3 percent during the same period.

Because of Sheridan County’s high DUI accident rate, it qualifies for extra state funding for overtime enforcement.

The same applies because the county has the lowest reported seatbelt use in the state.

Tracking DUI stats is one of a few tangible elements of comprehending the status of the overarching issue of alcohol abuse and accessory incidents in the community.

“Anywhere from 65 to 80 percent of all of our arrests are alcohol related,” Adriaens said. “That’s why we’re all over this.”

Adriaens added that the majority of violent crime in the county is also connected to late night bar activity.

“I always say that if you want to live a long, happy life in Sheridan, buckle up, don’t drink and drive and don’t be out in the bars late,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Dog and Cat Shelter offering rabies vaccinations

SHERIDAN — For many, the saying “man’s best friend” is more than a saying; it is a way of life. Pets from dogs and cats to horses and rabbits can be your closest companions and often someone you would do anything to protect.

But even as medical and technological advancements have given four-legged friends longer and healthier lives, if your pet contracts rabies, there is nothing that can be done.

“If your animal is scratched or bitten by an animal you do not know and can’t contain for testing, you assume it is rabid and need to quarantine your animal and watch for symptoms,” Dog and Cat Shelter Executive Director Debie Crawford said. “The ultimate outcome, if they’re bit by something that’s rabid, they’re going to die.”

Rabies is a virus that infects the central nervous system ultimately causing disease in the brain and then death.

Though there is a treatment for rabies, it is reserved for humans who contract the virus and for animals the only “cure” is prevention.

This is why Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory scientists urge pet owners to have their pets vaccinated against rabies.

WSVL virologist Myrna Miller said in a press release “even if your animal does not usually have contact with wildlife, rabid skunks and foxes have been known to climb into outdoor dog kennels and attack even large dogs and humans.”

Skunks account for the majority of wildlife that tested positive for rabies in Wyoming from November of 2013 through April — 41 of the 43 cases — with the other two being one cat and one fox.

This number indicates rabies is on the rise as a total of only 34 rabid animals were confirmed in Wyoming in 2010.

Though rabies are most often transmitted through a bite, pets can also be infected by drinking from pools of water after an infected animal.

Outdoor cats that roam free are of particular concern, though the 21 pets that were quarantined or euthanized after exposure to rabid animals so far this year have all been dogs.

The most important thing to do is watch for symptoms.

In animals, the most common symptoms are nervousness, agitation, aggression and unusual behavior. Cattle develop a hoarse bellow, drooling, abnormal swallowing and other conditions. Horses show abnormal posture, signs of colic and wobbliness of their hindquarters.

Foothills Veterinary Services veterinarian Shawn Tatman said often these symptoms and the hypo-salivating that accompanies them can lead pet owners to believe the animal has something obstructing its airways, causing them to insert their hand in the pet’s mouth to attempt to clear its throat.

“Anytime you’ve got an animal that is not quite right, don’t put your hand in its mouth,” he said. “This is one of the ways in which humans contract rabies from their pets.”

Early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to other illnesses and include fever, headache and general weakness, which then progress to insomnia, anxiety, confusion, agitation, fear of water, partial paralysis and more.

Though death usually occurs within days of the onset of the symptoms, early detection and treatment can save the human’s life.

Because preventing the spread of rabies is more of a public health concern than just a pet health concern, the state mandates how often rabies vaccinations must be given.

Furthermore, the city of Sheridan mandates dogs living in city limits be licensed and proof of current rabies vaccination must be provided to receive a city license.

This week is the Dog and Cat Shelter’s Rabies Clinic week at Kendrick Park and since 2008 this clinic has administered 3,980 rabies vaccines to dogs, cats and ferrets.

Licensed veterinarians and a team of volunteers have been gathering in the band shell until 1 p.m. daily to offer shots and licenses.

The clinic, which ends tomorrow, offers the rabies vaccines for a discounted price — compared to a visit to a vet’s office — of just $10.

A city license can be purchased for $10 for spayed and neutered dogs and $15 for intact animals after the shot is administered or upon presenting a current rabies certificate, not just a prior rabies tag or city license.

Crawford said the benefits to adhering to the licensure policy are numerous.

“If your dog gets loose and is picked up by animal control and not licensed you will receive a fine of $45. If your dog bites someone, they will know it is vaccinated and not have to go through being quarantined. Also, it is a good tracking mechanism, especially if the dog is not micro-chipped, to make sure they make it back home to you,” she said.

The vaccine administered at the clinic is approved for dogs, cats and ferrets but horses, cattle and other pets need to see a veterinarian for their vaccines.

“The vaccine is great, it’s highly effective,” Tatman said. “No vaccines are 100 percent but I don’t know of a lapse in its effectiveness ever.”

 

Editor’s note: Press reporter Alisa Brantz is a board member of the Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter.

New location, same mission

SHERIDAN — A crowd of community business leaders and administrators turned out Wednesday afternoon to support the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce and celebrate its new location.

The Chamber hosted an open house to show off its new office space in what used to be the home to Sheridan College on Main Street. The offices associated with the college, including the Center for a Vital Community and the Workforce Training and Development for the Northern Wyoming Community College District, have moved back to the main campus.

When the Chamber of Commerce relocated from the Information Center near the intersection of Fifth Street and Interstate 90 to its new location, it left vacant space that was immediately filled by the staff of Sheridan Travel and Tourism. The two agencies had previously been housed in the same building.

Chamber CEO Dixie Johnson said though the two agencies have parted ways, their relationship remains strong.

“We couldn’t be happier to partner with them,” she said, adding that the new location may pose some strategic advantages for the chamber’s mission.

“What we are thrilled about now is that we are going to be more accessible being in the heart of the community,” Johnson said. “We continue to connect people with businesses and businesses with resources.”

ST&T Director Shawn Buckley said that when he assumed his current job a few years ago, he was happy to have the Chamber of Commerce imminently available to help him settle. Now, he’s excited about the new possibilities of the visitor center.

“Now, the focus on the Visitor’s Center is different,” he said, indicating the crowd that comes by is solely focused on getting regional information and tourism.

ST&T has added another full-time employee to its staff as of this week and is in the interim phases of redesigning the museum.

Buckley said he’s had a few meetings with representatives from the State of Wyoming’s Visitor Center Network and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, who own the building, and learned he has a lot of leeway in terms of modifying the exhibit displays for travelers.

“The long and short was we discovered we have quite a bit of control to get creative with displays and visuals as long as no commercial exchange is taking place,” Buckley said.

“Now, we’re picking apart different aspects of how the main office might look and function. We’re also looking at the museum as well and talking with our partners about our displays. We’re getting thoughts on how to modernize the aesthetics there while maintaining our partnerships,” he said.

Johnson added both entities have agreed the new situation will be a great fit for the community.

 

No injuries reported in early morning blaze

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire at the Sheridan County Attorney’s office located at 148 S. Brooks St. around 4:30 a.m. today.

Assisted by Goose Valley Fire Department, the crews were able to contain the fire with no injuries sustained. The office building appears to have been vacant at the time of the fire.

Upon arrival, fire was coming out of a window on the first floor and SFR Capt. Gary Harnish said the fire appeared to be localized to that area.

Rocky Mountain Ambulance and the Sheridan Police Department were also on-site.

With the building cleared and a full search for life complete, the crews began the investigation into the cause of the fire around 5:45 a.m.

As of 9:30 a.m., Harnish reported that all units were clear from the scene except the investigative team which will continue trying to determine the cause of the fire.

 

Crews respond to fire at County Attorney’s office

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire at the Sheridan County Attorney’s office located at 148 S. Brooks St. around 4:30 a.m. today.

Assisted by Goose Valley Fire Department, the crews were able to contain the fire with no injuries sustained. The office building appears to have been vacant at the time of the fire.

Upon arrival, fire was coming out of a window on the first floor and SFR Capt. Gary Harnish said the fire appeared to be localized to that area.

With the building cleared and a full search for life complete, the crews have begun the investigation into the cause of the fire.

This story will be updated as more details become available.

Farmers market continues expansion with new events

SHERIDAN — Spring and summer bring back many things long lost in the winter months. Sunshine, green grass, open water and clear pathways draw people outside and encourage many to once again be more mindful of their health.

As plants wake up from their winter slumbers, gardeners from hobbyist to professional levels are getting their hands dirty planting and harvesting a variety of crops; and once again all of these joys of summer will soon come together in the Sheridan Farmers Market.

This season will mark the 14th year of vendors distributing their locally grown foods in a fair-like atmosphere and it is shaping up to be the biggest year yet with a schedule of special events and myriad changes.

The event started on Grinnell Plaza and was moved to Whitney Commons in 2007. In an effort to increase visibility and attendance, the event was again moved last year and is now held on Main Street in Sheridan.

“The move back to Main Street was kind of controversial in the beginning but it is part of our Main Street focus and brought visibility to the vendors so people driving by would see it and pull over,” market organizer Bonnie Gregory said.

“It’s a beautiful park and we do miss the fountains but the ultimate goal is to raise the economics of those local vendors while getting fresh food into the hands of the consumers and last year was the most profitable year for the vendors yet, so it worked.”

Gregory said the event started out slow, having only four vendors in its first year, but thanks to the national refocus on local foods and a lot of passionate marketing from organizers it has more than doubled in size in the last four years alone.

“The local food movement has been prevalent throughout the country for quite a few years and it’s finally catching on in Sheridan,” she said. “We are wanting to become more aware of our food and support our local merchants, but farmers markets are difficult. It takes a lot of passion.”

That passion led the Downtown Sheridan Association to conduct several surveys of vendors and consumers and this year will be implementing changes reflective of their input.

“Restrooms were an issue to people so this year we have the key to the public restroom on Main Street and will have a dedicated Porto-Potty that will be cleaned the day before each event,” she said. “We are working on getting handicap parking in front of City Hall and a number of other convenience enhancements.”

Other changes this year include the longest market season to date with an additional pre-season market currently open, held by the vendors in the Community Room at the DSA for distribution of early spring crops.

“As the spring crops start coming in, they just have more and more,” Gregory said. “They are also taking pre-orders for things not yet ready to harvest, like chickens.”

One thing that has never changed is the booth fee. Vendors are still able to sell their food at a cost of just $10 per event.

“We want it to be affordable for people to have a booth and we feel the economic and health benefits of buying local and eating healthy multiply that income by five so we don’t need to charge a lot up front,” Gregory added.

 

Special events

The Farmers Market will play host to several special events this season, so many in fact that Gregory has resigned her position as project manager at DSA to focus solely on being the organizer of the Farmers Market series.

With the elongated season, the first market will open during rodeo week and though the produce may still be coming in, special offerings are in the works to serve the crowds expected to be downtown.

“We have a lot of other artisans like bakers so I’m hoping that the tourists and increased traffic on Rodeo Week give the vendors a jump start on the market,” Gregory said. “We’re also planning on having a beer garden with music and food vendors.”

Some of the markets also overlap with Third Thursday street festivals, in which case the Farmers Market vendors are bumped down Grinnell and set up in front of The Sheridan Press.

The market organizers are also cooking up their own events including a Fall Festival and a Sheridan Chef Throw-down.

For the chef’s competition, nine local chefs have registered for a cook-off in which they will be given $35 to spend at booths within the market to prepare the best dish possible.

Gregory says the purpose of the event goes beyond entertaining the crowds to hopefully show the chefs that our local producers can supply our restaurants with fresh, local foods.

The Fall Festival will be held during the final Farmers Market of the season on Oct. 4 and will include a community lunch, a beer garden, a pumpkin patch, live music and more.

Throughout the season the Farmers Market will offer a variety of activities including pie and watermelon eating contests.

“It’s a community event with a fair atmosphere, not just a come get your veggies and go home event,” Gregory said. “We want to foster community relations through the market as well.”

Current plans show the future of the Farmers Market will only continue to grow and change.

The DSA is currently working on a Goose Creek Restoration Project set to include a riverwalk which may house a permanent home for the market.

The increased use of social and digital media will make it so producers can sell their crops year-round online.

Gregory hopes this technology will also help promote the local foods movement while recruiting new producers to the area.

“Sheridan used to be the banana belt of sorts with lots of berries and diversified crops and it no longer is, so we’re focused on recruiting new producers,” she said. “I’m excited for the local foods movement to grow in Sheridan. These producers are good hard working people with big hearts and I’ve invested a lot of time in this because of them.”

The market will run from July 10 through Sept. 25. The pre-season market is open now, offered weekly on Thursday evenings.

Producers interested in selling their crops can register online — for the first time ever — by seeing www.sheridanfarmersmarket.org, or call the DSA office at 672-8881 to register.

BHMS students place service over self for the day

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County is well known to have a community-minded spirit as nonprofit organizations, fundraisers and opportunities to support each other abound.

Whether time is spent founding a new NPO, sitting on the Board of Directors of an existing nonprofit or simply volunteering an hour or a dollar, adults in the community often give what they can to support the charitable under layer that uplifts Sheridan.

But as the older generations of our community retire and pass the baton of service down to younger generations, who will be there to pick it up?

On Friday, the teachers and administration of Big Horn Middle School hosted their second school-wide Community Service Day, an effort to provide students with the opportunity to give back to the community, make a meaningful connection with the people they serve and learn the joy of being a public servant.

Over the past couple months, a public call was made for elderly, handicapped or anyone else who wanted to make connections with the youth in their community to submit projects for the students to complete free of charge.

The types of projects the kids completed included painting, hauling wood, cleaning, yard work, trash removal, fence mending, repairing damages from recent storms and gardening.

Eighteen families and individuals came forward seeking help, and on Friday the students of the seventh- and eighth-grade classes of BHMS set out in seven small groups for a day of hard work — and a little fun.

For many years now the middle school has participated in a school-wide service day that historically consisted of trail cleanup, highway cleanup, river projects and other such deeds serving the community as a whole.

In this the second year of serving individuals in their homes, teachers and students alike agreed that they most enjoyed the personal connections made with people in their community whom they might not otherwise have been given the chance to meet.

“The students enjoyed meeting the people they were working with, building some relationships with people who are around us all the time that they might not know otherwise,” Project Organizer and BHMS teacher Tina Melon said. “The patrons enjoyed meeting the students too and seeing that they were good-hearted and fun to be around. A lot of times if you don’t know kids you only notice them when they do something wrong and they seem like punks, but once you get to know them you see a different side.”

Melon said in the first year she organized the community service day to be in people’s homes, she went door-to-door offering her services. This year she took to advertising in The Press and posting fliers at the post office to find patrons in need and found it to be much more effective.

“Sometimes people are tentative or unsure with strangers, and this way they got information ahead of time and felt more comfortable with who we were and what we were doing,” she said.

Barbara DeFries was one of the people who saw the flier at the post office and called for help.

“I recently had issues with my back and a foot, so things got behind on me, and when I saw that flier I thought, well gosh that would be great for these kids to help me,” she said. “I had them prune back lilac bushes, rake up bark chips and moved them to plant seed. They also moved a lot of rocks, and they were a huge help to me.”

DeFries said the students seemed to enjoy their time working at her house, giving each other rides in the wheel barrel and even burying one student in the bark pile.

“They had a blast, and I had fun watching them,” she said. “They worked up a sweat and had fun doing it. They were polite, nice, no one got hurt and they didn’t wreck any tools. It was a really great experience.”

Eighth-grader Kathryn Arneson was one of the students who worked at Barbara DeFries’ home, and she agreed the day was hard but fun.

“I was glad I was able to help the community and people who aren’t necessarily able to do it themselves,” Arneson said. “It’s also fun to spend time with people you aren’t normally able to hang out with, like people in other grades and the town.”

Melon said the school plans to continue the program in years to come and hopes to serve more people next time.

“Depending on the number of projects we have, we’d like to incorporate the sixth-graders but we didn’t have that many this year,” she said. “A lot of people are unsure if the project they have is right for middle schoolers, but most of the time it is, and if it’s not I’ll let them know so it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Though the community service day is not an optional activity for the students, Melon said that oftentimes it is the motivation to start, but the kids continue on their own.

“Its important for all kids to learn about community service to start off because they probably wouldn’t do it if they had an option, but then after they have done it they are interested,” she said. “They liked feeling like they accomplished something, seeing what they achieved; the feeling at the end of the day was much different than the beginning.”

Arneson will head to high school next year where the service is not mandatory, and she said she will continue to do community service, as much as she can.

Bicycle/vehicle collision on Coffeen Avenue results in fatality

SHERIDAN — At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a man and woman riding bicycles on Coffeen Avenue about 1/2 mile south of Sheridan College were struck by a vehicle.

Larry Hurst, 65, of Sheridan, died at the scene. At last report, his wife, Sara Hurst, was in critical condition at a hospital in Billings.

The names of the victims were released by Sheridan County Deputy Coroner Kevin Sessions Saturday evening.

Goose Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to a report of a vehicle/bicycle collision on U.S. Highway 87, South Coffeen Avenue, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday approximately 1/2 mile south of Sheridan College, Wyoming Department of Transportation Public Involvement Specialist Ronda Holwell said in a media release.

It was determined that two bicyclists were traveling single file in the southbound emergency lane when a vehicle that was also traveling southbound struck the cyclists.

The male bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene, and the female bicyclist was transported to Sheridan Memorial Hospital where she was stabilized and then later life flighted to Billings,” Holwell said.

Authorities continue to investigate, and charges against the driver of the vehicle are pending, Holwell said.

Severe storms forecast, flooding possible

SHERIDAN — With snow melt still running high and forecasts for severe thunderstorms this weekend, county residents need to be prepared for flooding.

The National Weather Service out of Billings, Montana, has issued a flood warning for Sheridan County. Snow melt has already caused high water levels on Big Goose and Little Goose creeks and the Tongue River. Emergency Management for the area has reported some flooding in Sheridan and Ranchester already, and water levels are expected to rise over the weekend with continued snow melt and rain.  Saturday and into next week, severe thunderstorms are predicted, according to the National Weather Service. Conditions are favorable for large hail, damaging wind and heavy rain.

The weather service advises people with outdoor activities planned to have an alternative location in mind.

Sheridan County and the city of Sheridan have both received several calls regarding sand bags and flooding, according to a press release from the Sheridan County Public Works Department.

In response, the entities will provide sand and sand bags for residents to fill as needed.

The fill location will be at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds, south of Rotary Park. Someone will be available to assist with sand bag filling at the fairgrounds from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Sunday.

Anyone with questions can call Sheridan County Emergency Manager Dave Coleman at 752-2174 or 674-5340. The Dispatch Center can also provide assistance at 672-2413.

In Ranchester, sand bags are available at the northeast corner of Ranchester Town Hall, located at 145 Coffeen Street. Wolf Creek Road remains closed due to water coming over the road, Town of Ranchester Head of Maintenance Tim Brewer said.

In Dayton, nearly 1,000 sand bags have already been filled, and more bags and sand are available at the Dayton Maintenance Hall, located at 1 Tongue River Drive near the community center. Dayton Mayor Bob Wood said no homes have been jeopardized by flooding at this point.

Hospital Pharmacy break-in

A Sheridan Police Officer points his flashlight to a damaged area on the ceiling, a possible point of entry, after the owners arrive on the scene of a possible break and entry Friday morning at the Hospital Pharmacy on Main Street. The Sheridan Police department responded to a call at 5:25 a.m. Friday by a passing motorist who noticed the broken window. Police have established that someone did enter and then exit. An investigation is ongoing to determine if any property was stolen. Updated information will be provided in future editions of The Press as it is made available.

Storm produces 75 mph wind gusts, more to come

SHERIDAN — A storm ripped down the east side of the Bighorn Mountains Wednesday evening producing gusts of wind up to 75 mph and causing widespread destruction around town.

On Interstate 90, semi-trailers, trees and an overturned trailer house interrupted traffic flow near Ranchester, the port of entry and Sheridan.

In town, several fires were caused by downed power lines. Sheridan Fire-Rescue and Goose Valley Volunteer Fire Department both received multiple calls. SFR had its entire crew of 14 firefighters working to control fires around town.

Montana-Dakota Utilities reported that thousands of customers throughout the county were without power for several hours.

Meteorologist Joe Lester from the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said the storm was not strong in regards to rain or hail, but that the conditions were just right Wednesday to produce unusually strong winds for the area.

“You had a storm that collapsed on the east side of the Bighorn Mountains that produced lots of wind in Sheridan, Big Horn, Ranchester and all those areas at the foothills,” Lester said.

As storms weaken, they produce wind, Lester said. The storm that “fell apart” on the Bighorn Mountains produced wind that was strengthened by the hot, dry conditions Wednesday. With temperatures topping 90 degrees, rapid evaporation caused the wind speed to increase as it ripped toward the valley below.

Peak winds were recorded at 75 mph between 4:35 and 5 p.m.

“Sheridan was the hot spot yesterday,” Lester said, noting that other cities in the surrounding region did not experience such extreme weather.

Lester said all the wind was straight line wind coming off the mountain and that no tornadoes occurred.

In addition to wind, the region is fighting flooding due to snow melt, Lester said. Big Goose and Little Goose creeks are on the rise, and Connor Battlefield Park in Ranchester has already flooded, closing nearby Wolf Creek Road.

There is potential for heavy rains through Monday as a slow-moving storm system moves through the area this weekend. Thunderstorms could be strong to severe, Lester said. Residents should prepare by moving plants indoors and filling sand bags if they live near creeks or other waters that could rise with rain and snow melt accumulations.

Lester also urged residents to be careful near stream banks as water is moving fast and banks are eroding and less stable.

“The snow is still melting out, so flooding will be an issue for the forseeable future, with or without rain,” Lester said. “Weekend storms could produce heavy rain, so that could be a problem in areas seeing high stream levels.”

 

 

 

500 hard miles

Nate Watson walks up a line of students as they cheer him forward Tuesday at Sagebrush Elementary School. Watson has cerebral palsy, which causes the muscles in his legs to tighten and inhibits his ability to walk. Watson began walking in the mileage club when he was a kindergartener in Linda Gifford’s classroom. Watson, now a fifth grader, has been walking the quarter-mile track every day during recess, which brought him to a total of 500 miles on Tuesday. Watson’s mother, Dara Watson, said that a doctor put into perspective how much energy it takes her son to walk. “It is the equivalent to us running,” Watson said. Nate Watson walked 2,000 laps. Students, teachers, family, pastors, city officials and local law enforcement came to witness Nate walk the last quarter-mile and to congratulate him. Teachers have described Nate as a personal hero. “He would never give up,” Gifford said.

Congratulations graduates

Fort Mackenzie graduation an emotional journey for students, parents, teachers

By Alisa Brantz

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — From their first step as a baby to the first time they don their cap and gown, the road to a child’s graduation is a long and often emotional journey for not just students, but also their parents.

As children of all ages navigate through the education system, parents dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy into their student’s schooling and act, in many ways, as a teacher themselves.

Each spring, these parents stand beside their child’s educators at commencement ceremonies to share a moment of pride in knowing they worked together to help the student reach his or her full potential and leave their many years together with a diploma in hand.

As students from Fort Mackenzie High School walked through the audience toward the stage under a multitude of lights that look like a night sky full of stars in the Early Auditorium, cheers and tears made the emotion of the exercise obvious.

For one person, though, the ceremony was significant for three reasons, making it an overwhelmingly joyous occasion.

Gib Ostheimer was selected by the FMHS Class of 2014 to provide the commencement address.

Full of pride for the successful students, Ostheimer took to the podium to talk to nine young adults about the major life changes that lie ahead of them.

Only two sentences in, it was obvious that this was no ordinary address.

You see, not only was Ostheimer the designated speaker, he was also the graduates’ science teacher and, more importantly, the father of Valedictorian Hannah Ostheimer.

After a long pause and a deep breath, Gib Ostheimer found his voice through pride-filled tears and spoke to the class, thanking them for allowing him to share in so many wonderful memories.

Like a proud parent and teacher would, he regaled the audience with tales of the students’ strengths and recalled some of their finest moments, including setting the standard for ACT scores in their junior year by having the highest class composite average in the state.

Undoubtedly the emotion pouring from his speech was shared by the audience as the hard-fought journey of nine students came to an end Saturday in Sheridan.

The FMHS class of 2014 consisted of Adam Edward Barber, Tyler James Benton, Harley Angel Borzenski, Salutatorian McKyla Dawn Borzenski, Krisha Denise Freesene, Michael Alan O’Kelly, Hannah Elizabeth Ostheimer, Ashley Anne Velos and Breanne Hartford Clarise deCastro Webb.

Together the students earned a total of  $138,500 in scholarships to a variety of colleges.

 

Big Horn High School graduates class full of successful leaders

By Tracee Davis

The Sheridan Press

BIG HORN — Maroon, black and gold balloons bobbed in the air above a floor glittered silver in the Big Horn High School gymnasium Sunday as hundreds of supporters gathered to cheer on the school’s senior class of 36 graduates.

This year’s crop looks good on paper, sporting a 100 percent graduation rate and eight students with a 4.0 GPA. They won a state championship in the Academic Bowl, and the History Bowl, and several students served as state officers for academically oriented groups.

“This is a very high achieving class from a leadership standpoint,” Sheridan County School District 1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “This is a class full of leaders.”

This year’s valedictorian was Benjamin Warder, and the salutatorian was Chara Lee.

Keynote Speaker Mila Stender brought a prop to the front of the podium before her address. It was a full-size hiking pack with a bunch of white helium balloons etched with inspirational words attached to the pack. The cluster of balloons hovering over the pack was meant to serve as a visual demonstration of life skills that can lighten the metaphorical load to be carried in life.

“There will be ups and downs when you’re climbing the mountain of life. There will be spots when you’re going up and you need to change direction, so you go back down to make it to the peak,” she said, emphasizing the importance of patience and perseverance. “It is not a mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Today is summit day,” Stender said.

Sunday’s ceremony was about commemorating not only the high scholastic achievements of the grads, but their lifetime friendships, many of which were formed before kindergarten.

The sentiment of a new era between classmates was amplified among families.

Before diplomas were passed out, Assistant Principal Richard Welch lead the students in a local tradition of using time within the graduation ceremony for students to recognize their parents and families.

“When we started this tradition years ago, there were times when I would sit and think, ‘Boy, this is dragging out this commencement ceremony. Why do we do this?,’” Welch admitted.

“But, now that I’m getting a little older and more sentimental, I would encourage the graduates and parents to hold on a little longer and say something sweet. Life is not as full of tender moments as maybe it ought to be. Life is fragile, and this is one of those moments,” Welch said.

With that, each student was called from the stage individually to present their families with flowers and share a hug and a moment of mutual appreciation.

When the group had reconvened on stage, school administrators called each student’s name again, this time to award diplomas.

The small group cycled quickly across the stage, returning to their seats with a white folder containing the ticket to their futures — be it college, jobs, technical schools or the military.

Having pushed through a tear-inducing march to Pomp and Circumstance, soaked in last words of encouragement and praise from peers and mentors, and overcome wistful memories for the excitement of future endeavors, the Class of 2014 was sent off properly.

The class was presented to the audience with thunderous, standing applause, and caps sailed into the air.

 

Internship program helps SHS graduates face the future

By Alisa Brantz

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — Though graduation can be a joyous end to a chapter in one’s life, it can also be a stressful time of uncertainty in change.

Some students have accepted offers to attend a variety of universities while others hope to study but don’t yet know where.

Some graduates will enter the military and are awaiting their first day at basic training.

Many will enter the workforce and the prospect of job hunting and fear of unemployment can be daunting.

And while several others have yet to determine what it is they would like to do, all of these students are about to embark on journeys into the unknown.

For the 59 graduates from Sheridan High School who took part in the PACE Internship program this year, the world beyond their school walls is not as foreign as it could be. The transition for these students was eased by the ability to leave school and enter the workforce while still receiving class credits and the support of teachers and mentors along the way.

For one PACE participant, Michael Garriffa, the program began as a way to fill two empty periods and ended with a pre-graduation job offer.

While working as a server at Warehouse 201, Garriffa waited on a woman in his usual charismatic way. Impressed by his customer service, she extended a casual offer to call her if he ever decided to join the automotive industry.

Knowing of the internship program and looking to round out his senior schedule, Garriffa approached teacher and program advisor Kathleen Pilch about the possibility of partnering with Fremont Toyota through PACE.

After interning since mid-January, the collaboration earned Garriffa a course credit, a couple bucks and a sense of certainty as he leaves SHS with a career plan.

“It feels really good to have something lined up already and somewhat taking a step forward instead of just staying in place,” he said. “I feel successful already, and I have barely just graduated.”

Garriffa saw success in other forums his final year, including a first place win at the state level SkillsUSA tournament that will now send him to nationals this summer.

He said these successes and the enjoyable final year he had were in no way hindered by being a working student; likewise, his attention to his job was in no way hindered by needing to study.

The partnership allowed for the interns to become comfortable in the adult world before giving up the support present in school life.

“They were really flexible with me. They understood that I was still in high school and had stuff to do,” Garriffa said. “The intern program is something that every student should take if they get a chance because you never know what will come of it, but it couldn’t be worse than what you had before trying it.”

Garriffa added that he still fully intends to further his education and will likely attend Sheridan College to receive a good, affordable education at home while knowing he is able to pay for his school through his new career. With a job in his pocket, Garriffa got a diploma in his hand as he and his 192 fellow graduating seniors gathered at Homer Scott Stadium Saturday.

After addresses made by co-salutatorians Alison Geary and Tyler Julian, Valedictorian Gretchen Dougherty and student-selected speaker and history teacher Tyson Emborg, the high school seniors marched off the field to start the next chapters in their lives, whether known or not.

Preliminary estimates show those grads are heading off with $1.757 million in scholarship money, which is expected to double by the time all awardings are reported.

 

Sarah Rawlings urges fellow graduates to be grateful

By Hannah Wiest

The Sheridan Press

DAYTON — The drive to achieve looks different for different people.

For some it is a desired status. For others it is the words of a loved one in their past. And for Sarah Rawlings, who graduated from Tongue River High School Sunday, it was a certain name on a certain green banner hanging in the gym of her school.

In the midst of a series of championship banners hanging in the Tongue River High School gym, there is a banner that lists the members of the TRHS Lady Eagles team who won the Wyoming State High School Class 2A Girls Basketball Championship in 2010. Sarah Rawlings’ older sister, Aspen Rawlings, is listed second from the top in the right hand column.

Not even two years after that banner was hung, on Sept. 18, 2011, Aspen Rawlings died from injuries sustained in a rock-climbing accident off Red Grade Road. A sophomore studying nursing and business at Sheridan College, Aspen Rawlings was known for her infectious smile and zest for life.

“I would say her death gave me more drive because she won a state championship and had her name on a banner up in the gym, and so I wanted one right next to her. It pushed me harder to try to get one of those banners up there,” Rawlings said. “I have two of them up there now.”

Sarah Rawlings was a point guard, just like Aspen was, on the 2013 and 2014 Lady Eagles championship teams. Her name — and the names of all her beloved teammates — is next to her sister’s, right where she wanted it.  Sunday, Rawlings joined her sister, Aspen, and her brother, Henry, as the last child of Parkman residents David & Estefanita Rawlings to graduate from Tongue River High School. She was one of 22 students dressed in white robes with green sashes who anxiously awaited their moment to walk across the stage, receive their diploma and move their tassel left to right while scanning the crowd for proud moms, dads, siblings and grandparents.

All told, the TRHS Class of 2014 has received $319,000 in scholarship awards, TRHS Guidance Counselor Pete Kilbride said. Eight of the 22 graduates will attend Sheridan College in the fall, with two more attending other junior colleges in the state.

Graduate Matthew Yellowtail will head to Stanford University on a $50,000 scholarship. Valedictorian Lydia Allen was accepted at Emory University, while Salutatorian Cheyloh Bluemel has chosen Black Hills State in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Kilbride described the TRHS Class of 2014 as reflective and mature.

“Really a class with a lot of class is how I would put this group of kids,” Kilbride said. “They, more than other groups, know where they want to go and what they want to do. I think they are pretty focused. Don’t get me wrong; they have fun. They’ll cup up and all that, but they really do have a purpose in mind and a good idea of what they want to do.”

It was these fellow classmates, the townspeople of Dayton and Parkman and the students, teachers and staff of Tongue River High School who helped Rawlings get to this milestone of graduation, she said.

“Having such a small community and such a small school helped because everyone knows everyone personally,” Rawlings said. “They were there to comfort me and do whatever they could to help in the situation. Everyone was there for me.”

Rawlings has signed on to play basketball with the Sheridan College Lady Generals in the fall. She is studying pre-medicine with hopes of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

“My initial thought when Aspen died was shock. I didn’t fully realize everything right away. But then slowly what got me through was that she would have wanted me to continue living my life,” Sarah Rawlings said. “She would have wanted me to continue living life like she did because she was always happy. She would have wanted me to live life and do my best at everything.”

That is the wish of parents, teachers, community members and fellow seniors for every graduate of Tongue River High School.

Keynote speakers Pat Mischke, who taught family and consumer science at TRHS for 39 years, and her husband Warren, who retired from the Game and Fish Department and now substitute teaches in Sheridan County schools, urged the graduates to strive to leave the legacy they want to leave. They then reminded each student of the desired legacy he or she had written down at the beginning of the year and showed each one how it was already being accomplished in their life.

In her valedictorian speech, Allen compared life to a box of chocolates, noting that each stage of life — from toddlerhood, to elementary school, to high school and beyond — includes more and more diverse and “surprising” chocolates. She urged her classmates to savor the good chocolates in life and appreciate the crazy chocolates filled with unexpected creams and jellies.

“Be prepared for the bad ones, and look forward to the good ones,” Allen said.

Whatever life throws at these graduates, whatever it is that drives them to succeed, Rawlings urged them to be grateful for what they have in the here and now.

“I wish Aspen could be here to watch me graduate. I was there for her graduation. It would be nice to finish out the family’s graduations if she was here,” Rawlings said.

“When something like that happens, it opens your eyes on how quickly things can disappear from your life and how you have to be grateful for what you have at the time.”

Rawlings urged her classmates and community members to appreciate everything they have in life — be it that chance to pursue a college degree, those family members who threw a party for them after graduation or getting your name on a championship banner next to your sister’s name to be commemorated for years to come.

135 years of Western hospitality

WOLF — Way back when, a man named Sudsy loaded blocks of ice into his Model A Ford and bounced his way around Eatons’ Ranch west of Sheridan. He delivered those blocks of ice daily to refrigerators sitting on porches of guest cabins at the ranch.

A very handy man, Sudsy also had an ice cube maker and would sell cubes of ice to guests so they could enjoy a cocktail on their porch while breathing the clean mountain air for which they had traveled so far.

Sudsy worked at Eatons’ Ranch his entire adult life.

Guest cabins at the renowned dude ranch still feature fridges on the front porch.

Way back when, a woman named Angela Buell donated all her employee shares in Eatons’ Ranch back to the ranch. She told them to use the money to build a cabin that would welcome any guest who called Eatons’ home for a week, a month, a summer.

“It’s called the Holiday House, and it shows you how much people love this ranch,” current Head of Laundry and Supervisor of Housekeeping Becky Youngfield said on a recent tour of the ranch. “God bless that little woman.”

Buell worked for Eatons’ her entire adult life.

Her cabin houses dude ranchers all summer long.

Way back when, in the early 1900s, the Butcher family began coming to Eatons’ as dudes. Last summer, five generations of Butchers were present when W.W. Keen Butcher’s ashes were scattered at Eatons’ Ranch.

Butcher, former chair of the Committee of Seventy watchdog group, died at 97, and there are photographs of him astride a horse at Eatons’ at age 96.

Legacy, loyalty and longevity characterize the ranch in Wolf, Wyoming — the ranch that is Wolf, Wyoming — which, this year, has been a site for true Western hospitality and adventure for 135 years.

 

••••

“We show them a good time. We’re good dude people. We’re friendly,” Frank Eaton said.

Those looking for secrets on how to maintain a thriving business for 135 years may want more explanation than that, some magic money management tricks or employee training programs, but there aren’t any at Eatons’.

There is hospitality, hard work, and good ol’ fashioned human decency.

“The main thing is our guests. That’s the main thing,” Eaton said.

The clean mountain air, the Wyoming sun, the hearty ranch breakfasts and the prancing of more than 100 horses lined up each morning on the rail by the old white barn also help.

Frank Eaton is part of the fourth generation of Eatons. He is in his 70s now, and technically retired, but he still works around the ranch and picks up mail daily in Ranchester since Wolf is a postal substation. His daughter, Mary Eaton, married to Ty Schmeiser, helps manage the ranch with General Manager Jeff Way.

On many sunny days at the ranch, the sixth generation Eaton can be spotted looking out over the land — from a pack on Mary Eaton’s back. Olivia Eaton Schmeiser is 7 months old, and if she follows the pattern set by her family, she’ll be in the saddle in a year or two and telling stories by the campfire by age 5.

Howard Eaton purchased the ranch in 1904 from Austin Oak Duvall, according to local author and County Commissioner Tom Ringley, who wrote the book, “Wranglin’ Notes” in 2010 about the history of Eatons’ Ranch.

It contained the main house, part of the office building and a smattering of outbuildings. Three Eaton brothers — Howard, Willis and Alden — began to build up their ranch below the Bighorn Mountains, and within no time at all, people began to come.

 

••••

There are more than a few buildings at Eatons’ Ranch now. There is a barn, a shoeing shed, a dining room, Howard Hall where gatherings and receptions are held, staff housing and 52 guest cabins built along the “Gold Coast” road that runs through the ranch.

The Eatons had a ranch in Medora, South Dakota, from 1879 to 1904. In the 1890s, friends and acquaintances from out east began to visit. After a while, those visits became stays. And those stays became “eating the Eatons out of house and home,” Frank Eaton said. And so, people began to pay to come and live and work on the ranch in South Dakota.

Howard Eaton called these people who paid to work on his ranch, “Dudes,” and the term stuck. Eatons’ Ranch is now considered one of the oldest dude ranches in America.

In 1904, when Howard Eaton bought the ranch, he didn’t intend it to be a dude ranch. He had sold the ranch in South Dakota, which was next door to a ranch owned by Teddy Roosevelt, for a sum he could not refuse and just wanted to start another working ranch in Wyoming, Ringley said in a recent presentation at Eatons’ for the 135th anniversary.

But people came, as they always had with the Eaton family.

“People showed up and ate off ironing boards and began building cabins,” Frank Eaton said.

Many of those cabins remain, some named after the original families who built and occupied them through the Great Depression, World War II and into recent history. They reverted back to the ranch only after the original builders died.

The oldest cabin, the Wigwam, was on the ranch when it was purchased, Youngfield said in her tour. It was brought down the creek board by board from where it sat by an old sawmill.

The Rinehart Cabin was occupied for entire summers by mystery novelist Mary Rinehart in the early 1900s.

The Dailey Cabin, a refuge for renowned photographer Arthur “Pete” Dailey and his daughter Mary Dailey for decades, is still visited by Mary Dailey to this day.

Some dude families have been coming to Eatons’ for seven generations. Tommy Butler started as a waiter at Eatons’ in his teens. He and his wife, Anna, were looking at 70 years of life by the time they retired. Corral boss George Gentry spent nearly 50 years under the sun at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. John Flemming was the ranch’s businessman for 39 years.

 

••••

Loyalty, legacy and longevity characterize Eatons’ Ranch. But there are other aspects, too, that have given the ranch the sustaining power to thrive for 135 years through the ups and downs that tourist-driven industries face.

Eatons’ is one of the few dude ranches that allow guests to take off for horse rides on their own instead of the typical nose-to-tail trail ride format found many other places. That freedom feeds the spirit of adventure found at Eatons’, Youngfield said.

But it is also a timeless location where life is a little quieter and a little slower.

On a recent tour sponsored by the Sheridan Community Land Trust to commemorate the 135th anniversary, Youngfield lead participants to Stanley Camp, an area with picnic tables and a fire pit below a rock outcropping. She asked them to sit, close their eyes and be quiet. After several minutes, she asked them a question.

“What did you hear?” Youngfield said, then paused.

“Quiet,” she answered herself. “Life is too fast. Every now and then, you need to take a moment to stop and remember what’s in your heart — and then move on with it.”

 

• Eaton’s Ranch annual horse drive

Every Memorial Day weekend, Eatons’ Ranch drives its horses from their winter pastures east of Sheridan to their summer home at the ranch. It’s a great time to catch the spirit of the West as nearly 200 horses come right through Sheridan.

The horses will leave the Wyarno area at about 7 a.m. Sunday. Wranglers will drive them down East Fifth Street past the visitor’s center and onto West Fifth Street past the Historic Sheridan Inn, the hospital, the fairgrounds and out Soldier Creek Road.

Approximate start time: 9 a.m. Sunday

Approximate finish time: 11 a.m. Sunday

Times are subject to change, so set up early, bring the family and a camera and enjoy the show.

For more information, contact Eaton’s Ranch at 655-9285 or 800-210-1049.

ACHS class of 2014 — small town, big connections

SHERIDAN — Two of the 10 students graduating from Arvada-Clearmont High School on Sunday have grown up in the Sheridan County School District 3 system their entire lives.

Together since kindergarten, they have been joined by others at varying stages throughout the 12 years that followed, including adding a foreign exchange student just earlier this year. Together they form the ACHS class of 2014.

Lena Frappier and Tessa Chinery may not know how it feels to try to fit into a small group of new students — they have been in that group from the beginning — but they know the benefit of helping those students adjust.

“It has been really interesting to watch all the students come and go,” Frappier said. “Since I’ve never really been the new kid, I’ve been the welcoming buddy for a lot of other students. I loved helping my classmates feel like they fit in because they came out of their shell faster and it was a great way to make friends.”

Frappier added that it can be difficult at times, being in a small group.

“It has been a little stressful because I have to deal with some of the same kids all the time and I just can’t avoid them because our school is so small,” she said.

Sara Ellingrod joined the group in fifth grade and after a series of moves and having been the “new kid” several times before that, she didn’t personally find it hard to fit in. Though she loves the small town schools she has attended, she admits it can offer its own unique set of challenges.

“The small school atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “It has helped me realize my values and to always treat people with respect. The challenges would have to be that sometimes I just wanted to get away from some of the small town drama; however, that was rather difficult since I knew everyone in the school.”

Kendria Nimick moved to ACHS at the end of her freshman year in 2010 after attending a large high school in Buffalo and she found the transition difficult.

“It was really weird making the transition of going to a school as big as Buffalo to a school as small as Clearmont,” she said. “I was pretty nervous.”

She added that she struggled in the beginning to join the group, but in the end became very close to her friends and made some wonderful memories with them.

Perhaps the most unique perspective is that of Dusita Tipgomut, a foreign exchange student from Thailand.

Tipgomut said she has enjoyed the school and her peers since the very beginning, but her favorite part was the teachers.

“The teachers are my favorite part of high school because I can talk about everything with them,” she said. “They didn’t just teach in classes, they also made me grow up.”

Nearly every student added the one-on-one teacher interactions to their list of best qualities of being in a small school.

Chinery noted that at a small school they may not have the amount of elective courses to choose from others have, but the overall education does not suffer.

“Even though we haven’t had all of the opportunities that they (larger schools) have been presented with, we still get the same education and we get it even better at times because we get more one-on-one time with the teachers,” Chinery said.

Shantel Armijo added that the challenge to succeed in a small school is driven by personal connections.

“Going to a small school is so much harder because you can connect with the teachers and they push you harder because they know personally your strengths,” she said.

All of the unique challenges and situations aside, the students stressed that overall it is not that different from any other school and the overwhelming benefit is the support.

“I wish (people in big schools) understood that going to a small school isn’t scary or awkward,” Ellingrod said. “It is actually where you will meet some of your best friends.”

The 10 graduates receiving diplomas Sunday are Armijo, Chinery, Ellingrod, Frappier, Nimick, Tipgomut, Tanner Clemens, Shayna Kretschman, Shaliena Lee and Kayle Liberty Riley.

Ellingrod will be honored as valedictorian and Kretschman as salutatorian with former music teacher Kathy Clements providing the commencement address.

Early calculations show the class achieved a 95 percent graduate rate and earned $79,800 in scholarships, though additional figures will continue to be calculated over the summer.

Plans for the graduates include enrollment in the University of Wyoming, Sheridan College, Casper College and other schools; travels to Peru, Australia and places across the nation; getting to work; getting to studying; and for one, getting back home to Thailand.

Hang gliders to take flight in Bighorns

SHERIDAN — Each Memorial Day weekend in Sheridan County for the past 35 years, the American Flag has not been the only thing waving with pride. Saturday morning, once again, daring athletes will take flight for the annual Hang Gliders Fly-In.

Hang gliding is a sport critics call deathly dangerous and enthusiasts call natural and beautiful.

Armed with a glider, a helmet and the knowledge bestowed on them from instructors, these athletes can fly with the birds and do things no other winged plane can accomplish.

“It’s one of the only sports you do in a four-dimensional world,” hang gliding instructor and regular fly-in pilot Johann Nield said. “You can go up, sideways, down and around; a glider is the only regular plane with a wing that could do a 360-degree turn within its own wing span.”

And for Nield and other flyers nationwide, the majesty of the sport is only paralleled by the beauty of flying in the Bighorn Mountains.

Memorial Day marks the opening of flying season and each year as many as 25 pilots gather at the Sand Turn pull off area of Highway 14 outside of Dayton to take advantage of rare and ideal weather and wind conditions.

From 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a key “soaring hour” of 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the history of thermal activity of the mountain has proven ideal.

“We’re privileged to have a wind that blows into the mountain on its own force,” Nield said. “It pulls in from the valley when the thermal activity that has been out on the fields warming up is pushed toward the mountain, so you have an 85 percent chance of being pulled up instead of just landing.”

Rising currents of warm air pull the glider up in a thermal lift, or air deflected upward by the mountain ridge — known as ridge lift — can serve the same function.

“As long as you stay in the parameter of that thermal, you go up,” Nield said. “I’ve been in thermals going up at 50 feet a minute and some going up at 3,000 feet a minute.”

Once the pilot gets above the mountain ridge they hit a sheer, which is wind going in two directions.

If they hit the eastward sheer they can soar over Sheridan and beyond at speeds up to 45 miles per hour.

The pilot steers the glider with a bar and their body weight, connected to a single 360-degree steering wheel beneath them. Swinging their body — which is laying in a sling — from side-to-side will turn the glider and pushing and pulling the bar will tip the nose to either climb or descend.

“It’s a bit of technical flying, dependent on the pilot and his experience, but it’s a lot of fun,” Nield said. “If you approach it correctly and get the right instructions and the right equipment it’s a very safe sport but if you approach it with the daredevil approach you can get in some trouble.”

Nield and his son have been teaching the sport since 1990 and they say the dangerous reputation has stuck around from days when safety regulations were not in place, which is no longer the case.

“In the ‘70s, if you could put together some nylon and aluminum tubing and make something that looked like a hang glider, people would buy it and people were dying,” Nield said. “There were no regulations. Equipment was made in a backyard and people would run down a hill with it and it would fall apart and they would die.”

Before a glider can go to market today, it must be certified.

The testing and certification process is very thorough and expensive, making it so that very few highly qualified creators are distributing the entirety of the gliders for sale.

There are three certifying entities that all follow the same basic guidelines for certification that include rigorous stress testing, driving tests, flight tests and membership dues before a creator can receive a certificate, and this process can cost manufacturers upward of $50,000.

The sport can be expensive for athletes as well, at least in the beginning.

The initial investment to purchase a glider, helmet, harness, lessons and everything else you need to get airborne will cost around $5,500 minimum and can go up from there depending on the glider selected.

However, Nield is quick to note that in terms of ongoing expenses, there is very little cost involved.

“The prices have gone up, but what you’re buying is the technology because these gliders are just so beautiful and safe,” he said. “After that it’s inexpensive in terms of once you’ve bought your equipment you have no costs, as long as you take care of it.”

Unlike other sports, no practice space or participation fees are required.

Many gliders seek out new launch points and when they identify a good location simply ask the land owner if they can take flight from there.

“Here in Wyoming we have a lot of beautiful land and flying sites but not a lot of people,” Nield said, adding that most landowners have no problem with the sport due to its green nature. “I don’t use any gasoline, I don’t make noise and I’m as natural as can be. You don’t need a pilot’s license and it’s self-regulated. Some landowners may look at it and think it’s crazy, but there are a lot of other sports I wouldn’t want to do.”

Whether watching from the ground in town as gliders soar overhead, heading up to Sand Turn to watch the pilots take flight or gathering at the landing pad to watch the imperfect and often comical landings that Nield compared to an albatross coming in hot — the opportunity for spectators to enjoy the sport with two feet on the ground will be plentiful in Sheridan County this weekend.

Local programmers take first in competition

SHERIDAN — A team including two computer programmers from Sheridan took first place at a two-state application design competition sponsored by Google over the weekend.

Local information technology gurus Anne Gunn, of the Sheridan Programmers Guild, and Mark Thoney of WyoLution, LLC, were part of a four-person team of Wyomingites who traveled to Denver to compete in the first ever Gov Dev Challenge.

The programmers’ challenge drew 150 competitors from Wyoming and Colorado who tried to nab a cash prize for designing the most appealing and user-friendly application in just one day. Along with Google, the event was sponsored by the states of Colorado and Wyoming.

After a morning of orientation, competitors were given the option of three basic themes for application creation: two had to do with homeland security automation and management, and the third theme was state government financial transparency.

The winning team, including Gunn and Thoney along with Jared Kale of the Lander branch of WyoLution and Tighe Fagan of Gannet Peak Technical Services in Cheyenne, chose the latter, dubbed the Wyoming Budget Transparency Challenge. They incorporated both Google Maps and Google Analytics into an interactive map that shows where state funding is spent.

“They were looking to make it easy to access and visualize government spending,” WyoLution spokesperson Gina Thoney said. “They took information about money from the state of Wyoming and put it into a database, and then created a map to see where spending is going.”

After the first draft of the map was developed, the team expanded the project to include out of state payments, spending patterns by departments and specific vendor transactions.

The application was designed to be friendly for desktop computers and mobile devices.

The team’s first place award was a testament to the usefulness of the application, its technical merit, originality and incorporation of existing Google tools. For their efforts, they were awarded $5,000.

Thoney said the team was proud to hold their own against a large pool of mostly younger competitors.

“They were feeling proud that an older group could come out on top,” she said. “Younger kids have grown up in the tech world — it is their world. They have lived technology every day.”

Two other Wyoming teams placed in the competition — one from Lander and one from the state of Wyoming. All other awards went to Colorado teams.

 

Quiet preparation

Sidney Harding, left, adjusts her dance shoe before the Studio 48 dance recital Saturday at the WYO Theater.

Western traditions

Nate Schmeiser ropes a calf during a branding at Eaton’s Ranch on Saturday.

Fat cat?

SHERIDAN — Cat and dog owners in Sheridan might be surprised to learn their beloved pets are packing a few extra pounds. A survey released earlier this year by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reveals more than half of pets are overweight, but owners tend to not recognize the problem.

A local team of veterinary technicians has accepted the challenge to raise public awareness and help pets trim their waistlines to live healthier lives with the help of their human counterparts.

Mountain View Veterinary Hospital Certified Veterinary Technician and Purina Weight Coach Dana Kisiel has recruited 13 dogs and one cat to participate in a pilot weight loss challenge program.

“This winter was especially cold, and I noticed a lot of a animals gained weight,” Kisiel said, referring to the months of above average snowfall and subzero cold spells that often lasted longer than a week.

Kisiel teamed with the other technicians at MVVH — Amanda Gogolin and Aj Oedekoven — to start up a program for interested clients to provide encouragement and safely monitor pet weight loss via biweekly weigh-ins.

Major pet food companies have launched similar campaigns around the nation and donate low-calorie food and resources toward these community events.

The contestants had their initial weigh-in last month, and while the program will continue throughout the summer, Kisiel said she’s already seeing results.

“So far, it’s been working. Everybody has gone down a couple of pounds,” Kisiel said, indicating the true test of how well the program works will be if the weight loss trend continues and the pounds don’t creep back later.

Kisiel said her team’s goal is to have each contestant lose at least 10 percent of their total body fat.

“It’s going to be a tough competition if we have good owner compliance all through the summer,” she said.

While this year’s pet weight loss program is confined to the existing participants, Kisiel expressed interest in expanding the program to include other facilities and people from the community in the coming years.

In the meantime, she recommends owners not wait to address weight issues in their pets, and said owners can do a lot to improve the lives and health of their animal friends.

A growing trend

According to APOP statistics from a 2012 study, 52.6 percent of dogs and 57.6 percent of cats are overweight or obese in the United States, making the problem more prevalent in animals than in humans. To be classified as obese, a dog or cat must be 30 percent or more above normal weight, which about one-fifth are.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 34.9 percent of Americans are also obese, and that’s enough to mark weight issues as one of the more significant health crises of the present generation.

While cats and dogs statically surpass their owners in body mass index measurements, the problem goes largely unrecognized by owners. That’s partly because owners are blinded by love, but also because many owners don’t know what to look for to determine if a pet is overweight.

Veterinary professionals use a body condition scoring system to assess whether a dog or cat is at an appropriate weight. The system uses a scale between one and nine, with one being much too thin and nine being morbidly obese, to objectively measure whether a pet is in the red weight-wise.

While bone structure for different breeds of cats and dogs can vary, when each are at an ideal weight, their waistline is noticeable when viewed from above, ribs are easily felt but not seen and from the side, the tummy tucks upward below the rib cage.

Many owners fail to notice the extra layers of fat padding slowly emerging around their pets’ ribs or lumbar area, and dogs that are definitely in the overweight category might still have a hint of a waistline. Like with people, unnoticed extra pounds can cause a host of medical conditions.

“If your dog or cat is five to 10 pounds overweight, they’ll likely live two years less than they should for their breed standard,” Kisiel said, referring to data that correlates extra weight with joint problems, diabetes, thyroid and other weight-dependent diseases.

“If you keep them lean, you get those two years back, but you’ll also avoid other medical issues,” she said.

 

The love/food paradox

Even if owners correctly identify their fur ball friend as overweight, it’s not an easy problem to address, even for the most ambitious of pet owners. Many human-pet relationships are built upon a solid foundation of using food for bonding, entertainment and even negotiation.

Furthermore, pet owners must overcome obstacles including time, energy, and even guilt, about dieting their pets. Kisiel said she sees other owners struggle with nutritional literacy for their pets and are apt to misinterpret labels.

“Every pet food, on the back or side panel, tells you the daily recommendation to feed a pet. A lot of people take it as what they should feed at each meal,” Kisiel said.

Kisiel said it’s OK for pets to start their diets slowly in order to avoid an extreme disruption in a pet’s daily routine.

“What we started doing for dogs was taking a quarter cup of food they’re normally fed and replaced it with canned green beans,” Kisiel said, adding that the green beans act as a filler, as could other vegetables or canned food, which is mostly water.

Kisiel also said she’s recommending pet owners that are serious about helping their pet lose weight stick to a twice-a-day feeding schedule.

“It’s actually a human-minded thing that you have to feed your animals three times a day,” she said. “The two-a-day feeding is better for the pets’ overall health because they’re better able to digest and absorb nutrients.”

For clients who insist their pets need treats every few hours, Kisiel emphasized the employment of low-calorie treat choices, like apples or carrots. She said some commercially available pet treats, especially those presented as dog-friendly versions of bacon or pepperoni, contain the caloric content of an entire extra meal to a pet.

In addition to a calculated diet overhaul, which includes conscientious nutrition and portion control, Kisiel is encouraging clients to recommit to helping their pets get exercise. Once or twice daily walks and play sessions can also fill in for a relational aspect that was once provided by feeding. While options for dog exercise are commonly known, Kisiel also provides new ideas for cat owners that struggle with classic feline indifference.

Kisiel said helping heavy pets get back down to a healthy weight should be a slow process, and owners that set out with determination to reform their pets lives should be conscientious not to starve or overexercise their animals. She also said some underlying medical conditions might preclude weight loss success, and owners who make an earnest attempt at slow weight loss with their pets and are unsuccessful should consult a veterinarian.

In addition to veterinary professionals in the community that are happy to offer dietary guidance, there are several online resources for owners who have questions about pet weight issues, such as www.petobesityprevention.org.

Press, rodeo board partner on official magazine

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Press has been tapped to be the publishing agency of the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo program.

This year’s inside scoops and rundown of rodeo week will now be released under the identity of the Press’s existing publication, Destination Sheridan magazine and be officially endorsed by the event.

Destination is published three times per year, and the summer edition highlights the rodeo and peripheral community activities.

Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo Board of Directors President Zane Garstad said it was the  format of last year’s Destination magazine that caught his attention.

“We were really impressed with the quality of that publication, and when we looked at our rodeo program, we said, ‘This is the same thing. We’re duplicating our efforts,’” Garstad said.

Garstad approached The Sheridan Press Publisher Stephen Woody about forming a partnership for the 2014 program. Woody agreed.

In the past, the Wyo-Rodeo program was sold independently at the event. This year, the program will be distributed around the community for free and delivered to Press subscribers.

Both Woody and Garstad called the situation a win-win scenario — an opportunity to keep business local and update the publication.

“I think we can help the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo reach new goals and progress,” Woody said. “And, they don’t have to pay out-of-town vendors for the rodeo program, which before was dated because of deadlines and they didn’t have the sense of what this rodeo means to the community and the history.”

Garstad added that the new distribution plan for the program adds value to advertisers by facilitating more exposure.

Garstad indicated “day sheets,” which list the lineup of athletes for each evening competition, will be sold at the event for $2. The daily rundown of who’s competing in the evening rodeo is finalized after that morning’s slack competitions.

This year’s rodeo edition of Destination Sheridan will be distributed the first week of July.

Get moving

SHERIDAN — As part of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, the Wyoming Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance and the Wyoming Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport has been hosting “Let’s Move Wyoming” this month, encouraging parents and teachers to help children explore a wide variety of physical activities.

They hope to help kids determine what they like and encourage them to participate in those activities on a regular basis. The theme for the first week of the month was “Let’s Move! Active Schools,” based on the First Lady’s collaboration to bring physical activity back to American schools.

“Research shows that quality physical education programs can contribute to students’ regular participation in physical activity and can increase moderate to vigorous physical activity. The challenge is to help students identify a sport or activity that he or she enjoys as much as watching television or playing computer games,” the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Health, Recreation and Dance President Gale Wiedow said in a press release. “Our goal is to urge every school in the country to coordinate a physical activity event during National Physical Education and Sport Week which will help motivate students to jump start or stimulate their personal physical activity routine.”

Yesterday, all students and faculty of Sheridan High School completed a one-mile walk, the combined equivalent distance of walking across the nation from Portland, Maine, to San Diego, California, as part of “Move Wyoming,” the local participation in the national initiative.

Leather craft show

Colorado resident Jesse Smith, left, makes a hole in the layers of leather for tracing reference as student Lisa Eshbaugh of Bozeman, Montana, watches intently in a chaps-making workshop Tuesday during the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show at the Holiday Inn.

Wheeler: SHS staff my legacy

SHERIDAN — After 14 years at the helm, Sheridan High School Principal Dirlene Wheeler’s last day will be June 30 as she moves on to the next phase of her life — retirement.

Wheeler began her career in education spending 18 years teaching in Nebraska after graduating from Chadron State College.

After nearly two decades teaching biology, Advanced Placement biology and physical science while coaching swimming and gymnastics, Wheeler decided it was time to take the next step in her career. She applied for administrative positions at six different places, received two interviews — Sheridan and Spearfish, South Dakota — and after ending up in Sheridan as assistant principal, she says she has not regretted a single minute of it.

During her time at SHS, Wheeler has received numerous accolades and helped the school achieve many accomplishments.

She was named Wyoming Principal of the Year for the 2008-2009 school year.

She served on the Board of Directors for the National Merit Scholarship Corporation in Chicago for nine years — at a time when only two principals in the entire nation were sitting on the committee — and she said if she had not been at Sheridan High school, she never would’ve had that opportunity.

“I have a phenomenal teaching staff and so those accolades are all due to the hard work of the students and staff in this high school,” she said.

Some of her noted accomplishments within the school are the growth of the internship program, the addition of the certified nursing assistant program and the broadcast journalism classes, the expansion of the AP program, the growth of the concurrent enrollment with Sheridan College and the strength of the career and technical education program.

“Just trying to give an opportunity for each and every kid to succeed and looking at each student and seeing what’s important to them, what are they good at and what can I do to help them,” she said, “those are the things that give me a lot of personal satisfaction.”

One example she gave of the things that will stick with her the most came during last year’s commencement ceremony, as a student told her they were the first person in five generations of their family to receive a high school diploma.

“It’s been an amazing experience to be principal at this school,” she added. “I’ve grown a lot personally. I still make mistakes occasionally, but I’ve learned a lot and I think I’m a better person for having done this job.”

For Wheeler, retirement is bittersweet considering her deep love of the school and the people who fill it. Retirement will not, however, mean slowing down for her.

She says a range of new possibilities lie on the horizon including the potential to do missionary work, volunteer service, something as an educator, returning to school to get an art degree or a doctorate, doing consulting work, teaching at an international school and several other thoughts.

But for the immediate future, travel is the only thing on her mind.

The first stop for Wheeler and her husband will be a three-week trip to Ireland this summer, a quick trip compared to next year’s plans.

The couple will spend the entirety of 2015 on the road seeing a variety of places across the nation.

Wheeler said she has only just begun to compile her list of must-see places and the long list already includes the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art and historical sites along the east coast including Monticello, Mt. Vernon and the Gettysburg battlefield.

An avid bird watcher, a trip to the southern tip of Texas and the everglades of Florida is planned to see birds you can’t see anywhere else. A hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley, attending jazz festivals and the National Wood Carvers Association competition and seeing Niagara Falls are all activities on her list as well.

Though they will spend a lot of time on the road, Wheeler said she and her husband plan to remain in the Sheridan area as their home base of operations.

“Sheridan is one of the most generous communities I have ever been lucky enough to live in and that’s part of the reason why I came here,” she said. “People in this community believe in education and they are so helpful and supportive.”

Brent Leibach, current principal of Highland Park Elementary, will assume the role of SHS principal July 1.

“He is a veteran administrator, an enthusiastic person and a great leader so I think it’ll be wonderful,” Wheeler said.

Prior to working at Highland Park, Leibach was an assistant principal at Sheridan Junior High School and before that a principal in Montana.

His vacated spot at Highland Park will be filled by SHS Assistant Principal Scott Cleland, and Cleland’s spot will be filled by SHS Discipline Technician Cindy Dahl.

“We’ve got a great staff with loads of passionate educators with tons of leadership experience and though we do not always hire from within, we definitely consider our in-house candidates when we look at our positions that open up,” Wheeler said.

In fact, the staff, she says, will be the legacy she leaves behind after retirement.

“My legacy is the people I’ve hired who will carry on after I leave,” she said. “My staff are doing a lot of phenomenal things and I think that will just continue when I’m gone.”

Wheeler said a district-wide celebration will be held honoring all of this year’s retirees and continuing contract teachers at SHS on May 22 at 4 p.m.

More than 400 degrees, certificates awarded in 65th ceremony

SHERIDAN — Nothing quite symbolizes the hope, excitement and new opportunities of spring as graduates crossing the stage to accept their degrees and begin the next phase of their lives.

On Saturday, students were presented with the more than 450 degrees and certificates they earned this year at Sheridan College. In addition, nearly 20 University of Wyoming students were presented with their bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees.

In recognition of those achievements, former SC dean of instruction Pete Simpson offered several pieces of advice to students.

“I’ve earned it; I’ve learned it, and you’ll take it,” Simpson said.

He cautioned students not to confuse success with making money. He also emphasized the importance of being kind, avoiding scapegoats and hatred. As the audience and graduates chuckled through his stories of past commencement speeches delivered, Simpson reminded those in attendance about the need for a sense of humor and the need to believe not only in oneself but also in a power greater than oneself.

Finally, he told graduates, “keep moving.”

Honorary degrees were also presented to local artist and philanthropist Neltje and Sheridan area resident Mel Heckman.

Sheridan College President Paul Young said Neltje has helped show students how to be inspired by the world around them, both through her art and her philanthropy.

“An accomplished abstract painter, you have conducted workshops for young people, stimulating them to think outside the box, to color outside the lines,” Young said.

Neltje accepted her honorary Associate of Fine Art in visual arts. Neltje reminded students to maintain their curiosity.

“If you keep your curiosity vamped up, your energies high, your integrity in order and your love of life resplendent, you will do just great,” she said.

The second honorary degree presented Saturday was to one of the last remaining Pearl Harbor survivors. He was 17 years old at the time of that attack and witnessed the bombing of the USS Arizona before sprinting into the water in an attempt to save his fellow soldiers.

He served as an aviation mechanic, a pilot and an officer but never considered his actions heroic. He has since worked to assist other veterans through fundraising and volunteer efforts.

“You love your country and the men and women who have served; Mel Heckman you are truly an American hero and a Wyoming and Sheridan treasure,” Young said.

As everyone in the Sheridan College Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome rose to honor Heckman, a thunderous round of applause filled the arena along with whistles and more than a few cheers. That appreciation for those who have served the United States in the armed forces continued throughout the commencement ceremony, with each of the graduates who had served getting a little extra love from the audience.

Other awards presented Saturday included the President’s Award, which is given to a student who has at least a 3.25 GPA and is active in college activities. This year’s award was presented to Kara Bacon.

The Northern Wyoming Community College District is comprised of Sheridan College and Gillette College. The district awarded a record number of degrees and certificates this year. In 2013, 659 total degrees and certificates were awarded; this year, that number was 768. Of those, 466 were awarded by Sheridan College and 302 by Gillette College.

Part of the NWCCD’s strategic plan includes the goal of awarding 1,000 certificates or degrees each year by 2020. Initiatives to reach this goal include improving methods of testing readiness to ensure early and accurate course selection, new awards to recognize career-oriented learning, increased emphasis on student engagement with faculty and co-curricular activities, strengthening advising and creating realistic academic plans.

“While it is good to see progress, we must continue to work with out industry partners and others to ensure we are building capacity to serve our region well into the future,” Young said in a press release Sunday. “We know an estimated 65 percent of jobs in the state will require a credential by 2020, we have to continue to do our part.”

 

Teachers helping students explore world around them

SHERIDAN — It’s time for science class for two rooms of fifth-graders at Big Horn Elementary School and the lesson plan calls for bugs. Lots of them.

The aquariums are stocked with Madagascar cockroaches, stick bugs, caterpillars and other creepy crawlers of interest and the three meter plot of observation land in the back field has been scoured for new critters.

But there are two important things missing: the teachers. That is, until the computer is turned on, the Skype feed is loaded and the lesson begins via video chat from the research station in Ecuador where teachers Laurie Graves and Lamont Clabaugh are currently stationed.

 

The Biodiversity Project

The Biodiversity Project connects classrooms around the world to compare and contrast data collected, pictures taken and discoveries made by students each conducting the same experiment in their own communities, monitoring a specific plot of land and finding any insects living there.

The idea is to start discussions about biodiversity and conservation — issues each area is facing — while making connections for children with people who don’t live in their neighborhood, who may look and dress differently and have different and interesting learnings to share.

The use of technology including Twitter, Skype and their own private website connects these students and allows them to share in the discoveries being made worldwide in real time.

The schools participating this year are logging on from places like New York City, Anchorage, Alaska; Ahmedabad, India; and Perth, Australia, among other U.S. locations including another here in Wyoming, Torrington.

All the while, a team of researchers, teachers and even students are working together at the Yanayacu Research Station near the village of Cosonga in Ecuador.

This team serves as a center focus for all the classrooms.

Duties include skyping with each daily to introduce a tropical ecosystem to the field of study and acting as informational liaisons for the students of varied time zones.

While the project is very global in nature, the local tie is not simply the participation of three Wyoming classrooms. The Biodiversity Project was actually born in Wyoming.

Five years ago, as a student at the University of Wyoming studying under entomology professor Dr. Scott Shaw, Jenifer Donovan traveled to Ecuador under the “Caterpillars and Parasitoids in the Andes of Eastern Ecuador” parent grant.

Shaw and Donovan were seeking a way to get the most out of the grant and he asked her to come up with something, and that’s how the project came to be.

“The idea is to get kids to start looking at the insects and then asking bigger questions like, ‘Are we seeing changes?’” Donovan said. “Any kid no matter where they are located can go outside and look at insects so it was the easy way to get everyone involved and if you start looking at biodiversity on this big scale you can start seeing environmental indicators.”

One example Donovan gave of insects who serve as environmental indicators are Mayflies, which are common in Wyoming.

“Mayflies can only live in very clean streams so if there are any toxins present, the population will disappear within a single generation, so that shows a problem, if you’re watching,” she said.

Donovan returned to Ecuador the next year where she met Graves — there on a similar mission. After being in it from the beginning, this is the first year Graves and Clabaugh are doing it without her.

“Laurie and Lamont are some of the best teachers I have ever met and I’m proud to be working with them,” Donovan said. “They are just doing a fantastic job.”

 

Graves and Clabaugh

Graves was introduced to Shaw in 2006 when he collaborated with her and one of her third-grade students — Tanner Warder of Big Horn — who wanted to name an official insect for the state of Wyoming. Thanks to Warder’s work and Shaw’s support, Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak Butterfly is now the state insect.

After the butterfly project, Shaw recommended that Graves apply for the “Research for Teachers” grant in order to travel to Ecuador with his team, including Donovan, to conduct hands-on entomology research.

“The first time I traveled to Ecuador I was really impacted by how vital hands-on learning and inquiry were for students to be able to conduct science and apply their other skills of math, reading and writing,” Graves said. “It is essential to raise young scientists who constantly question and search for answers.”

After joining Donovan in her efforts to expand the project, Graves was able to bring Clabaugh on board. She said as a relatively new teacher she was glad to introduce him to a deep and meaningful way of learning, experiencing and teaching science.

“The project has opened my eyes to the whole biodiversity aspect of things,” said Clabaugh. “Professionally it is a great opportunity to network with other teachers and stay ahead of the learning curve and it’s a great way to bring hands-on learning into my classroom and get the students excited about science.”

Graves and Clabaugh are the only two teachers at the research facility this year and are serving each of the participating classrooms. The project hopes to have two lead teachers on-site each year.

 

The students

Graves said the biggest benefit for the students is the opportunity to learn through personal inquiry and realize that there are not always single answers to questions when it comes to science.

Two students receiving these benefits, Dalton Nelson from Clabaugh’s class and Jersey Dehaven from Graves’, say their favorite part is going out in the field and studying what they find.

“If we throw a rock out, the next time we check under it we’ll find a worm,” Nelson said. “We have found crickets and millipedes but they have found some crazy bugs (in Ecuador) and some really cool birds too.”

Beyond just digging for bugs, the students asked meaningful questions during the Skype session. For example, they recently asked Graves if she has seen any big differences around her since the last time she visited.

The fifth-graders are also able to articulate a powerful lesson from their experiences.

“You’ve got to look around, you can’t just stay in the house and watch TV,” Dehaven said. “If you get out and look around you’ll see some crazy stuff.”

Donovan said this thought has been echoed throughout all the classrooms.

“Our New York students do all their studies in Central Park so now they no longer just walk through the park, they look around and see it in a whole new way,” she said.

As an added benefit, this year Graves orchestrated to bring supplies to a local school in need.

“This was a need I identified on my trip in 2010 and it was really special to finally see it happen,” she said.

Clabaugh added that the school supplies and clothing were donated by their fifth-grade students, The First Presbyterian Church in Sheridan and Graves herself.

The duo will return from their trip this weekend and reclaim their rooms from the substitutes on Tuesday. Based on the loud “we miss you” outcry from the two-dozen students as they waved goodbye to the Skype screen at the end of the lesson, their return is eagerly awaited.

 

Good Samaritans to be honored Saturday

SHERIDAN — The Good Samaritan Awards will be held tomorrow night at the Holiday Inn, recognizing the people of the Sheridan community that quietly and selflessly serve others.

Don Warriner, captain at The Salvation Army, said they received 25 nominations and the board selected eight highly deserving individuals or couples representing a variety of organizations.

“I’m a firm believer that if a community works together, we can create a better environment — we can create something special,” he said.

The evening will commence at 5 p.m. and will include dinner and a keynote speech from Irene Deanda Lewis, executive director of the Los Angeles Red Shield Youth and Community Center, for $30.

For more information or tickets visit The Salvation Army office at 150 S. Tschirgi St., the store at 956 Coffeen Ave. or call 672-2444.

 

Good Samaritans Jerry and Judy Prescott

Nominated by Alan Weakly

In Weakly’s words:

I am nominating both Jerry and his wife, Judy, for this award because they started the Story Food Pantry in June 2012 and have run the program out of the Story fire Department Building. They are both involved with the Story Totes program which provides meals to school children.

The Prescotts’ thoughts:

My husband felt like he got a message from God that he needed to do that, so he is very focused on that, but we just love to give back to our community and now that we were so fortunate to have an early retirement, we are able to do that.

 

Good Samaritan Dick Warren

Nominated by Rex Arney

In Arney’s words:

I met Dick through the First Presbyterian Church and learned about him, his career with the Forest Service, his battle with and survival of cancer and his commitment to serving others after he and his wife moved to Sheridan. Dick does his good deeds and good works without expecting or even wanting any acknowledgement or reward for what he does. In fact, he seems to avoid it. What I know about Dick includes his involvement and being a part of the Senior Center — helping people with their taxes and being part of the Senior Center’s choir, the Sheridanaires — and helping with Lunch Together. In the church, he volunteers for the annual cleanup for Camp Story, is a member of the bell choir and vocal choir and has been on mission trips to Pearlington, Miss., and Texas City, Texas, helping in the recovery from disasters. This quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson captures what Dick is all about: “The purpose of life is not to be happy, it is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

What Arney didn’t know:

Warren also volunteers at Camp Make a Dream, a camp for kids with cancer in Montana, as well as the Sheridan County Dog and Cat Shelter, the Peoples Assistance Food Bank, the Big Horn Wild and Scenic Run and the Sheridan County Hospital.

Warren’s thoughts:

When I was growing up there were several people who helped me in various ways and I’m in a position now where I can pay back some of that. I’m sure there are a lot more deserving people than me out there, I was quite surprised when the captain called and told me about it. I don’t think most volunteers do it for this kind of recognition.  The look on a dog’s face when you walk in the shelter to play with him or a smile from someone you’ve help, that’s what they do it for.

 

Good Samaritan Jim Schlenker

Nominated by Don Warriner

In Warriner’s words:

Jim works with the homeless veterans program collecting items needed at move-in. He pays for the storage of items with his own money. He also volunteers at the VA hospital representing the American Legion and the Sons of the American Legion. He was also one of the main people in the field of honor at the college. He is a part of the American Legion Color Guard, presenting the colors at military funerals and anywhere else the color guard is needed. He is also the Red Cross point of contact for Sheridan. He was the one that set up the warming shelter in the October snow storm.

Schlenker’s thoughts:

I’m a disabled veteran and even though I can’t work I can’t just not work, especially when there’s so many people in need. I’ll just say that God’s kept me alive and I think for this purpose, to help people. In ‘79 I put my military uniform back on one day, looked in the mirror and I said, ‘Well, I can no longer serve my country but I can still serve my countryman,’ and that’s how I got involved with the Red Cross. When my health changed and I could no longer do that, I knew there was always a need to fill wherever I may be.

 

Good Samaritans Karl and Donna Hunt

Nominated by Gerry Pelesky

In Pelesky’s words:

This couple started Joy Junction probably 30 or 40 years ago. They started out with a few kids and now the population of Joy Junction, which meets at the YMCA every Sunday, has grown to approximately 50 kids. Volunteers use six buses to pick-up kids in Sheridan and return them home after Joy Junction. Karl and Donna started summer bible school too. Attendance of that is several hundred kids. They have been a blessing to Sheridan.

 

Good Samaritan Don Knievel

Nominated by Charles Whiton

In Whiton’s words:

Don is probably the most giving person I have ever met. He ran most of the kid’s programs at the YMCA for years and always had time for every kid. Also, he now takes veterans with disabilities to coffee, treating them to his time and conversation.

Knievel’s thoughts:

A lot of good people have done a lot of good things to me and it’s important to give back. A lot of the seniors I see are veterans who served in the war and I feel like it’s an important generation to give my services to and spend time with. I also feel a calling to serve the lord and those are all important reasons to give back to me.

 

Good Samaritan Jo Forbes

Nominated by Susan Carr

In Carr’s words:

Jo has one of the biggest hearts and souls of anyone I have known or worked with. She works part time as the Sheridan County CASA Coordinator but goes way behind in her tireless work and dedication she gives to children and families in Sheridan. She makes sure that each and every child who needs a voice is heard. She is spending her off-duty time going and visiting children in residential treatment centers, foster homes, schools, just to make sure they are doing well. She gives never-ending support of her volunteer advocates and makes sure they have everything they need to work for kiddos. She volunteers at her church and works in the schools as a sub. She judges Science Fair contests and is willing to do anything and everything to make sure the job gets done. In everything she does, she goes above and beyond to help her neighbors, children and families. There’s just nothing this woman won’t do to make sure a child has what they need to succeed. It is an honor and a joy to work with her and see her work her magic.

 

Good Samaritans Lou and Charise Westphal

Nominated by Shelli Lapp

In Lapp’s words:

Lou and Charise are selfless in their random acts of kindness. Examples are: donating their time to fix plumbing, donating food and other essential items, supplying motel rooms for the homeless and are always available for anything that is asked of them. The Sheridan Angels appreciate them and are proud to nominate them for this award.

The Westphals’ thoughts:

We believe there’s a difference between the human and the animal world and one thing that sets us apart in life is being humane, which means helping when you can if you can. Christ himself said love others as you love yourself. It can be hard to love yourself first but once you can do that it’s easy to love others. It’s a spiritual thing really.

 

Good Samaritan Doris Case

Nominated by Zena Husman

In Husman’s words:

For 50+ years I have had the privilege to know Doris Case. As long as I can remember, her mission in life has been to help others and give of herself selflessly. During her lifetime, Doris has volunteered for many community organizations in Sheridan as well as performing acts of kindness. She has volunteered in the Girl Scout program since 1961 and has served as a leader and role model for a multitude of age groups throughout the years. As an active member of the First Methodist Church, Doris has served on the Board of Trustees and taught Sunday School for 13 years. She is the church’s librarian and an usher for church services. Doris has volunteered for 11 years in the community soup kitchen. Since Doris’ husband Fred has been a member of the Kalif Shrine, Doris has been a very active supporter to this organization and has volunteered to cook many meals for the different committees when they have their get togethers. Doris is also very active in the Sheridan Masonic Order as a Beauceant of the Ladies of the Knight Templar. She has also served on the Job’s Daughters Bethel Guardian Council for more than 15 years as the Custodian of Paraphernalia. Another example of Doris’ kindness and commitment to helping others is her frequent visits to the local nursing homes. It never ceases to amaze me how Doris gives of herself and her time so freely from the heart and in this process always has fun doing it.

Case’s thoughts:

I always enjoy giving back to the community, especially working with children. I’ve been doing it for so long now I would not know what to do with myself if I didn’t. I just enjoy it.

Mischke named Teacher of the Year

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 1 has selected Tongue River High School family and consumer science teacher Pat Mischke as the district’s Teacher of the Year.

In addition to the recognition, the honor includes the privilege of applying to receive the Wyoming Teacher of the Year Award.

Superintendent Marty Kobza announced the honor last Tuesday at a faculty meeting and the application for the state award was filed Monday.

“Mrs. Mischke was chosen as Sheridan County School District 1’s Teacher of the Year in honor of her decades-long commitment to and passion for family and consumer sciences and consistent willingness to evolve the program to meet today’s challenges and opportunities,” Kobza said in a press release Wednesday. “She also sets the vision for our district-wide career and technical education programs, which ensures we help our students prepare for success in the marketplace in some of the most sought-after fields, like welding and nursing.”

Mischke joined SCSD1 in 1996 after previously having taught in Sundance and Rock River.

She said the thing she is most proud of in her career is how she has integrated FCCLA into each of the seven classrooms she has led.

The Family, Career and Community Leaders of America is a national Career and Technical Student Organization that provides career preparation opportunities for students in family and consumer sciences education, among other things.

“The FCCLA is important to the kids because it connects classroom work to real life experiences and gives them great leadership opportunities,” Mischke said.

TR guidance counselor Pete Kilbride has worked with Mischke for eight years and agrees her work with the FCCLA is the highlight of her contributions, noting that they compete at the state level convention every year and continually have students qualify to compete at nationals, though the group is certainly not the only notable mark on her resume.

“There is a very healthy level of respect that the students have for her,” he said. “She’s very much a mother; when a kid needs to be scolded she’s not afraid to scold them but she does it in a way that they are receptive to her direction.”

He added other notable attributes of Mischke’s are her willingness to give up her kids if they’re needed in another curricula area or testing, her great relationship with the rest of the staff, her strong reputation among Wyoming communities and her year-round work with the kids outside of the classroom.

“She does catering throughout the year as well and the students help her,” he said. “When a kid is willing to give up a Friday night to work for her, you know they must like her.”

Mischke said she is joyful, yet overwhelmed, by the honor and found the state application process very interesting.

“In putting my papers together for the state I learned a lot about myself and in asking for letters of recommendation for it and hearing the responses people offer, I realized the impact of what I’m doing on others,” she said. “I think I work hard and it’s nice to be recognized for hard work but truly I have a fun job, I really do, and I just love what I do.”

One of the questions the application for Wyoming Teacher of the Year asked was if the applicant were to be selected, what would their message be during their year of honor and service.

Mischke said her message is that “teaching is an honorable profession and we need to be proud to be teachers and accountable for what we do.”

The district will hold an awards ceremony at Sheridan College on May 29 at 6 p.m. and Mischke will be honored at this time.

 

UW Extension, The Wyoming Room begin work on 4-H book

SHERIDAN — When 4-H began more than 100 years ago, life was different: agricultural practices have changed, science has advanced and knowledge has expanded.

But the idea behind 4-H has remained constant through all those years — to help young people and their families gain the skills needed to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy.

It all began in the late 1800s, when researchers discovered that adults in farming communities were generally unaccepting of new agricultural developments being made on university campuses but the young people of the communities were open to new ideas and would experiment with new techniques.

The students began sharing their knowledge with the adults and as such, rural youth programs became the conduit for new agriculture technology.

Now, 4-H has become the nation’s largest youth development organization, has reached every state in the nation and has expanded to include urban and suburban areas.

By 1913, the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture had joined and 125 students had enrolled.

As Wyoming continues to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of 4-H being part of the state’s culture, a group of UW Extension employees are dedicated to preserving the club’s history from the last century.

The UWE has launched a “4-H Alumni Search” to gather stories and photos from leaders and members of years past, while others work tirelessly to archive years of reports, documents and stories already told.

Beverly Gorzalka and others from the Sheridan County Extension Office are working with Judy Slack, director of The Wyoming Room, and her staff to archive and preserve the seemingly endless pieces of 4-H history in the extension office.

“4-H is like a grand tree with deep roots and Sheridan County is in the soil but it really branches out and sprouts life in far reaching ways,” Gorzalka said. “We have a lot of documents we want to preserve, not just the club lists but the ones that show the difference 4-H has made in each of their lives.”

Gorzalka shared that Sheridan has several multi-generational 4-H families, people that are third or fourth generation participants, and that human interest story is the one they want to tell.

In fact, the end goal is to turn those stories into a book.

“The point we’re at right now is to get things archived but our vision is a book that’s similar to the Sheridan County Heritage Book we published in ’83,” she said. “Our vision is a chapter on clubs, a chapter on events, a chapter on the fair, the mountain camps, that sort of thing, and then to have stories told from former members and leaders.”

The Extension Office and The Wyoming Room staff members have started interviewing former 4-H members and leaders and recording their tales, something Gorzalka says she wishes she would’ve started 10 years ago before losing many of the people she would have loved to talk to.

One person she was able to interview is 104-year-old Melvine Rolston who recalled one special night at mountain camp in 1945. Rolston was leader of the Big Horn Culinary 4-H Club.

“Judy and I interviewed her and she recalled a ceremony they had around the campfire. She was a cooking leader and she said that her girls sang the Lord’s Prayer that night and it was the most beautiful time she had ever heard that song,” Gorzalka said. “As she told us she just closed her eyes and you could tell she was hearing the song again.”

Rolston recalled a tale for Slack and Gorzalka of the girls being dressed all in white dresses with a full moon over their heads singing around the fire.

Upon returning to the office, Gorzalka referenced the “Wyoming annual narrative report of Sheridan County cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics,” a report the Home Demonstration Agent Katherine Bailey put out every year.

In the report, the Ag Agent had recorded the same event Rolston recalled and Gorzalka learned it was a ceremony in honor of the 4-H boys who had gone away to war.

“The way it was in the report was exactly as Melvine recalled it and I could picture the evening through her retelling,” she said. “That was the most moving thing I have come across so far, but everyone will talk about their leaders and the impact they made on their lives and remember the other kids that were with them and that’s what we’re after.”

If you have a story or photograph to submit for preserving in The Wyoming Room or consideration of future publication see www.uwyo.edu/4-h/100/alumni-search.html, email 4-H@uwyo.edu or call the Sheridan Extension Office at 674-2980.

Bark for life

Ten-year-old Danika Palmer, left, and her brother Hayden Palmer, 12, greet Tanner held by Jenna Hillman, right, during the second annual Sheridan Bark for Life event Saturday at Kendrick Park. Activities included a ceremonial walk, pet costume contest and pet trick contests. The fundraising event benefitted the American Cancer Society.

Mr. Wiest goes to Washington

SHERIDAN — Sheridan’s own Milton “Mick” Wiest, language arts teacher at Fort Mackenzie High School and 2014 Wyoming State Teacher of the Year, returned Friday night from a week of honor and work in Washington, D.C., in which he met several influential educators, legislators and humanitarians, including President Barack Obama.

At the surface, the purpose of the trip was to be honored as Teacher of the Year along with each of the title winners from across the nation and to attend the National Teacher of the Year ceremony, which was held Thursday.

However, the busy week also offered a chance for the voices of the educators — and the students and communities they represent — to be heard on a national level while the teachers absorbed all the resources our nation’s capital has to offer.

The many activities Wiest participated in included a reception at Vice President Joe Biden’s private residence, a black tie gala at the United States Institute of Peace, a national news press conference, a visit to the oval office, a work session at the Department of Education and a curator guided look at the Smithsonian Institution, all while networking with and learning from more than 50 of the country’s finest educators.

 

Smithsonian

Wiest and the others visited the world’s largest museum and research complex which includes 19 museums and galleries as well as the National Zoological Park.

Here they were given tours of some of the top exhibits and were able to pick a museum or topic of personal interest to see on a deeper level via a private tour led by the curator or assistant curator of that section.

Wiest said the tours were focused on unique programs and resources available and discussions were held on how to integrate or utilize these resources in each of the teachers’ local communities.

One resource in particular Wiest said “could apply to any school at any level here in Sheridan, but specifically Fort Mackenzie.”

The Institution offers a program where students can sign up to design education projects in conjunction with curators at the Smithsonian.

The students then have to do the research and experimentation on their own and present their work to SI to be scored and to receive tips for improvements. They send the project back and forth and collaborate all along using the Institution’s experts and resources to perfect their project.

“The reason I think it would be great at my school is we are contemplating a change to the way we teach and the way we provide instruction, looking at instituting something more internship-based or project-based and I can see how this would fit in perfectly with that,” Wiest said. “I wasn’t even aware of the tremendous information and presentations at the Smithsonian and some you can get online. There are some really amazing ways in which we can use ‘the Smith’ locally.”

 

Department of Education

Wiest and the other honorees attended work sessions at the Department of Education where they were afforded the opportunity to speak to department heads and key national policy makers regarding a variety of pertinent education topics.

“What was really cool is that out of the 50 or so teachers that were there, I imagine there was time for only 14 or 15 of us to make requests and recommendations and I got to do so,” Wiest said.

Wiest was seated next to Special Assistant to the President on Domestic Policy Roberto Rodriguez, who led the listening session and was between Wiest and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz. The session was also attended by the Secretary of DOE Arne Duncan and the Chief of the Education Branch, Office of Management and Budget, Mary Cassell.

Wiest took the opportunity to speak to two issues he sees Sheridan struggling with locally and expanded the issue to show its national impact.

His concerns were regarding the graduation rate calculations and the recruitment of teachers to fill the gaps schools nationwide are expected to face in the coming years.

“They were just amazing,” he said. “That was a lot of fun, doing the policy work and having people who make the decisions listen so intently and take notes and such.”

 

Making the rounds

Wiest and the others were given a tour of the White House and introduced to President Obama.

He said that though it is obviously an honor to meet the president what was really significant to him was simply being in the White House.

“I think I was more impacted going from room to room and seeing the portraits and artwork of each of the presidents, being in all the different places that you see on TV and looking out over the rose garden,” he said. “All the history that was there, that was what was so special to me.”

Immediately after meeting the president the group was escorted to “Pebble Beach,” the nickname for the White House North Lawn area that is covered with gravel, where television correspondents from across the nation gather daily for interviews.

Each of the honorees stood at the podium together but only a handful answered a question for the myriad national news agencies present and again Wiest was asked to speak.

He was asked what his reaction or opinion was to the Common Core State Standards, a set of college- and career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics which has received a mixed and often controversial response from the public.

“I said my opinion, and I believe the opinion of every teacher there, was that we approve of them,” Wiest said. “It was great to have some continuity from grade-to-grade and state-to-state. They are also good because they upped the bar a bit in terms of our previous states standards and if we’re going to be competitive globally we need to raise that bar. Another thing I reminded them of is that a lot of people misunderstandingly believed the Common Core is the curriculum and it’s not, it’s just the guidelines. Local school board control and state school board and educator control over the curriculum is still there and I think that’s something a lot of people misunderstand.”

Wiest said that in spite of all the fun and cool things he was able to do the thing that impacted him the most is what he gained by associating with the other outstanding teachers present.

“To be around people who are so bright and energetic and enthusiastic about education, that will stick with me,” he said. “It’s the second time I’ve spent a week with these people and I’ve never heard a single complaint but just overwhelming positive talk about their kids and the subjects they teach. You have teachers from all subjects and age levels and yet all of them have such a strong grip on what it means to be a good teacher and give positive instruction.”

Wiest will be returning to D.C. in June specifically for a work session, sponsored by the Educational Council of America, to work on issues facing education nationally and give recommendations.

A week after that he will be in Alabama visiting the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and future events will include a national teacher conference in July, a training session in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a visit to Princeton and local appearances like performing the keynote speech at the State Social Studies Conference in Casper.

Wiest said a lot of people tend to wonder who pays for all the trips he is taking around the country and said it is important to note that only a small portion is paid for by the State Department of Education and the vast majority is covered by private corporations who act as sponsors of the Chief Council of State School Officers, which orchestrates the Teacher of the Year Program.

 

Ticket to ride

SHERIDAN — In most circumstances, beer drinking and bikes is not a suggested mix. However, next Saturday, the two will be safely paired for a fun afternoon of celebrating bikes and bike culture in downtown Sheridan.

The Freedom Machine Vintage Bike and Art Show will make its debut May 10 at 50 N. Main St. (site of the recently closed Hallmark Store). The show is being sponsored by two local bike enthusiasts, Dave Carter and Jordan LeDuc, owner of the new Sheridan Bicycle Company.

“We just want to promote cycling and cycling culture,” LeDuc said.

The show will be a drop-in event between 4-8 p.m. and will feature a variety of bike-related items on display, as well as locally-crafted beer from The Black Tooth Brewing Company.

Carter and LeDuc have been scouring the community, sorting through their own bike items and soliciting friends for donations of bikes or bike-related art for several weeks. One unique find is the locally famous ice cream trike.

“We got Eddie Quinn’s ice cream trike,” LeDuc said. “He has passed away but he was a local cycling legend. He took this old trike and built a big cooler on the back and he would sell ice cream out of the bike in the park in maybe the mid-to-late ‘90s. Dave and I have been trying to track it down for years.”

Though the pair knew about the bike’s existence, tracking it down was a difficult endeavor.

“It was like looking for Yeti,” Carter said.

The bike was eventually found and will be on display at the show, likely stirring some good memories from adults who maybe purchased ice cream from Quinn as a kid. And these types of reminiscences are exactly what Carter and LeDuc are hoping to inspire with the show.

“Come share stories, tell us your worst crash, your most epic bike ride, your fondest memory on a bike,” LeDuc said. “Anything bicycle, that is what we are all about.”

Carter and LeDuc decided to create a local bike show after seeing a similar one in Billings.

“They did a vintage bike show at the Yellowstone Art Museum Visual Vault,” Carter said. “I went to that show and it was fabulous and it brought a huge demographic of people, cyclists and non-cyclists alike. They just got together and talked about bikes and the Schwinn cruiser they had as a kid or the race bike they had just purchased or any number of other things. So it had the feel of being in someone’s house or garage. It was the same spontaneity that leads us all to enjoy bike culture so much. It is such a kid-like passion. It was a very infectious experience and we wanted to recreate that in Sheridan.”

The show will feature items such as old BMX bikes, tandems, Schwinn cruisers, road bikes and mountain bikes, as well as vintage bike parts, art made from bicycle parts and cycling apparel.

Vintage bicycles, fat bicycles, fancy bicycles, utility bicycles, beautiful bicycles, ugly bicycles, bike art, bicycle photography and more will be on display.

“We are just going to have random, classic, obscure, expensive, weird bikes….just bikes,” LeDuc said.

The show will also have speakers, including Sheridan resident Randy Stout.

“He traveled Europe by folding bike,” LeDuc said. “It can fold into a suitcase and you can take it on the airplane with you. He is a photographer and he’ll have a corner with pictures of what he did.”

The duo planned the event to coincide with and hopefully spark local interest in national Bike to Work Week, May 12-16, and Bike to Work Day, which is set for May 16.

“I would just like to see more people on bikes; more people cycling, commuting, doing it for recreation, doing it for health and just doing it for fun,” LeDuc said. “It is so easy to get around in this town on a bike. And you are starting to see more people commute by bike.”

Carter and LeDuc also hope the show will encourage more folks to join in the burgeoning bike culture in Sheridan. That culture has been helped by the formation of the Bomber Mountain Cycling Club, which has attracted area cyclists of all types.

“We have a really diverse demographic of people who are showing up and are active in bike club meetings,” Carter said. “You have people that travel and tour or just ride pathways recreationally or have interest because they are trying to convince their kids to move back here after college. It is funny the different reasons people are enthusiastic about cycling. It is really diverse. It is like any portfolio. As you are trying to create something sustainable that has long-term interest, diversity is the key. That is kind of that nature of cycling anyway; it draws lots of people together.”

Carter and LeDuc are still seeking bike-related items for the show and anyone wanting to temporarily loan an item for display can bring the item to the Sheridan Bicycle Company at 33 W. Brundage St., or call the store at 763-4481.

Catching air

SHERIDAN — As the days are getting longer and the sun is shining brighter it is time to get off the main road and get into some dirt action.

Motocross season starts off on Mother’s Day at Powder Basin MX race in Gillette for the Sheridan High Plains Motocross Association and local riders are gearing up.

“You have to be really dedicated to do this,” local motocross enthusiast John Frederick said.

While most sports require athletes to be in good physical condition, motocross also requires athletes to keep their gear and their machines in good shape.

Frederick described the sport as an off-road, closed course competition that includes hills, jumps and other challenges for riders as they make their way through a track.

Kody Williams, who races in the 450B division, has prepared physically and mentally for this summer. He finished in first last season and said he is ready to kick-start the summer.

“The best thing about racing is the adrenaline rush,” Williams said. “You get into a zone at the starting gate and it is a rush for 15 minutes of staying focused when you’re on your bike.”

Williams added that the best strategy for motocross is to make sure you are in strong physical shape and practicing staying focused.

Last season the HPMA fared well in competition.

Jonathan Salo placed first in the in the 85C division, while Daniel Grannies placed first in the 85B and first in the super mini.

Gabriel Frederick won the 85A division and his parents said they believe he was one of the youngest riders in that division to win in a statewide competition. He was just 11 years old last year racing against 15-year-olds.

Greg Reid took second in the 450C division, and Justin Will was second in the open outlaw.

“As a Sheridan crew, we did fairly well last season and we are looking forward to this season being strong in the competition,” Williams said.

While the riders primarily compete in HPMA events, the group is working to better one of their practice facilities just outside Sheridan city limits.

The Three Poles area located off of Decker Road is set up similar to a motocross track, but isn’t quite where it needs to be in order to host events or truly practice for races.

Local riders plan to do some work on the track this weekend, adding jumps, hills and berms to the area.

In addition, local riders have formed the Sheridan County Off-Road Association in an attempt to get more people involved with the sport.

“It won’t just be motocross, but will include snowmobiling and ATVs too,” Frederick said of the organization that just got started a couple of weeks ago.

He added that one of the goals is to help offset some of the costs of the sports.

“They really are expensive sports,” Frederick said. “Kids outgrow their gear and then what do you do with it? You know that is $100 dollars worth of gear that could still be used.”

Frederick hopes that the organization could help families just getting started in the sport with used gear and guidance.

HPMA races, in the meantime, are scheduled for throughout the summer with a total of nine events listed on the groups website, www.hpmainc.com.

We the People team returns from D.C.

SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School’s We The People team has just returned from the national competition held in Washington, D.C., earlier this week and while the group didn’t bring home a top prize, they did experience several national treasures.

“We’ve been spending a month, literally now in the realm of hundreds of hours, on essays and citing things like the Magna Carta and just learning about how government functions,” SHS social studies teacher Tyson Emborg said Wednesday. “The trip really brought it home and made it real to them because you can only understand so much by just reading a book.”

Emborg added that making it possible for students to see the documents they’ve studied and watch how government works made all the hours of work worthwhile.

“It was a phenomenal experience to see everything we’ve been reading about,” Emborg said. “And each of the students thanked the community for helping them fundraise to get there.”

Emborg pointed out that local mentors also helped coach the students in preparation for the competition and developed potential study questions.

The We the People competition was held at George Mason University and in hearing rooms on Capitol Hill. Approximately 1,200 students from across the country participated in the event.

According to the competition website, the National Finals takes the form of simulated congressional hearings. During the finals, groups of students testify as constitutional experts before panels of judges acting as congressional committees scoring the groups through a performance-based assessment.

Each class is divided into six groups based on the six units of the “We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution” high school textbook. Each hearing begins with a four-minute opening statement by students and is followed by a six-minute period of follow-up questioning during which judges probe students’ depth of knowledge, understanding, and their ability to apply constitutional principles.

Lincoln High School of Portland, Oregon, took home the national title. The remainder of the top 10 consisted of schools from California, Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, Arizona and New Mexico.

While in D.C., the group from Sheridan explored some of the city’s landmarks including the Supreme Court, the U.S. Capitol, monuments, museums, Arlington National Cemetery, the National Archives and the Pentagon 9/11 memorial. Emborg noted that many of the students had not seen Washington, D.C., before the trip.

“Hopefully, we encouraged them to go back there and realize the role that they can play as citizens,” he said.

Mine rehires 32 employees cut in January 2013

SHERIDAN — Decker Coal Mine has restored the majority of jobs cut during the mass layoffs of January 2013.

General Manager Stephen Ketcham said the mine cut 59 workers more than a year ago, and of those, 32 have since been hired back. The other 27, he said, were offered their jobs back but chose to take work elsewhere.

By March of this year, those employees who wanted their positions back, had them. Ketcham also said the mine has filled eight new positions in the past few weeks in order to meet production demands.

“We ship to domestic customers in the Midwest,” Ketcham said. “We’re planning on shipping between 3.2 and 3.8 million tons this year.”

Ketcham indicated that this year’s production projections aren’t drastically different from last year’s, but that this year, the work to get the coal out of the ground requires a bigger workforce.

He said the jobs are varied among a broad spectrum of operations at the surface mine.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in advance — pre-stripping, for example,” he explained. “We didn’t have any of that to do in 2013, but there’s lots in 2014 that needs to be completed.”

The Decker Mine is situated approximately 35 miles northeast of Sheridan and is owned in a 50/50 partnership between the Australia-based Ambre Energy and U.S.-based Cloud Peak Energy. Around the time of the mass layoffs, the two companies were engaged in a legal battle regarding a dispute over mine management.

The 2013 layoffs were formally attributed to “ongoing expense management activities,” in a press release from Decker Coal.

Domestic demand for coal is on the decline due to the availability of other energy forms and restrictive environmental regulations on existing coal powered electric plants. The Cloud Peak and Ambre team have since expressed interest in exporting coal from the Powder River Basin to interested Asian markets, but the establishment of an export terminal on the West Coast of the U.S. has been met with staunch opposition from environmental groups.

Last week, the governor of Oregon made public statements firmly against efforts to establish an international shipping terminal in his state in the town of Bordman.

Proponents of domestic coal tout the resource as an alternative to foreign oil and point to the significant economic boost the industry provides its communities. Last year, the Decker Mine paid just under half a million dollars in property taxes to Big Horn County in Montana. The mine has paid a cumulative $500 million to federal, state and private interests in the form of mineral royalty payments since its inception approximately 40 years ago.

The Montana Coal Council estimates that each mining job creates an accessory three and a half jobs in peripheral services. With Sheridan being the closest urban center to the mine, it’s estimated that half of the mine’s employees live and spend money in the local economy.

 

 

Landslide Causes Reroute on Hwy 14 East

SHERIDAN — Wyoming Department of Transportation road crews have created a hasty bypass on HIghway 14 East of Sheridan after a landslide first noticed this spring made significant movement over the past few days. The emergency action allows the road to remain open, yet keeps traffic away from the potential hazard.

WYDOT District 4 Public Information Specialist Ronda Holwell said crews cut further into the hillside above the slide area and paved another lane to allow traffic to stay away from the unsteady ground near mile marker 15.4, Jim Creek Hill.

While there are different types of landslides, this one features earth that is crumbling away from the embankment underneath the highway, as opposed to another type of slide when debris falls from above and onto the road.

Holwell said the fix for this problem was to divert traffic away from the edge of the hillside.

“Basically, we went out, grated the area, cut into the hill more and paved. We made the detour right next to it,” Holwell said. “One lane is still on the roadway, and the other is moved over.”

Holwell said the landslide is one of several in northeast Wyoming.

“A lot of times, especially when you have excessive moisture like this year, you have multiple landslides,” she said, referring to the occurrence as a natural phenomenon that is being monitored by geotechnical engineers.

Holwell said the landslide on Highway 14 is one of the more significant occurrences in the region. Another notable example is on Interstate 90 near Meade Creek.

“We are monitoring others throughout the district as well,” she said. “We’re trying to keep it as safe as possible for the traveling public and do what we need to do from there.”

Holwell indicated WYDOT road funds generally aren’t padded with resources for emergency situations like this.

“It could take a significant amount of time to repair this completely,” she said pointing to the example of a slide only a few miles away on the same road that was first noticed last year and is slated for repairs this spring and summer.

WYDOT crews have installed barrier walls near the bypass as an additional safety precaution and have reduced the speed limit to 30 miles per hour at the bypass site. Motorists are advised to use caution when traveling through the area.

“This detour will likely be in place for some time,” Holwell said.

 

 

SCLT building ‘water trail’ knowledge

SHERIDAN — Finding a trail to hike or bike is not difficult in Sheridan County. They criss-cross the mountains, run along Soldier Ridge northwest of Sheridan and meander along creeks and through parks all over town.  But for those seeking a different kind of trail — one for their kayak, raft or canoe — area “water trails” like the Tongue River and Little and Big Goose creeks come to mind less readily than a local recreation group would like.

That is why the Sheridan Community Land Trust Recreation Work Group, comprised of more than 20 volunteers representing various non-motorized recreation interests, is working with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program to compile an assessment of navigable water in northwest Sheridan County.

The end goal of the Water Trails Assessment is to enhance the experiences of local residents and visitors on the region’s public waterways. The assessment will provide information and support for future investments by any entity interested in improving area waterways for public recreation while promoting community stewardship of this valuable resource, according to a media release about the assessment.

Potential projects could include enhanced access sites, hazard removal, new boater-specific signage on the waterways and published information specific to boating.

“If people are not from here or didn’t grow up here, they may not know what great opportunities are here. We think that by improving safety and getting knowledge out there, folks will see our local waterways as the recreation opportunities they really are,” SCLT Executive Director Colin Betzler said.

“A lot of people are interested in floating as recreation, but they seem to have found what’s known and what’s comfortable,” Betzler continued. “Our natural tendency is to not float a new stretch we’ve never been down. We’re trying to take that guesswork out of it and put organization to it.”

The assessment will inventory existing conditions on navigable and publicly accessible sections of Big Goose Creek, Little Goose Creek, Goose Creek and the Tongue River through research, on-the-water observations and public surveys.

The public surveys will ensure that the assessment reflects the needs and interests of the community. Anyone who floats local waterways is encouraged to visit surveymonkey.com/s/JustPaddle to complete a short survey (10 minutes to complete) and provide valuable input that will be used as background and framing for the Water Trail Assessment.

As of Friday, Betzler said the recreation group was nearly finished with physical inventories of approximately 70 miles of navigable river and creek. This included the Tongue River from the canyon to the state line (and unofficially into Montana and the Tongue River Reservoir) and Big Goose, Little Goose and Goose creeks.

The physical inventory assessed existing conditions such as ease of access at access points, in-stream hazards such as concrete, old cars and other impediments to public safety and access on the waterway, water levels and other factors affecting floatability, Betzler said.

Betzler said the SCLT Recreation Work Group has received technical assistance through a grant from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program for two years now. No funding is involved in the grant. The original idea for assessing the area’s waterways was found in the county’s comprehensive plan, which identified potential water trails.

Once the assessment is finalized, it can be used by the city, county and recreation-minded groups to enhance the area’s water trails for use by locals and tourists alike.

“As we finish and finalize that plan, we can identify what really is the top priority and the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ for initial projects,” Betzler said. “ We would love for those coming to Sheridan to put our water trails on their list of to-dos. If we can put together a water trail where someone can spend a night or two nights on our streams, it would make us an even greater destination.”

 

• The public is invited to complete a 10-minute survey on Sheridan County’s water trail system at www.surveymonkey.com/s/JustPaddle.

 

 

 

Dayton Mayor Bob Wood says it’s time to step down

DAYTON — Long story short, he’s 79 years old, and while he still feels healthy, he feels like it’s time to step down — or out, since he’s never been one to put himself above others, even if the name plate on his immaculately clean desk inside Dayton Town Hall does read, “Mayor.”

Mayor Bob Wood has announced he will not run for re-election this November, and while the declaration is simple, no story comprised of over 25 years in public service is ever short, or simple. It takes a lot of work to run a town.

Wood served 10 years as a town councilman from 1975-1985 at the request of past beloved Mayor Art Badgett, who himself served for 20 years at the helm. Wood then returned to California to ride out the downed economy.

But that quaint town below the Bighorn Mountains — those mountains that blush white in winter, radiate green in spring and call area residents into their blue waters and brown earth all summer long — kept calling to him, tugging at him, luring him home.

“I’ve just had a passion for Dayton ever since I got here,” Wood said.

 

Passion

 

In a way, it was passion that lead Wood to Wyoming in the first place.

In 1954, Wood was living in Iowa. He was 19, and he was in love. He married a gal named Vicki, and the happy couple came to Dayton on their honeymoon. Vicki Wood had family in the area; Bob had never even been to Wyoming.

“I went fishing in the Bighorns,” Wood said. “And I said, ‘Someday, this will be my home.’ I just loved it.”

But first, the Korean War. Wood joined the military from 1954-1956 at the end of the conflict in Korea. He wanted to go overseas but remained stateside in the Headquarters Company.

After his military term ended, Bob and Vicki Wood moved to California. They attended night business classes at Golden West Junior College in Westminster, Calif., and both graduated.

In 1968, Wood bought one acre on the edge of Dayton. That acre has long since been annexed and now lies almost at the center of town.

In 1975, Wood and his wife finally moved to the town he’d wanted to call home for about 20 years. They built a house and some apartment complexes on their acre of land and settled in.

Wood started Bob’s Pest Control, which remains in business serving Sheridan, Johnson and Campbell counties and now belongs to his son-in-law. Wood, who was a printer by trade, also worked at The Sheridan Press under editor Milton Chilcott. He helped the paper transition from letter press to offset printing and color ink, which only ran on Wednesdays at that time.

In 1985, Wood returned to California but was only able to stay away from his home for a little over a decade. He and Vicki returned in 1998 — this time for good.

That same year, Badgett asked Wood to run for mayor. Wood put it off until the last minute but was elected and stepped into office in 1999. He brought with him his sense of practicality, his big picture perspective, his quiet, yet persistent, leadership style and, like many a good leader, the support of his wife.

“She’s supported me and encouraged me to go forward with whatever needs to be done,” Wood said.

From his honeymoon to his 60th wedding anniversary — which the Woods will celebrate at Dayton Days this summer — Dayton has been Wood’s passion and his pride.

 

Practicality

Councilman Norm Anderson has served on council for 14 years, all of which have been spent working alongside Wood. He said he most appreciates Wood’s boots-on-the-ground approach to management.

“He’s easy to work with, and he’s gotten a lot accomplished. It’s going to be some big shoes to fill,” Anderson said. “A lot of people rule with an iron fist, but he listens to everyone’s concerns. If we need to call him about an issue, he’s always available.”

Anderson said Wood runs the town like he would his own business, conscientious of funding and conscientious of the employees and leaders who make the town tick.

“I trust them, and they do the same with me,” Wood said about his six employees. “I don’t micro manage, and they know that, but I do make sure they get the job done.”

“The job” under Wood’s management has included a host of practical undertakings.

When Wood first moved to Dayton, there was not one paved street. While he was on Council, the town formed a special improvement district to raise funds to pave the town. Now all the town’s streets, except a couple short sections on East Sixth and East Second avenues whose residents elected not to participate in the special improvement district, are paved with curb and gutter.

In an effort to preserve the town’s paved streets, Wood has kept a detailed maintenance schedule — neatly written on a small yellow legal pad — for the streets. He’s even written the schedule past the end of his term in hopes that the next mayor will carry on his practical care.

Wood was able to increase the $1.9 million reserve fund created by Badgett to $2.4 million today. It is impractical not to have a piggy bank for a rainy day, or decade.

In 1980, a woman fell and broke her leg in the middle of winter at Lone Tree Ranch. After that incident, it became apparent that Dayton needed a rescue unit in addition to its fire department. The sale of a donated motor home enabled the town to buy a new 4-wheel drive truck, fit it with a shell and turn it into a first responder unit. Wood and his wife both served on the fire and rescue department.

“I feel like we saved some lives,” Wood said.

And, in a demonstration of practical upkeep, the town still has that 1980 Chevy pickup. It is now used as a mosquito truck and snowplow.

 

Perspective

Public Works Director Johann Nield, who has himself worked for the town for 34 years, said he will most miss Wood’s big picture perspective.

“Mayor Wood’s greatest strength is being able to see and prioritize the needs of Dayton far into the future, and implementing projects to maintain what the town has invested in. What I call the Big Picture View,” Nield said in an email to the Press. “Policies that were for all, not just a few, was the movement under Bob Wood’s mayorship.”

For Nield, this perspective has resulted in pursuing crazy ideas turned practical.

“Bob always listens to my ideas no matter how wild they are,” Nield said. “We would talk about each one and bring them into perspective. I liked that, because our conversation became reality when it came to the future of Dayton.”

Projects that should carry the town well into its future that are mentioned by all who have worked with Wood include a state-of-the-art raw water system that serves every resident in town, updates to the water plant and lagoon, park and street improvements, the creation of a community center and the in-progress natural gas line that should bring cheaper heating costs to the valley.

“What separates Mayor Wood from other mayors, one thing I always think of, is that he is a visionary,” Town Clerk Linda Lofgren, who has served the town for 20 years, said. “Big projects are never overwhelming to him. I’m looking at it thinking, ‘How are we ever going to pay for it?’ And he just sees the possibilities of projects and isn’t daunted. You have to have that. You have to be fearless to go after these things.”

In fact, Wood’s big picture perspective hasn’t remained only in Dayton. He is well-known across the state and was instrumental in persuading the Legislature to increase mayoral terms from two to four years — for the practical reason that it’s hard to get anything worthwhile done in two years — and mayoral pay from $400 a month to $20,000 or more for men and women who are working full-time to keep Wyoming’s towns running.

His sense of perspective trickles to his own family, too. He and his wife have been raising their great-granddaughter, Ridley, since she was 2 years old because, well, she needed it to reach her own big picture future. Ridley is 9 now.

“We have guardianship, but now at our age, maybe she can help us,” Wood said with a proud, Grandpa smile. “She reads all the time; she’s so smart. She’s teaching Papa to spell. I read all the time, but I’m a terrible speller.”

Terrible spelling aside, Wood has provided a perspective that has rarely included his own interests in his 25 years of leadership in Dayton. And it is hoped whoever steps into his boots-on-the-ground work as the next mayor will do the same.

As Town Treasurer  Vicki Cotton said: “I’d like to see somebody who is very proud of Dayton and wants to keep it in the financial and beautiful shape that it’s in, someone who’s not doing it to further their self or their career, but doing it for the good of the town.”

Wood will remain in Dayton — continuing family dinners with all his children who still live in the area — and seeking the betterment of the town that became his passion on his honeymoon nearly 60 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toasting community

SHERIDAN — Some of Sheridan’s most community minded and influential people gathered at the WYO Theater last night for the fourth annual Keystone Awards.

The event is a benefit for the Sheridan Senior Center that celebrates individuals who have provided a lifetime of service to the community.

This year’s award winners were Dixie See, William Avery and Scott and Anne Nickerson.

As a featurette to the ceremony, one student from each county high school and the college are selected to be honored as the future leaders of the community with the Keys to the Stone awards which included a small scholarship to attend Sheridan College.

This year’s student honorees were Casey Caywood, Hanna Caiola, Harley Borzenski, Shayna Kretschman, Tyler Julian and Bobbi Mitzel.

The evening began and ended with casual mingling over food as the community showed their warmth and appreciation for the contributions of each individual.

The ceremony in the middle honored each Keystone Award recipient with a video describing their life and contributions followed by a special performance catered to the honoree.

Scott and Ann Nickerson’s portion kicked-off the ceremony as one of their three sons took to the stage.

“Dad always told me, if you celebrate what is right in the world, you’ll get more of it,” Gregory Nickerson said.

In the video honoring him and his wife, Scott Nickerson noted that, “We were just stepping in and following the lead of so many other communitarians to come before us in Sheridan.”

The special performance for the couple consisted of their three sons performing two songs demonstrating the family’s love of Wyoming.

Next up was recognition of Dixie See.

See was introduced by Bev Leichtnam who said “Dixie is not about work all the time. She is a mother, a grandmother, a traveler and more.”

See said in her video, “You have a right to make the community what you want it to be and if you don’t give back than you have no right to complain, so I think you need to give back.”

Honoring her eclectic taste in entertainment, the performance portion of her honors began with a classical piano performance and ended with an Elvis Presley impersonator from the theater department of Sheridan College.

Finally the evening moved to Bill Avery. For the man responsible for initiating one of Sheridan’s most beloved summertime traditions — the annual Kendrick Park Summer Concert Series — a musical performance was anticipated.

Don Cherni introduced Avery and said the longtime teacher took his lunch hour to teach Cherni clarinet in sixth grade. Cherni called him “my teacher, my friend, my hero.” Avery was honored with a song written and performed by former students.

“Get yourself involved in something you like and you will find there are people in this community to work with who will be a delightful part of your life,” Avery said in his video tribute. “For me, it was music, but for you it could be anything.”

Past award recipients of the Keystone Awards have included Darlene Elliott, Roman Skatula, Seymour Thickman, Dippy King, Joe Laughton, Mary Ellen McWilliams, Rev. Ray Clark (posthumously), Ky Dixon, Homer Scott Jr. and Neltje, and some were present and recognized at last night’s event.

Bird house fun

Keira Campbell expresses her excitement as she hammers a nail with her father Wayne Campbell during the birdhouse building project Wednesday at Sagebrush Elementary School. This is the fifth year Sagebrush has held their bird house building day with kindergarten students and their fathers or other significant male role models. The Home Depot store in Sheridan donated orange aprons and birdhouse kits for each student.

Earth Day cleanup

Big Horn High School students walk with elementary students during an Earth Day clean up Tuesday in the town of Big Horn. Pictured in back, juniors Christian Mayer, left, and Jack Roberts; in front, first-graders Josie Yaponcich, left, and Rachael Miller. Big Horn students picked up trash in the town and along the highway in celebration of Earth Day. The students collected more than 30 large bags of trash from the area. The campus also launched the next phase of its recycling program, which was initiated last year by Laurie Graves’ third-grade classroom, by installing recycling bins on location. Graves said that the recycling bins are open for community use.

Company looks to connect Billings, Denver on fiberoptic network

SHERIDAN — A team of Sheridan entrepreneurs is exploring the possibility of installing an extension of fiberoptic line between Casper and Billings. If it goes forward, the project would increase local recruiting capacity for technical businesses and add resilience to the regional picture of communication infrastructure.

Rocky Mountain Fiber, LLC, was incorporated in January and is registered to Ptolemy Data Systems CEO Ryan Mulholland, who represents the business interests of Ptolemy for the purposes of the project. Ptolemy’s business partners are Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey and Joe Sharkey, a consultant from TMNG Global that did several studies in Sheridan last year to determine the city’s infrastructure suitability for business recruitment.

Power rich, fiberless

While Sheridan has a robust and cheap existing power supply, economic development experts have noted a major obstacle to recruiting data centers or similar businesses is the absence of easily accessible fiberoptic lines.

Past efforts have centered on expanding connectivity between several cities in northeast Wyoming. Rocky Mountain Fiber is moving forward on a pretense that the fastest, most efficient way to increase data capacity is to build a pathway between existing hubs in Denver and Billings.

Mulholland said he saw the potential to capitalize on fiber when meetings with other data companies uncovered an unaddressed need. He said most companies are looking for what’s called “dark fiber,” meaning unused fiberoptic line that can be leased by a large carrier and possibly subleased to smaller consumers looking to transfer data.

Sharkey said he saw the same theme replete throughout northeast Wyoming.

“We found that nobody wanted to build it, but everybody wanted to use it,” he said. “So, we started to look at what it would take,” he added.

“We want to provide a big pipe of empty fiber that major carriers can now travel on and deliver services on. That began the idea of what is now Rocky Mountain Fiber,” Mulholland said.

“We provide this big backbone these local incumbent services can use to provide better service to their communities.”

The availability of a blank slate for data transfer is one that can help entice new tech companies to settle in Sheridan. “It’s kind of self-serving in a way,” Mulholland said, acknowledging his own businesses’ interest in the idea. “But on the other side, it’s a very cool economic development tool for all the communities in Wyoming.”

The state of Wyoming recently established guidelines for right-of-way access to add fiberoptic line along existing interstates and those regulations stipulate that any new line installed must have hook-in capacity at each community along its route.

Regional rerouting Existing fiberoptic infrastructure runs along the southern border of the state parallel to Interstate 80, and another main artery in the nationwide fiberoptic communication network exists to the north of Sheridan underneath Interstate 94, which runs between Billings, Mont., and Port Huron, Mich.

‘”What most people don’t realize is there are 11 different routes that travel the I-80 corridor and there are over 100 carriers in those 11 different routes,” Mulholland said, adding that though the southern end of the state has a strong presence of fiberoptic infrastructure, it’s not easily accessible to other operators who might want to hook in. “This was a ‘pass-through’ build,” Kinskey said.

“Wyoming was not considered a data destination, and that’s unfortunate because we don’t have a lot of those major connection points along I-80,” Mulholland said. The state mandates to include accessibility hook-ins all along the line are a distinct departure from the philosophy that motivated the build that took place when the line underneath I-80 was installed.

In addition, the first developer to lay down new fiberoptic line has to make room for those that might follow. “The state requirements are that you have to put in two spare conduits to carry when you install,” Mulholland said, elaborating that the regulation is in place to avoid continuous construction and reconstruction along state interstates.

“Even though we wouldn’t use three conduits, we still have to put in all three.” While Advanced Communications Technology has contracted a project to establish fiberoptic line from an available access point in Cheyenne up to Casper, Rocky Mountain Fiber would pick up where ACT leaves off, in Casper, to finish the route north to Billings. Mulholland explained the venture to build fiberoptic line across much of the state serves the ultimate goal of creating commercial capacity Internet infrastructure between Denver and Billings.

The broad picture of linking the two cities ties in a potential client base of national communication companies. Mulholland explained present fiberoptic infrastructure dictates that data originating from an intermountain location has to take a less efficient route to another hub. “One of the interesting pieces we discovered is you have a lot of carriers and consumers down in Cheyenne and Denver that have to reach places like Seattle and Chicago— two very large communication hubs,” he said.

“What they lack is real resiliency — a fast, resilient path to connect to those locations from even down here.” That’s how the idea to build more dark line began. “We started evaluating what it would look like to build fiberoptic infrastructure that would serve our needs and the needs of the other communities along the route from Cheyenne to Billings,” Mulholland said.

Fiber future or pipe dream?

The proposed venture of Rocky Mountain Fiber is one that carries with it an implication to forever change the conversation surrounding connectivity in the state. The Rocky Mountain Fiber team is hoping to break ground on the project this summer if they can work out details to secure funding. The proposed Denver-to-Billings fiberoptic line is estimated to cost roughly $50,000 per mile, or $16.5 million overall.

Potential funders for the line have not been disclosed. “There’s no guarantee we’ll get to build this, but this is what we’re working on,” Mulholland said. “What we have to do is prove this business case is what we believe it to be. And, until we can prove to ourselves and anyone else who backs us, we’re still in the process,” Mulholland said.

“That’s the fairest way I can put it.” Kinskey noted the need for committed customers before moving forward, rather than hoping they jump on board once it is built. “We will not build this unless we can prove there’s a solid, committed customer base out there,” Kinskey said, referring to the needed buy-in from carriers who would utilize the new fiber.

“From a private business perspective, what you have to look at is how it makes business sense,” Mulholland said. “What makes sense for this is connecting Denver to Billings.” Though still in the planning stages, the fiberoptic pipeline project that would connect two major hubs within the nation is one comprised of a team of business executives.

Kinskey brings decades of Wyoming business experience to the table, while Sharkey is an industry-wide technical guru known for pulling a fiberoptic company out of the clutches of bankruptcy to turn over a profit. Mulholland, the youngster of the trifecta, is the boots on the ground. “The last time I got this excited, I was building a data center,” Mulholland said.

New owners to bring Dubois success to Sheridan

SHERIDAN — The former Sheridan Palace restaurant on Main Street has new owners and is undergoing total transformation. New owners Sevrine and Robert Murdoch have plans to renovate the space and open as the Cowboy Cafe in mid-May.

The Murdochs have owned and operated a Cowboy Cafe in Dubois with success for more than 20 years, and are branching out to Sheridan to expand their business.

“Expansion, for us, meant opening in a different location,” Sevrine Murdoch explained, adding that with a population in Dubois of only about 1,000 people, additional growth of their existing restaurant was not possible.

“One of our customers happened to be in the Cowboy Cafe in Dubois and now lives in Sheridan,” Murdoch said. “He told us that if we’re looking for an extension, there’s a little cafe for sale in downtown Sheridan.”

The cafe in question was the Palace, owned by Jane and Steve Cain since 1997. The Cains announced last fall they were hoping to retire from the restaurant business and sell their building in the historic district. The building was put up for sale while still open for business. One thing lead to another, and the Murdochs closed the deal with ERA Carroll Realty April 8. The Palace’s last day of business was April 30.

While the Murdochs had been considering opening in a handful of other locations, the opportunity provided in Sheridan came out on top.

“We liked the town, and when we looked at the building, it reminded us of a business we had 20 years ago,” Murdoch said, adding that it was the real estate offer that sealed the deal.

“We like to own the building and land it’s sitting on,” she said, indicating that wasn’t a possibility in other locations they considered.

The Murdochs are in the midst of a complete renovation of the downtown restaurant space. The compete overhaul will include tile floors, new paint and kitchen equipment, along with new booths, tables and chairs. When the flip is done, the business will open as the Sheridan branch of Cowboy Cafe. Modeled after the existing establishment in Dubois, the restaurant will feature a similar menu of casual dining. The Cowboy Cafe will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.

“So far, we’ve had a lot of positive comments,” Murdoch said. “We’re excited about having a new place.”

While the palace was a staple of Main Street for years, Murdoch said she feels welcomed with open arms. “We were a little worried about changing the name, but it doesn’t appear to be too traumatic to people.”

Murdoch said she and her husband plan to spend the summer in both Dubois and Sheridan, but in the fall, they will permanently relocate here with their two children.

30-year-old golden eagle from Sheridan second oldest in US

SHERIDAN — A golden eagle from the Sheridan area has entered the record books as the second oldest golden eagle found in North America with an identifying leg band.

The eagle was found on March 19 on Soldier Creek Road by a local resident who saw the dead bird and alerted Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials.

“It was reported by an individual who was driving on Soldier Creek Road and saw it and at first, thought it had been shot,” WGFD Sheridan Senior Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas said.

Thomas responded to the call and found that rather than being shot, the bird was under a utility pole and had wounds that were consistent with electrocution from a power line.

It was at this time that he also discovered that it had a small metal band attached to its leg.

Bands are often used by biologists on birds as a research tool in an attempt to learn more about their habits. The bands, made of plastic or aluminum, have a unique set of identifying numbers.

When a bird is found with a band, the finder can call or email the eight- or nine-digit number on the band to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center Banding Laboratory, which serves as the national receptacle for all bird band information.

Thomas sent the numbers to the center the day he picked up the bird and received a surprising report back. According to its records, the laboratory reported that the bird had been banded as a fledgling in a nest in June 1983 near Gillette, giving it an estimated age of 30 years and nine months. This age ties for second place with a bird from Colorado in the laboratory’s longevity records.

“They requested pictures of band and bird to verify since it is so old,” Thomas said.

According to the laboratory’s website, the oldest recorded banded golden eagle was found in Utah in January 2012 and was aged at 31 years and seven months.

Thomas noted that while waterfowl with leg bands are often reported when they are harvested by hunters, other species with leg bands are reported less commonly.

In fact, he said this is only the fourth bird he has recovered with a leg band in his 22-year career.

To place a band, biologists often employ a mist net, which has very fine threads which will trap a bird that flies into it, but does not harm it. The biologist then gently handles the bird, placing a band around one leg, taking measurements and then releasing it. The band is small and lightweight and does not interfere with the bird’s movement or flight ability.

The biologist records the location of where the bird was captured, the date, estimated age and gender of the bird. The information is then sent to the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. If a bird with a band is later found, the center provides the finder with all of the relevant information about it.

Thomas said that both he and the biologist who originally banded the golden eagle believed the bird to be a female, though a necropsy is the only way to positively identify the gender.

“Based on the size of the bird, females tend to be larger than males, and also the biologist who banded the bird, when he banded it, took some measurements that indicated it is a female,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the bird will soon be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Eagle Repository in Colorado. The repository distributes eagle parts to officially recognized Native American tribes for use in religious ceremonies. Possession of eagles or eagle parts, including feathers, is otherwise prohibited by federal law.

Golden eagles are found in the U.S. and Canada and are generally a solitary species, though pairs are often found together through the year and form bonds that last years and possibly the lifetime of the birds. They are very large, growing to a length of 35-inches with a wingspan of 84-inches. Their diet consists of a variety of prey, including prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, marmots and deer and antelope fawns, as well as other birds such as herons, waterfowl and game birds. Golden eagles became protected by federal law in 1963.

Stubborn athletes take to the court

Big Horn student Miles Novak, left, secures the ball from Tongue River’s Tyler Kane during the student versus student Donkey Basketball game Thursday. The Big Horn students earned a victory in the final game against the Tongue River students.

Local FFA chapters perform well at annual competition in Cheyenne

SHERIDAN — The 2014 Wyoming State FFA Convention was held last week in Cheyenne and Laramie.

One of the largest youth conferences in Wyoming, more than 1,200 FFA members from across the state were in attendance.

Three local chapters competed and each achieved high rankings in a variety of events.

The John B. Kendrick chapter from Sheridan sent 30 students to the conference to compete in 14 contests under advisor Nick Siddle.

Among several high-placing team performances, a few notable individual honors were achieved.

Caleb Green was elected to the 2014-2015 State Sentinel, after an intense three-day interview process, and will join a team of nine total officers representing Wyoming.

Green will spend his year in office traveling and working with chapter members throughout the state via workshops and seminars.

He plans to attend Casper College in the fall to study agriculture.

Green was also one of three Sheridan members to receive his state degree at the convention, joined by Emma Jost and Kelsey Walton in the achievement.

Some of the requirements to receive a State Degree include two years of FFA membership, completion of 360 hours of agricultural education at or above 9th grade level, completion of 25 hours of community service, earn and invest at least $1,000 or work at least 300 hours outside of schedule class time and demonstrate leadership by performing 10 parliamentary law procedures, giving a six-minute speech on a topic relating to agriculture or FFA and serving as an FFA officer, committee chairperson or committee member.

Tara Stimpson of the Tongue River FFA chapter also received her State Degree and then went on to compete at the next level to be named Regional Star Farmer.

TR advisor Levi Gorzalka said approved state degree applications are passed on for Star Farmer consideration and one student from each of the five regions of Wyoming is selected.

Additionally, to be named a Star Farmer students are required to complete a supervised agricultural experience project that they start as a freshman. The ongoing project is intended to show how much the student has grown, the number of animals they increased their herd by, their level of community service and more.

Stimpson showed her first heifer in 2008 and has grown her herd from two head to eight cows and one bull during her FFA career.

She serves as chapter president and plans to attend college, rodeo and continue to train horses and increase her herd.

The Tongue River and Sheridan chapters each received chapter awards, TR taking the Bronze Emblem Chapter honor and Sheridan being named Gold Emblem Chapter.

The honors were awarded after an application and interview process in which state officers visit the school for a look at the chapter’s activities, interaction with the community and other local services.

The Clear Creek chapter out of Clearmont sent 12 students to the convention and placed in two team events.

Kylar Klaahsen, Nathan Troll and Cameron Weigle took sixth high team in the Greenhand Quiz Bowl.

The written test challenges the students’ FFA knowledge and chapter advisor Lynne Latham said she was pleasantly surprised by the outcome because there is no way to practice for the Quiz Bowl so it purely comes down to who has the most information.

The Agriculture Sales and Service team made up of Sara Ellingrod, Lena Frappier, KayLee Stidham and Shayna Kretschman took fifth overall team. Within that competition, Frappier placed second individually as well.

The category consists of a written test, individual sales presentations from each member and completion of a team sales scenario.

Now that the state conference is over, the chapters will all move on to their summer activities including fundraising, county and state fairs and helping with livestock loading at the Sheridan-WYO-Rodeo.

The Sheridan Chapter will also hold an FFA awards banquet on May 6 and plans to send newly elected officers to the State FFA leadership camp in Fremont County the second week of June.

“FFA is a year-round activity that never stops,” Siddle said. “All of the kids learn a lot about leadership and public speaking, especially at the state convention, which is very motivation to all to who attend.”

Additional Sheridan award winners include:

• Livestock Team: fifth overall, third high team in swine: Sammy Hamilton, Bell Ward, Chaney Peterson and Gabby Koltiska. Koltiska high individual in swine.

• Horse Team: fifth overall, third high team in halter horses: Mikaela Weeder, Luke Thompson, BriAunna Moore and Nikki Copenhaver. Copenhaver second high individual in oral reasons.

• Poultry Team: fifth overall, third high team in oral reasons: Taylor Townsend, Kaycen Townsend, Makayla Mayfield and Molly Ligocki. Ligocki high individual in oral reasons.

• Environmental Natural Resources Team: fifth overall, third high in team activity: Cole Kayser, Eva Gruywiecisz, Caleb Green and Kaitlin Furnish.

• Marketing Plan: fifth high team; Lexi Smiley, Katie Bailey and Paden Koltiska.

• State Finalist in Prepared Public Speaking: Chaney Peterson.

• State Finalist in Extemporaneous Public Speaking: Gabby Koltiska.

• Proficiency Award in Forage Production: Caleb Green.

 

Scotty’s Skate Castle; Three generations of family entertainment, history

By Alisa Brantz

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — The overhead lights turn down, the music turns up and dozens of kids and families go round and round the rink at Scotty’s Skate Castle as they have been doing for more than 30 years.

Since 1982 the Sidletsky family has been serving Sheridan as owners of the rink providing exercise and fun to all ages.

Now in their own third generation of family skating, the Sidletskys and Scotty’s have each gone through many changes.

 

A Piece of Sheridan

Scotty’s was built in 1981 and owned by the founding family for less than a year before Tom and Gail Sidletsky purchased it.

Through the years there have been a variety of offerings inside the rink, including Small World, a day care which operated for 27 years.

At other times the castle has doubled as a concert venue and the physical fun has gone beyond just roller-skating to include things like hockey and even Zumba.

The concerts stopped when the new concert park was built and the day care closed a few years ago as mom and dad Sidletsky began yielded management of the rink to brother and sister Joey Sidletsky and Danica Chavez.

Today, the second generation Sidletsky’s are refocused on being a roller rink and a center for family fun.

 

A Family Legacy

“Our whole lives have been in this building,” said Joey Sidletsky. “It was our second home growing up. That’s why we want to take it over and keep it going.”

He and his sister have been working hard to keep Scotty’s modern and meet the ever changing needs of Sheridan families.

Recent renovations have included clearing out the old day care rooms and opening them up to create one large space, adding a snack and prize counter and battling the job of maintaining old and purchasing new skates.

Though the tasks are on-going and expensive, they are a labor of love to the new managers.

“I get to look over and see kids jamming out and letting loose to the music,” said Chavez. “They don’t care if anyone can see them, they’re just so free to have fun. That’s what is so great about this place.”

She added that the rink has allowed her to partake in special moments in many people’s lives from their first kiss to their first time coming back as adults to take their own children skating.

Chavez now has children of her own and, like her, they have been raised in the rink.

Her daughter Abby is in eighth grade at Sheridan Junior High School and she attributes Scotty’s with a lot of who she is as a person.

“Everywhere I go I see people that I met skating,” she said. “It makes you more social being around all these people and now I love meeting and talking to new people.”

Abby hopes to continue her family’s legacy when she grows up and take over the rink after her mother.

“When I’m older, I want my kids to experience the same things I have here,” she said. “It has taught me a lot.”

 

From their family to yours

The Sidletsky’s are not the only family who has grown together at the rink.

Time after time Sidletsky and Chavez find themselves face-to-face with someone they grew up skating with who had moved away but is now back with a family of their own and Scotty’s is one of the first places they go to reconnect with their hometown.

Shiloh Sayer of Big Horn is one such person.

Sayer grew up in Sheridan and started skating at the old wooden rink at the fairgrounds at a very young age. Once Scotty’s opened, he and his family became frequent visitors.

“We loved chasing each other around, me and my brother mainly, but also our friends and even our parents,” he said. “It gave us a place to exert that young boy energy without getting into trouble.”

Sayer and his family moved to Powell after junior high and without a rink in town, his skating stopped.

In June of 2010 he moved back to the area and he and his wife and kids all headed to the rink together to learn, or relearn, how to skate.

“This is something we can all do together as a family that we all enjoy,” he said. “And it’s just the way I remember it.”

As the summer approaches and schools start to let out, the Sidletsky’s will add more daytime skate session to give the kids more things to fill their time.

Friday and Saturday nights will continue to offer a place for kids to hang out and families to bond as Scotty’s shows that in Sheridan, values like staying active and staying together do stand the test of time.

 

Long-term insurance premiums on the rise

SHERIDAN — Sheridan resident and retiree Gene Davis thought he had planned well.

In 2004, he purchased a long-term care policy for himself and his wife from Prudential Financial Inc. He diligently paid the premiums for a “cadillac policy” over the last decade totaling more than $47,000.

But in the last few years, premium increases for Davis and many like him have increased nearly 80 percent. In addition, Prudential has informed Davis coverage rates of the policy are being curtailed.

“What’s happened is when they corralled all these people in the early 2000s as a class, I don’t think they were very careful with how they underwrited these policies,” Davis said. “If you could fog a mirror, they would write you a policy without fully understanding how long people are living now.”

This month, his policy premium jumped 56 percent, from $136 to $213 per month. At the same time, the company is proposing to cut the policy’s daily payout rate from $150 per day to $100 per day and eliminate possible claim durations from a lifetime limit to three or five years.

Both options significantly reduce financial risk for the insurer while proving only a modest break in premium for the insured. For example, the daily rate cut would save the company more than $29,000 per year if a claim were made, but Davis’ premium goes down by $1,200.

Davis said his frustration is compounded by the looming fact that his policy establishes an open-ended contract, meaning there’s not much of a cap on his potential premiums. While the state loosely oversees insurance rates, Wyoming companies are more deregulated than other states.

Davis said he had the chance to purchase a premium-stabilizing rider 10 years ago, when he first entered into the policy.

“At time we bought it, the agent said they hardly ever get rate increases, so we don’t need that option,” Davis said, recalling that he had declined the offer and now regrets the decision.

“My wife and I, for Prudential, are a huge outstanding liability,” Davis said.

He continued by saying that to the company, they represent a $7,500 per month potential payout if they need long-term care. “They want out of it. They’re offering people all these chump deals to get out of the policy.”

 

Far reaching impacts

One of the lesser-known consequences of the Great Recession of 2009 is that the long-term care insurance market was completely destabilized. The retiree population has seen skyrocketing premiums and coverage cutbacks for policies designed to pay for assisted living or nursing home care.

Long-term care insurance policies were created to mitigate the financial risk of an individual who can no longer live at home because of limitations associated with mental or physical disabilities. Medicare and traditional health insurance policies generally do not cover extended assisted living or nursing home care, which can range between $130 to nearly $300 per day in Sheridan. That means those who enter these facilities rely on insurance or their personal finances to foot the bill. Otherwise, the tab is passed to Medicaid, a federal program one must qualify for by being poor.

The target population for long-term care insurance was retirees who have accumulated at least a small nest egg they hope to keep within their families. By offsetting long-term living care costs via insurance, the family’s estate is retained to be used by a healthier spouse or to pass on to younger generations in the form of an inheritance.

A yearlong stint for a single person in a long-term care facility can easily exceed $80,000 per year. Many people who entered their retirement with a reasonably stable financial base find their savings are quickly spent down after they enter an assisted living or long-term care facility. To many, the reality of needing assisted living and the costs are a surprise.

Those without the insurance who are looking to bypass the seemingly inevitable option of delivering their hard-earned humble fortune to a retirement home are limited regarding how much money can be gifted to family each year. People found to have diverted a large inheritance before entering assisted living may be putting their family at risk of having the money recouped.

 

End of sales

Future consumers likely won’t be caught in a situation similar to Davis’. Prudential spokesperson Janet Gillespie  has indicated the company no longer issues LTC policies, though existing ones are still being serviced.

Other national companies, including MetLife and Unum Group, have also discontinued selling long-term care insurance.

While it appears the insurance industry is moving in the direction of not making the mistakes again, customers stuck in an unviable long-term care agreements are in policy purgatory.

“They can keep cranking premiums as long as they want as long as they can go to the state insurance commission and say, ‘Our claims exceed our income,’” Davis said. “They’re pushing all their ignorant risks they took themselves back on the premium payer.”

Wyoming State Insurance Commissioner Tom Hirsig said Davis has the industry pegged.

“It’s not just Prudential doing this,” Hirsig said. “It’s the whole long-term care industry. They have increased their rates dramatically.”

Hirsig said the product of long-term care insurance started as long as 18 years ago, and at that time, the world was a much different place.

“The assumptions they made didn’t hold true,” Hirsig said, indicating the bursted housing bubble and subsequent recession of the late 2000s made for lower stock market yields for all businesses within the financial sector.

“The interest rates they projected weren’t there, and the other part is they expected a higher amount of people to drop their policies,” Hirsig said.

He also said that another compounding factor to the long-term care insurance crisis is that the price of skilled living care has grown beyond predictions.

“It’s hard, when you develop a new product with as much risk as this, to predict how many people are going to hang on to it,” Hirsig said.

He suggested that consumers who want to avoid the premium hike pitfalls of long-term care insurance avoid the policies altogether, and instead look at long-term care riders on established life insurance policies.

People already in a contract, like Davis, have a more restricted, tougher choice: either pay the premiums or drop the policy and lose a 10-year investment.

“My policy states they have the right to do this, and that’s the problem,” Davis said. “As long as they can go to the commission and say their judgement was poor and they didn’t really understand the risk and their claims are outrunning their premiums, they’ll be granted increases infinitum. It leaves people like us with very little choice.”

Davis said he plans to stick with his policy, even though he has bitter feelings about what he’s paying and what’s being offered in return.

“We either walk the contract or throw away 50-grand,” he said. “I’m not letting them out of this deal.”

 

Business as usual

Hirsig sees the situation as par for the course of doing insurance business.

“Why would this be any different from buying auto insurance and never having an accident? Thank God they never had to use it,” Hirsig said, indicating it’s flawed thinking to expect money back from an insurance policy if a claim-inducing event has not occurred. “If they gave everyone their money back, they would be out of business and then the people wouldn’t have anything.”

But, Davis isn’t satisfied with the easy out for his long-term care policy provider.

“One of the problems is it dumps the risks back on society,” he said, indicating the situation has made him aware of the limitations of corporate liability to consumers. “I think the only way to do this is to get enough people to understand what’s going on so we have some recourse.”

Some financial entities in Sheridan are working to educate insurance consumers about the crisis in long-term care insurance and the best ways to navigate the market. Shelley Born, a financial consultant at Thrivent Financial, is hosting a seminar April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Emeritus Senior Living. The class is free and open to the public.

“One of the things I want people to know and to hear is insurance can be an important part of a plan, but it needs to be designed properly,” Born said. “I don’t want people to think insurance is bad because of this.”

“This is something a lot of people don’t talk about, but if people get more educated about their options they can get appropriate insurance,” she added.

Editor’s note: This story was amended at 12:07 p.m. April 16 to correctly attribute statements made by Prudential spokesperson Janet Gillespie.

SHERIDAN — A familiar scenario: it’s Friday night and you are trying to decide where to go for dinner.

A less familiar solution: head down to the high school for dinner in the cafeteria.

Family and Consumer Science students at Tongue River High School are hoping to put that plan on the top of your list as two culinary classes open the school doors to the public for two full-service “restaurants.” Bistro Under the Bighorns is open for dinner once a month and The Prancing Pony is open for lunch once a week.

The Prancing Pony has been serving lunch in the halls of the culinary wing once a week for the past 18 years, under various names.

FCS instructor Pat Mischke said the students usually feed around 30 people in the restaurant that is unique every year and completely student designed.

Each year the new class of cooks chooses a name for the restaurant and paints the walls of the hall according to the corresponding theme.

This year’s Prancing Pony name was inspired by “The Hobbit” and the walls are covered with colorful dragons and piles of gold.

Each week the students must plan the menu and the necessary grocery order complete with a cost analysis of their selections to ensure they stay within budget.

Lunchtime diners receive a complete meal for only $6 and if any profit is made after costs, that money goes back into the program.

One student restaurateur Cheyloh Bluemel said she was introduced to the program her freshmen year through a half-semester class in which the other half was spent studying clothing.

Bluemel enjoyed the culinary portion of the course so much she returned to try her hand at the full course.

She said her favorite part about the class is the teamwork the students build together.

“It takes a lot more teamwork than I thought it would,” she said, “and I’ve grown closer to my school mates throughout it.”

Upon successful completion of the course, the students are Serve Safe certified which means they can get jobs in restaurants outside of school, which Bluemel said will give her a step-up when looking for summer jobs.

The Prancing Pony is open every Wednesday at 12:35 p.m.

The second class of culinary artists operating out of the school will also complete the Serve Safe certification while serving up delicious dishes at the Bistro Under the Bighorns.

The Bistro opens in the heavily windowed cafeteria at TRHS for a gourmet dinner with a view that is planned, cooked and served by the students.

The students take turns writing the menu of the month in groups of three before heading to the kitchen and decorating the cafeteria with table clothes and lamps.

Kendall Walters is in his second year at the Bistro and says he enjoys watching the community appreciate his cooking.

“We like having people come and see what we’re capable of, taste our food and enjoy our company,” said Walters.

There are only two more chances to visit The Bistro Under the Bighorns this school year and reservations will be required.

The Bistro will open next on April 24 and the menu will include raspberry vinaigrette salad, ranch cucumber bread with lemon pepper, apple and horseradish glazed salmon, loaded baked potato, garlic French bread and chocolate mousse cake, all for $12.

Reservations for April 24 or May 15 may be made by calling Mischke at 655-2236 or by email at trmsplm@sheridan.k12.wy.us.

“They love being able to do the restaurants,” Mischke said. “They even have t-shirts they wear to school the day the restaurant is open.”

Both students agreed that while the highlight of the week is when the rare occasion get to eat their own cooking, the hardest part of the class is the bookwork.

The coursework teaches them food service techniques, rules, safety precautions and cooking guidelines.

“If it wasn’t for Miss Mischke there’s no way I would still be in foods,” said Bluemel. “There is a lot of stuff you have to know and it can be very tedious, especially when you want to just cook and eat all the time, but she makes it fun to get through all that stuff.”

Both classes earn college credit for their participation.

‘Piece of my Heart’ to premiere at the WYO Wednesday

SHERIDAN — In 1982, a wall was erected in Washington, D.C., bearing the names of the fallen soldiers of the Vietnam War.

Diane Carlson Evans attended the dedication of that monument and saw the names of her lost friends, family and patients and for the first time since the war, she started to reflect on what had happened.

“All those memories and feelings I had stuffed all those years were coming back and I finally started to grieve,” she said.

“I never cried over anything at all after Vietnam, until I stood at the wall and cried. From then on, I couldn’t stop.”

Evans said the memories started interrupting her daily life as she thought about all the healing and reflecting she and others were desperately needing. Yet all those years later the stories of the heroic nurses of the war had still not been told.

“If it wasn’t for those nurses in Vietnam, that wall would be a lot higher and longer than it was and people didn’t even think about that,” she said. “I was feeling this extraordinary guilt brewing inside me that I had unfinished business.”

 

One nurse’s tale

As a young girl on a dairy farm in Buffalo, Minn., Evans didn’t know that her desire to be a nurse would take her on a very long painful journey, but when war broke out and friends were killed she volunteered to serve.

Evans served in the Vietnam War at the age of 21, saving lives as a member of the Army Nurse Corps from 1968-69.

Evans witnessed so much pain. She has countless stories of heroes and heartbreak, including being airlifted to combat zone hospitals then seeing recovering men reinjured or killed as facilities were bombed.

Her biggest struggles, though, began upon returning home to a country that did not know how their women had served and didn’t appreciate what all of the soldiers had just survived.

“I became good at what I did over there, it made me tough,” Evans said. “But I didn’t know how tough I was going to have to be to get through mean-spirited people.”

Evans was one of the more than 260,000 women who served in the military during the Vietnam era, yet in most cases records of women in service were not kept and for those that were, stereotypes and misconceptions of what happened overseas made it as if their service did not exist.

As a result, many women tried to act like they were never there. The wounds left behind from what they experienced at war were only worsened by their attempts to forget and the lack of community support.

“I had just witnessed the suffering and dying of young men trying to support their country and then I came home and the country was not supporting them,” Evans said.

 

A monument erected

After the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial left her with a feeling of unfinished business, as founder of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation 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.

“In my pursuit of the monument, I had to battle some very powerful agencies and some very powerful men while tackling my own depression and raising four kids under the age of 10,” she said. “I had doors shut everywhere I went, even being called a ‘radical feminist using the Vietnam dead to further my cause’ by a newspaper in Missouri.”

After 10 years of battling, appeals before Congress, an appearance on “60 Minutes” and countless tears, in 1993 a women’s memorial was dedicated.

 

Stories to be told

Evans knew this was only the beginning as the statue could not actually tell the women’s stories which needed to be heard. She decided to host an annual open mic storytelling session in front of the statue which has continued each year since its dedication on Veterans Day.

Every person who served in the Vietnam War has a different story and each story contributes to personal healing, the healing of fellow veterans and the growth of knowledge and understanding of pieces of American history often overlooked. For these reasons and many others, Evans plans to attend the local performance of “A Piece of My Heart.”

The play is an adaptation by award-winning playwright Shirley Lauro of author Keith Walker’s 1986 novel. Walker — determined to tell the tales of the women of the Vietnam War — collected the stories of 26 women of war.

“Piece of My Heart” will be performed beginning at 7 p.m. April 16 at the WYO Theater and focuses on the experiences of six of those women.

“To me, it’s our responsibility to talk about this and tell the truth about war and what it does to the human psyche,” said Evans, “because we heal together, not alone.”

She will host a question and answer session after the production of the play.

 

School district holds illegal executive session, again

SHERIDAN — In the midst of a lawsuit between The Sheridan Press and Sheridan County School District 2 asserting that the district violated the Wyoming Open Meetings Act, it appears the board has done it again by discussing an agreement with the Sheridan Economic and Educational Authority behind closed doors.

Wyoming law demands that deliberations and actions of a public entity be done openly. Statutes also list exemptions under which governing bodies may hold closed executive sessions.

At the conclusion of the SCSD2 Board of Trustees regular board meeting Tuesday night, a motion was made to break into executive session — a closed meeting of the board in which the public may not be present, but Superintendent Craig Dougherty and SCSD2 attorney Kendal Hoopes were.

After an hour and a half behind closed doors, the board reconvened to vote on those items which were discussed.

One item was stated as an approval of an agreement with SEEDA.

SCSD2 had been a member of SEEDA — along with the city of Sheridan and Sheridan College — until the district’s recent decision to withdraw.

The Press asked via an email sent on Wednesday to Board Chairman Richard Bridger, Dougherty and SCSD2 Human Resources Coordinator Cody Sinclair that the district identify which exemption of the law allowed for that discussion to be held in a closed session. Sinclair replied, “We are not allowed by law to discuss what occurred in executive session.”

The problem with this reply, and this scenario, is threefold.

First, there is no law stating that the exemption being acted under cannot be disclosed. In fact, the opposite is true. The district should include in their motion to move the meeting to executive session the exemption under which they are motioning, which the district failed to do.

The second problem is that any and all documents created by a party to a public entity are public record. Therefore, if an agreement had been drawn up with SEEDA, which it had, this is a public document calling for public discussion and inspection.

The final and most significant problem is that, though the district has failed to respond to the repeated requests for information seeking to learn why they felt this action qualified to be handled behind closed doors, it does not appear that there is a valid reason.

A public records request was submitted by The Press to SCSD2, the city and the college, asking each to release any and all documents relating to the withdrawal of the district from SEEDA.

A copy of the agreement presumably being discussed in the closed meeting Tuesday night was delivered by the city Thursday.

The “Amendment to Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority Joint Powers Board Agreement” as well as the preceding “Memorandum of Understanding” both addressed the withdrawal.

The documents were reviewed by media law attorney Bruce Moats asking his professional opinion as to what reason, if any, this could have been discussed in executive session. The school board had listed personnel and legal matters on its agenda as general reasons for the executive session.

“I don’t see how this would involve personnel,” Moats said, “so without hearing their explanation we can only assume they were acting under the litigation exemption but based on the information at hand it appears there was no legal reason for them to be discussing this in executive session.”

The act provides 11 exemptions to the law allowing public entities to conduct business in private. Excluding those which could not apply to this situation, such as matters of national security, the district may have acted in this manner to seek legal counsel.

The Wyoming Open Meetings Act allows for legal matters concerning pending or proposed litigation to be discussed with an attorney in executive session.

Moats said this wording limits the attorney-client privilege in the context of open meetings strictly to those issue and excludes general attorney consultations, though some government attorneys have interpreted the act to allow governing bodies to use executive session for attorney consultations.

There has yet to be a trial challenging the interpretation in Wyoming but other states with similar exemptions have rejected the attorney-client privilege argument and favored openness.

According to SEEDA Administrator Robert Briggs, SEEDA has no known pending or proposed litigation with any other entity.

Additionally, Briggs said the SEEDA agreement with the district is likely slated for the consent agenda portion of the city’s next board meeting, not executive session.

If, per chance, the district was unsure of whether or not the issue qualified for this exemption, there are steps in place to determine if it would in fact qualify.

A precedent was set in the Wyoming Supreme Court in the public records case of Sheridan Newspapers v. City of Sheridan in 1983. The case states that to withhold information from the public, that information must meet two criteria: first, the release must be a harm to the public’s interest and second, that harm must outweigh the public’s right to know.

If there was doubt whether or not the details surrounding the withdrawal from SEEDA could harm the public to the extent that it outweighs citizens’ right to know, as an additional failsafe, the act is written that when unsure, parties involved should always act in favor of openness.

In fact, the exemptions set in the act simply allow a public entity to hold certain types of business in private, but in no way demands that they do so.

Each public entity can be as open or closed to the public on these matters as they choose to be. They cannot, however, choose to close public doors on any other matters.

Pets die in LaClede fire

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire Thursday morning at 1033 LaClede St. Two pets died in the fire and a third is still missing.

SFR Chief Terry Lenhart said crews were called to the location at 7:58 a.m. by an occupant of the building who had safely exited. Upon arrival, crews said the building had a heavy showing of smoke and an open fire in a portion of the home. Firefighters entered the building and initiated an interior attack on the flames, which were located predominantly in the kitchen area.

Lenhart estimated that about 15 percent of the house was engulfed by flames, but indicated the house would likely be suitable for recovery even though the damage was significant.

The home belongs to City Engineer Lane Thompson, who is currently out of town. Lenhart said the Thompsons had a relative staying in the home in their absence.

Lenhart verified two dogs died as a result of the fire and the family’s cat is unaccounted for at this time.

Investigators are working to determine the official cause of the blaze.

SFR was assisted in their emergency response by Goose Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Rocky Mountain Ambulance and the Sheridan Police Department.

Unmanned truck hits side of apartment building

SHERIDAN — An unmanned pickup truck rolled down a hill Tuesday morning and struck an apartment building.

No one was injured during the event, though the vehicle sustained significant damage to its front bumper and undercarriage.

Sheridan police responded to the incident at approximately 10 a.m. Sgt. Tom Henry said the unoccupied vehicle rolled approximately half a block down Colorado Street and across Big Horn Avenue before going down a steep embankment and into the corner of an apartment complex.

The vehicle was successfully pulled up the hill by a tow truck. Once on level ground, broken pieces of the front bumper were removed and the truck could still be started.

SPD Sgt. Travis Koltiska said the owner of the vehicle was cited for leaving a vehicle unattended improperly. He said that while the ordinance is rarely used, it applied in this situation because the truck did not have the parking brake engaged and the front wheels were not turned into the curb.

Koltiska said the truck was out of gear when it began rolling downhill, but said it would be nearly impossible to determine why.

Girl Scouts welcome home local troop

SHERIDAN — The Girl Scouts of Troop 1334 got a gracious surprise at their meeting Monday night as a recipient of their goodwill stopped by for a visit.

Jesse Workman of Sheridan recently returned home from his second Army deployment to Afghanistan.

While overseas, the girls of 1334 sent him care packages throughout both deployments complete with items they handpicked and an abundance of cookies, so Workman came to thank them for remembering him.

“We hardly ever get anything sweet,” Workman said, “and really it’s just nice to get something from home.”

The girls have been participating in the “Gift of Caring,” a patch earning community service effort of the Girl Scouts, for as long as they have been together, which for most of the troop is 11 years.

Troop leader Susan Hitchcock said that in one prior year’s effort 160 boxes of cookies were sent overseas from Sheridan after a letter to the editor from the troop printed in The Sheridan Press asking for donations.

In addition to the cookies, each girl picks out and purchases their own items to include, which have ranged from puzzle books to hand sanitizer.

Workman said he shared each of his care packages with his own troop overseas and noted that they never fought over the contents except for a friendly joust or eating competition with the one pound snickers bars.

“The snacks are great because you get whatever they feed you over there and almost every day it’s chicken and rice,” he said, adding that the first thing he did when he got stateside was order a pizza.

Workman, an Eagle Scout himself, was stationed in a town center training Afghanistan Policemen to be self-sustaining after U.S. troops depart.

He told the girls that the young policemen in training, who were as young as 12 years old, enjoyed the treats too.

The girls are no strangers to the comforting power of their cookies. As part of other community service projects, they have done things like sending thin mints to oncology centers because they heard it helps with the nausea.

Hitchcock said in her 21 years as leader of this troop, this is the first time any of their care package recipients has ever come to personally thank them, though two people did send thank you notes and one included a picture of himself with his Blackhawk.

“Most of the time the girls don’t even know if the cookies got there,” she said.

The troop gets suggestions from the Sheridan Veterans Council, their teachers and their family and friends on who to care for overseas and has already selected their next recipient, Michael Eliason, also in the army.

The troop will be selling their remaining boxes of cookies this Saturday in front of J.C. Penneys from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

Birds and Bees of the Bighorns

By Hannah Wiest

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — Let me tell you about the birds, and the bees, and the flowers and the trees — ahem, the real ones, not the ones of Dean Martin fame. While we’re at it, let’s talk about butterflies, beetles and bats, too.

These little critters, called pollinators, go unnoticed most of the time. But we would notice if they were gone.

“Native pollinators are responsible for one in every three bites of food we eat and the pollination of 75 to 95 percent of all flowering plants,” Big Horn resident Molly Clark said.

In other words, without bees and butterflies (and bats, beetles, flies, hummingbirds and some wasps and small mammals), those eye-popping fields of yellow balsam and purple lupine we anticipate each spring, and those red-ripe strawberries we eat each summer, and a host of other delights and necessities would decline and disappear.

In fact, they already are.

Pollinators are in peril, and Clark and Story resident Claire Leon have launched an effort to save them.

Right now, that effort includes a photographic display by Clark and Leon — “An Exhibit of Bees & Butterflies of the Bighorns and their Habitats” — in the Inner Circle at Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, but the photographers turned activists hope it will become much more.

About five years ago, Clark watched a film called “Vanishing of the Bees” about Colony Collapse Disorder, a recent phenomenon in which entire colonies of honeybees suddenly and mysteriously vanish or die off.

“It was a disturbing film to me,” Clark said. “It inspired me to do something.”

Clark brought the issue closer to home and began studying the health of native pollinators, not just commercial honeybee operations.

“Most of the news about native pollinators is just as disturbing. The numbers are dwindling around the planet, simultaneously,” Clark said.

Clark said suspected reasons for the decline of native pollinators include pesticide exposure, loss of habitat and food sources, global warming, genetically modified crops, fields of mono crops that feature only one kind of crop instead of a variety, and even the fear of being stung.

After studying native pollinators, Clark bought a camera and a macro lens to begin documenting the pollinators that populate the Bighorns and valleys and towns below. She planted a pollinator-friendly garden and was amazed that bees and butterflies began visiting immediately.

“It really is a plant it, and they wil come type of situation,” Clark said.

Clark then realized she could not tell the story of pollination without telling the story of the plants that pollinators pollinate. So she contacted Leon, who has photographed fields of flowers in the Bighorns for years as acting president of the Bighorn Native Plant Society.

The two teamed up to produce an exhibit about native pollinators and their habitats to begin spreading awareness about pollinators in peril and to encourage people in Sheridan County — and the state of Wyoming — to plant pollinator-friendly gardens. They hope to travel with the exhibit to schools, libraries, colleges and garden centers around the state.

“There is a great deal of loss of habitat where human activity happens. We alter the landscape for our own pleasure and needs, and all that is left is fragments here and there of the original ecosystem,” Clark said. “Problem is, those fragments are too far apart for bees to get to. Our native pollinators are starving to death.”

Clark said it is estimated that bees and other pollinators can go about 1-2 miles at most before needing to eat again. With the American system of plopping houses down in large expanses of lawn, the flowers and shrubs that feed pollinators are being lost. However, all hope is not lost.

“Anyone with a backyard can make a difference,” Clark said.

“Or a front yard,” Leon added.

Clark and Leon hope to plant demonstration pollinator gardens in Sheridan in a few parks and community garden plots. And they encourage all Sheridan County residents to consider planting their own pollinator-friendly gardens because every little oasis adds another patch back into the patchwork of the pollinator’s ecosystem.

While most garden centers tend to sell more exotic, non-native plants that are showier and more alluring, several centers, including Landon’s in Sheridan, do sell plants that are pollinator friendly. They are not native, but they are an adequate substitute.

“Imagine our town, our world, if our neighbors were all out planting flowers and how beautiful it would be,” Clark said. “The world of pollination is gorgeous, and colorful — and necessary.”

 

For some Sheridan residents, archery is a year-round sport

SHERIDAN — Wyoming’s bow hunting season for game is a small blip on the calendar that’s still months away, but for a small faction of Sheridan sportsmen, archery is a year-round calling. For hunters looking to bypass bullets in exchange for the more technical demands of a bow hunt, keeping archery skills polished pays off not only via a successful hunt in the fall, but with the immediate benefits of mental discipline.

“Usually, it’s a month or so before September that you see all the archers around here come out,” said Archery Technician Dave Thompson. “You find out who the die-hard archers are by how many times they come out this time of the year.”

Thompson works full time at Sheridan’s newest indoor archery range, Wildcat Archery, which is located approximately one mile out of town past the Information Center on East Fifth Street.

While Sheridan has had an indoor range located within Rocky Mountain Discount Sports that, according to owner Ron Lee, fields as many as 200 shooters per month, the new range features a longer potential range and variety of targets. Within its first month of opening, Wildcat already has sold about 50 new memberships.

Aside from the rush of adrenaline that accompanies a successful hunt, the sport of archery becomes its own event for many of Sheridan’s sportsmen. While the primary motivation for many shooters is ultimately to be successful at the moment of truth when an animal is in their sights during open season, some delve into the deeper intricacies and science of target shooting.

“The only reason I got into the target archery side is because it makes me a better hunter,” Thompson said.

In a target bow competition or league, top shooters measure their accuracy and satisfaction of a shot by mere millimeters. Sporting shooters are also known to have a different setup than a traditional hunter, which might include a stand or different sight equipment, and their goal is to achieve a steady shooting performance after hairsplitting, detailed adjustments.

“The target side of shooting is more technical than the hunting side,” Thompson explained. “It’s about how accurate you can be.”

Thompson said target archery is the ideal introduction to the sport for newcomers and young sportsmen.

“When kids start with good habits, they’re going to keep going with good habits,” he said, adding that archery can also serve as a secondary skill to teach life skills and discipline.

“Ninety percent of archery is in the mind,” Thompson said. “The easy part is shooting the bow.”

Even if an archer has no intention of ever taking down an animal, the concentration, discipline and physical ability involved can translate into a plethora of life endeavors. On top of that, it’s fun.

“From what I’ve figured out in research I’ve done is the number one related sport to archery is golf,” said Thompson. “You have to breathe right, there’s your stance, and a lot of the other things you have to do are the same.”

While a deer hunter probably won’t be carrying the extra bells and whistles a target shooter would on a shooting setup, the practice can pay off in confidence and ability when hunting season rolls around.

“In archery hunting, it’s crucial people become extremely proficient to place their arrow where they want it to get a quick, human kill of the animal,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Information Specialist Bud Stewart. “It’s no different than hunting with a rifle.”

While the concept of proficiency for ethical hunting is akin to that of hunting with a rifle, Thompson said part of the thrill in bow hunting is that it takes more skill and dedication to hunt with a bow. “It’s easy to pull a trigger, but it takes years of practice to use a bow,” he said.

A hunter in a position to take an ethical shot with a bow likely isn’t a mere hobbyist of archery. Together with true dedication to the sport and art of shooting arrows, bow season is now any other month of the year.

Just a trim, please

April Graham trims the hair on the legs of a client’s dog named Schroeder during a grooming appointment Thursday at Pride and Groom salon on Lewis Street.

Summer will mark the start of ‘Haven III’ subdivision

SHERIDAN — This summer, construction begins on a senior living multiplex that represents both a new frontier for a niche market in Sheridan as well as a concluding effort of a 17-year development endeavor.

The “Haven III” will fill the last designated section of land in the Holly Ponds subdivision and likely be the last major development project headed by Ron Patterson.

Haven III is a 48 condominium unit slated to be constructed across from the Welch Cancer Center on property that is formally zoned as part of the Holly Ponds complex.

In a new approach to senior living in Sheridan, the building will feature a living option for Sheridan’s older population that do not qualify for federal housing subsidies or need any level of assisted living or nursing services.

Current options for senior housing in Sheridan primarily include nursing homes, assisted living facilities or low-income housing.

But the $ 10 million Haven III will be unique in that it is simply a complex for older people in Sheridan to live among people of similar age while maintaining independent ownership of their living space.

“This is a midpoint, where there’s none available in Sheridan for those that have enough equity that the can’t apply for or be accepted into subsidized units,” explained Patterson, indicating he has identified approximately 400 households in Sheridan that fall under the niche market of older Sheridanites who are currently living with extra floor space and have enough equity that they do not qualify for financial assistance.

The three level senior congregate living building will feature an underground parking garage and apartments averaging 1,200 square feet of individual living space per unit.  An additional 4,800 square feet of shared communal space will include a hobby area, library and media room.

Patterson said he believes the latest installment will make for more well-rounded living options within the Holly Ponds development.

“I’ve built 98 townhouses over the last 20 years,” he said. “I’ve also been involved in 122 single family lot developments at Holly Ponds. Thats 220 households I’ve been involved with ready to move up to the next level.”

Patterson elaborated that the young families who moved into his earlier developments have likely become empty nesters now, and might appreciate a new place to live with more built-in companionship, no stairs and lower overhead costs.

Patterson said the projected costs of a new condominium will be between $194,000 to $$248,000. Residents would also pay a fee to a homeowners’ association and pro-rated utilities.

“As we did our study, we found an average home of this size runs about $600 a month,” Patterson said, when asked why the living complexes will not be individually metered. “We get a better rate this way and we expect it to be somewhere between $400 and $500 a month.”

Patterson added he plans to work closely with the Senior Center and other community agencies to facilitate transportation, meal deliveries and other communal services.

Construction of The Haven III is expected to take a full calendar year. Afterward, Patterson will have completed a 17-year development endeavor that began with the ponds themselves.

“Holly Ponds was, and still is, one of the largest (Planned Unit Developments) in the state,” he said. “When I did all of Holly Ponds, it had areas for commercial, business, R1, R2 and R3.”

Patterson said he expects to break ground on his last major project in a few months.

“This is the last spot in town I have that I’ll be able to do a development like this,’” ‘Patterson said. “Im not going to say I’m going to retire in a couple years, but I’m going to move down to the consulting and mentoring business. I like to do that. I always have I always will.”

Patterson said when complete, the Holly Ponds complex will feature living arrangements for all phases of life. While the development currently has townhouses and single-family homes to accommodate young families and empty nesters, the Haven III will cater primarily to the retired community.

Tidy trails kept by outdoors group

SHERIDAN — As the weather warms and the land dries out, outdoorsmen of all varieties will take to the trails.

Whether hiking, biking or on horseback, these trekkers will likely unknowingly owe a debt of gratitude to a small local chapter of a national organization for the lovely path they are following.

The Wyoming Back Country Horsemen of America have been cleaning and maintaining trails throughout the state since 1989 when the Riverton-Lander chapter of a Montana-based club formed.

Just two years later the second chapter in the state formed and the Cloud Peak BCH have been serving Sheridan, Buffalo and Gillette ever since.

The idea was born out of the concern of horsemen in Montana after The Wilderness Act of 1964 passed without specific identification of which uses of government owned wilderness would be considered appropriate.

The first club was formed there in 1973 and pressured legislators to add wording stating “traditional recreational saddle and pack stock use is recognized as an appropriate and historical use of wilderness.”

Today there are approximately 150 chapters nationwide with a total membership of more than 14,000 horsemen with a singular goal of protecting the people’s right and ability to use the backcountry trails.

Though there are no paid members, even at the national officer level, the club describes themselves as a “working group.”

Dwight French, president of the CPBCH, says the group will do any project they can to help keep trails open including building public trail head facilities.

Their duties include cutting back timber that has overgrown or fallen across a path and spending a great deal of time cleaning up trash.

The group lives by the motto “pack it in, pack it out” and even when on a family camping or hiking trip they vow to leave the areas they see in better condition than they found them. Recently a group even rode into the mountains on mules to break down and pack out old broken down snowmobiles that had been abandoned by riders.

Their hope is to leave no trace of man in the wilderness so future generations can have the same cherished experiences they have.

The biggest event each year is National Trails Day, held by all groups and trail enthusiasts nationally on the first Saturday in June.

Years ago, the chapter adopted a trailhead at Hole in the Wall and built highlines, created a public outhouse and painted trail signs to keep the public safe and on track. On the national working day, the group meets to provide maintenance to the items, repaint the signs, clear the paths of debris and pack out trash.

“We take care of everything we make for the community,” French said. “We also took under our belt the Buffalo Run, an 8000 acre area anyone can ride, walk or horseback on, so it’s not just trails.”

The group cleans that area and the stretch of highway along it twice a year.

But it is not just the public that is benefitting from the services of the group; their many volunteer hours help the National Forest Service stay in budget as well.

“The forest service doesn’t have the budget anymore to go around and clean all the trails, so we do what we can to help,” said French. “There are just too many trails for them to have the money and man power to maintain them all.”

The hours the volunteers log cleaning trails are recorded and sent to the Forest Service. According to the Bighorn National Forest Sheridan office, the Cloud Peak chapter personally contributed 206 hours of trail work in 2013, which equates to $3,090 in value. Since 1996, the Wyoming Back Country Horsemen of America have collectively contributed over $588,820 in volunteer labor on trails, at trailheads and in educational roles.

“We are fortunate to have a network of volunteers and partners who help us accomplish so much on the Bighorn National Forest,” said Susan Douglas of the BNF. “Volunteers are an integral part of the work we do and the Back Country Horsemen are an important part of the volunteer program”

The chapter has approximately 35 active family members and several single members, which cost $30 and $25 in member dues annually, respectively. Though the original members of the Cloud Peak group were primarily located in Buffalo, French says he has seen a shift recently and most of the group is now younger and more active people from Sheridan.

To be a member, all you need is a love of the outdoors and a commitment to keep it clean. Members do not need to own horses as most of the cleaning and maintaining is done on foot.

Though the horsemen log a lot of working hours they are always sure to make time to enjoy the fruits of their labor as well. Whether taking an hour to joy ride after a clean-up or organizing a group pleasure ride or hike, the Cloud Peak members know how to enjoy and preserve the beauty of the Wyoming Wilderness.

The next group meeting will be held April 22 at ERA Carroll Realty.

Fierce concentration

Delenn Layher paints a birdhouse at Buckingham Lumber’s vendor booth during the “Get out and Shop” event Saturday at Sheridan High School. More than 50 vendors from the region came to sell goods and wares in the gymnasium.

Long haul

SHERIDAN — Somewhere after the rolling mud hills and the leap over an 8-foot wall, but before carrying a 30-pound sand bag up a steep hill and the Herculean Hoist, Rob Michaud realized that in Spartan Race terms “The Beast” really is a beast.

“I found out in the first mile that, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m going to die here,’” Michaud said. “I had to slow down and trot it. I had a horrible first race. I can’t believe I finished it.”

After that first mile, there were 11 more to go. Michaud was wet and muddy and had muscles screaming at him that he didn’t even know he had.

But, he finished.

And three months later, Michaud was running in the elite class at his second Spartan Race in Illinois.

“Spartan Races definitely woke me up to how fit you need to be. Ever since, I’ve been trail running, and I’m kind of addicted,” Michaud said.

Some may think he is addicted to pain, but he would say he is addicted to the challenge of becoming a stronger, healthier version of himself.

“I’m the type of person that if you fail at something, you want to try to do better next time,” Michaud said. “In other words, if you get your butt kicked, you want to get up and fight back.”

It is that attitude that has made this Big Horn resident Wyoming’s top Spartan Race obstacle course competitor — and one of the top 50 Spartan Racers in the world. In 2013, Michaud placed 48th, which earned him a free race pass to all races this year. He typically places in the top five in his age group of 40-44.

Spartan Races, which are sponsored by Reebok, have been considered the global leader in obstacle course racing since 2005, and are tougher than tough mudders, warrior dashes and other trail runs.

Spartan has three levels of races for men and women. The shorter Spartan Sprint is 3-7 miles, the Super Spartan is 8 or more miles, and the Spartan Beast is 10-12 miles. The Ultra Beast is a full marathon with obstacles along more than 26 miles.

Yes, that’s right, Michaud jumped right into the beast with only eight weeks to train for it because his friend, John Billings, mentioned that he was doing a Spartan Race in Utah, and Michaud wanted to know more about it.

He doesn’t remember the particulars of the conversation but it could have gone something like this:

“What’s this race you’re running?”

“The Spartan? It’s this 12-mile race with obstacles every quarter-mile or so.”

“What kind of obstacles?”

“Oh, you know, fun stuff. First, you run through some water then climb a muddy hill, then run through some more water, then climb a few more muddy hills. Then you run through some more water and climb a rope and ring a bell at the top. After that, you jump a wall.”

“How high of a wall?”

“Four feet, 8 feet, somewhere in there. Then you haul a chunk of concrete up a pulley for the Herculean Hoist, carry a chunk of concrete 50 yards, do some burpees, haul a 30-pound sand bag up a steep hill, jump a few more walls and throw a spear 30 feet.”

“What if you miss?”

“You don’t want to miss.”

“Why?”

“Humiliation. You do 30 burpees in front of thousands of spectators.”

Somewhere around this point in the conversation, Michaud said, “Sign me up!”

Michaud was fresh off a career of building houses and knew he was in decent shape. However, he hadn’t run much since his years in Hershey Track and high school athletics.

He ran in the open category on his first race then moved into the elite category on his second race in Illinois, where he placed 40th out of approximately 250 “elite” male competitors. On a typical weekend race, there can be more than 5,000 people racing.

The next year, in 2013, he ran 15 races in locations all over the U.S. including California, Illinois, Montana, Utah and the world championship in Vermont.

Someday, Michaud hopes to run internationally. Spartan Races are held all over the world in places like Australia, Chile, Hungary and South Africa.

No matter where he races, though, Michaud will continue to train in the Bighorn Mountains. He runs to the top of Red Grade Road at least once per week, which is 3 miles each way with an elevation gain of 2,000 feet. He is pushing himself to do the whole run without stopping.

Michaud also runs on the Soldier Ridge Trail west of Sheridan. He drags sandbags on his runs and also built a haystack target in his backyard to practice the spear throw.

“My first couple of races, everybody on their first race didn’t hit the spear throw, so it was automatic burpee-ing,” Michaud said. “The spear throw is always at the end, so you have all these people watching, and then you miss and must do burpees in front of thousands of people. When I missed on my first one, I said, ‘I’ll set up a throw like all these others have done,’ and it’s been a good idea.”

Michaud also trains in many local races like the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run and even shorter runs like the Run ‘Til Your Green Fun Run. He also has plans to open a gym in Sheridan in the next year or so to promote a healthier lifestyle for any and all who are interested.

Moreover, in the last year, the Spartan Race has become a family affair, Michaud said.

His wife, Krista, has been training for six months to get ready for her second race in Montana. And his boys, Bryce, 15, Brock, 13, and Bridger, 11, often run mini races when they travel with their Spartan dad around the U.S.

“It’s pretty extreme. It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It just wipes you out. It’s that challenge that people seek to try to prove they can do it,” Michaud said. “I think the founders of Spartan were out to get people off the couch to do something more in life.”

 

The champion tree

BIG HORN — In 1880, William Jackson arrived in Big Horn as one of the area’s first settlers. More than likely, he brought along a cutting from a tree as part of his possessions. The next year, he built a small cabin on a creek, later named Jackson Creek in his honor, and planted the tree nearby.

That tree still stands today and was recently named a Champion Tree of Wyoming.

The Champion Tree Program is a national program, administered locally in Wyoming by the Wyoming State Forestry Division. The program seeks to identify and recognize the largest specimens of both native and introduced tree species in the state and nation.

“It is a tremendously fun project,” said Marty Flanagan, who works with the program from Big Timber, Montana. “There have been some great stories over the years.”

Flanagan has been associated with the program in Montana for over a decade. Last April, after an article ran in the Billings Gazette about the tree program, Flanagan received a call from Big Horn resident Leigh Helvey. Helvey said she had a tree on her property that Flanagan really should see.

Flanagan recently visited Helvey and inspected the tree. He took measurements of it and heard Helvey’s story of its history. Additionally, staff from Wyoming State Forestry came to take measurements and on Monday, Flanagan received word that the tree was officially recognized as the largest eastern cottonwood in the state.

“This tree now is your state champion eastern cottonwood,” he said.

Mark Ellison, Wyoming Champion Tree coordinator, said that Helvey’s husband Charles actually contacted state forestry several years ago, suggesting that the tree on his property might be one of the largest and oldest cottonwoods. However, it was assumed the cottonwood was of the ‘plains’ variety, which is the official state tree, and there are other larger specimens of that variety.

“Looking back, she nominated this tree, actually her husband did, Charles, quite a few years ago, back in 2001,” he said. “I think this tree was probably thought to be a plains cottonwood, and we have a bigger plains cottonwoods, so it didn’t become a state champion due to the fact they didn’t identify it properly initially.”

Ellison said distinguishing between the many varieties of cottonwood can be tedious, detail-oriented work, based mainly on leaf variations. However, he said Flanagan did the identification work and identified the tree as an eastern cottonwood, which put it in a new category for Champion Tree.

While plains, narrowleaf and black cottonwoods are native to some parts of Wyoming, according to Ellison, the eastern cottonwood is not.

“More than likely it was brought from somewhere,” Ellison said about Helvey’s tree. “So wherever those folks came from that settled the property, it likely came from that area.”

To determine championship status, Flanagan said three measurements are taken of the tree, the circumference or girth, measured at 4.5-feet from the ground, the height of the tree, and the size or width of the crown. The three scores are combined to create one composite score. Both Flanagan and state forestry scored the tree and Ellison combined the two sets of measurements to create the official score.

Additionally, Flanagan took several cuttings, which will be used to clone the tree. He said the cuttings were sent to the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Plant Materials Center in Bridger, Mont.

Once the cuttings are rooted, they will be transferred to the Special K Ranch, located near Columbus, Mont. to continue growing. The ranch, which serves adults with developmental disabilities, operates a large nursery and more than two-dozen greenhouses and will raise the trees until they are large enough to be planted in a park or other safe location.

“All we’re doing is rooting the cuttings of last year’s growth on these trees,” Flanagan explained. “We are saving the genetics of these old trees and getting them put in safe places like parks and repositories where they should be safe for a long time. If we ever have to tap into some of these old genetics to help new trees coming along, we’ll have these banks of trees to draw on. It is important.”

In addition to its large size, Helvey’s tree is particularly hardy and long-lived as well. A plant fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that eastern cottonwoods are usually a short-lived tree, often surviving only to 80 years or so.

Ellison said he thinks cottonwoods in our area may live longer, around 100 years, but at 133 years old, Helvey’s tree is still an especially long-lived specimen. Both he and Helvey believe the tree’s health and longevity is tied to its ideal location…on an irrigation ditch.

“I think the reason it has lived so long is because it is so wet here,” Helvey said. “It is very wet where this house is. There are two irrigation ditches that go by it. It is quite boggy, even in mid summer. We have taken very good care of it and trimmed it several times, which is not an easy job.”

Two other state champion trees are located in Sheridan County, a green ash and a Rocky Mountain maple. More information about champion trees can be found on the Wyoming State Forestry website.

 

Pickett fans flock to see Box

C.J. Box talks to fans during the book signing for his latest Joe Pickett novel “Stone Cold” on Thursday at Sheridan Stationery, Books and Gallery on Main Street.

Public safety organizations continue switch to WyoLink

SHERIDAN — Sheridan is wired to a statewide emergency talk network. After a phasing process that took several years, the WyoLink radio communication system is the primary dispatch tool for most of Sheridan’s public response agencies.

WyoLink is a statewide digital network consisting of 57 core tower sites that provide uniform communication capabilities to government agencies ranging from police to public works departments. The WyoLink program is an evolution from variable analog two-way radio systems that were previously maintained by individual agencies.

Statewide Interoperable Coordinator Bob Symons said the origin of migrating to a unifying communication method for government agencies started when the Federal Communications Commission issued new regulations requiring public safety and industrial land mobile radio systems to half the kilohertz efficiency of the technology.

Around that time, nearly a decade ago, the state did its own study and considered three possibilities to comply with the new federal regulation. The first was to do nothing and have each agency keep their existing radio systems, which would not have been a sustainable option in the long term. The second was a statewide coverage system utilizing 800 megahertz and 120 tower location sites. The third option, a model that later became WyoLink, was a VHF digital trunking system that required only 57 tower sites for statewide coverage and projected the least expense for the state. A “trunking” system is one that provides for many users in a talk group to share a relatively small number of frequency channels by utilizing whichever channel is vacant.

Sheridan’s WyoLink system, which connects local police, sheriff’s deputies, ambulance services, fire districts and even local government public works departments, is primarily served by four towers. The closest is just outside of town on Kroe Lane. There’s another at Banner Ridge and in eastern Campbell County at a site approximately four miles from Spotted Horse called Chicken Creek. The newest tower at Duncan Lake in western Sheridan County, was added approximately two years ago.

While the average WyoLink tower costs between $750,000 and $800,000, some at more remote locations can be upward of $1 million because of construction and transportation costs. Each tower is a technology hotbed with and emergency generator, microwave backhaul and state-of-the-art functional capacity.

Symons said in addition to better sound quality offered via digital transmission, as opposed to the older analog radios, WyoLink allows emergency responders to hear radio traffic from multiple agencies without reprogramming or changing channels on their own radios. The trunking radio also automatically selects the most advantageous tower to use to send communication signals.

“They don’t need to know what frequency they’re on, they just need to know who they need to talk to,” Symons said, drawing a distinction between the bemoaned old days, when each emergency agency had its own channel that had to be programmed into individual radios and cross-referencing of conversations was a laborous undertaking.

Other “bells and whistles” included in WyoLink capabilities are encryption capabilities, additional channels, automated vehicle location, remote control and panic functions.

One of the biggest selling points for proponents of the WyoLink system is that it provides for interoperability, meaning different agencies can communicate seamlessly during a situation that might require the involvement of multiple entities. An example might be a chase that crosses county lines or a large-scale emergency where help is needed from police, fire and ambulance resources.

The type of transmission emitted by WyoLink can be picked up anywhere within the network of service. For example, a Sheridan police officer could hear local radio traffic even if they are at the other end of the state. While an analog signal would have dropped off after so many miles, the WyoLink digital signal can be relayed between tower sites across the state. While the capability for emergency personnel to listen in on local radio transmission is there, the practice of “dragging traffic” into another jurisdiction is discouraged because it creates significant competition for airspace.

The transition to WyoLink happened in gradual steps, with the highway patrol serving as a pilot agency. While there are still three to four towers scheduled to go up in other areas of the state, the majority of the project is complete and in its operational phase, and has been funded via the state’s general funds, to the tune of $52 million as of May of last year. An additional $19 million came from transportation expenditures and federal grants chipped in another $6 million. The price tag for the new communication technology frontier continues to climb from its existing $80 million mark, as the system requires periodic software updates and other maintenance .

Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Conrad said though the WyoLink program claims to cover up to 95 percent of the state, less Yellowstone National Park, law enforcement personnel in Sheridan County still experience dead spots where there is no service. For those times, he said, analog radio transmission is used to fill in.

“There are holes and gaps in the system, no unlike the original system,” Conrad said. “We have just had to learn over time where we need to be to be able to hit a tower.”

Conrad said there are still some agencies straggling to jump on the WyoLink bandwagon, usually because of funding issues. For example, Sheridan’s Search and Rescue volunteers use radios that are hand-downs from other agencies.

Rocky Mountain Ambulance, a private agency, had to absorb the costs of having the newer radios as part of their operating budget. Manager Troy Goodwin said his company’s switch to the WyoLink system was “a lot better” compared to the previous communication system, but indicated RMA frequently still relies on analog radios because some fire districts on the periphery of Sheridan have not yet made the switch.

Aside from equipment upgrades dependent on the capabilities of individual agencies, Symons hails WyoLink as a best-case scenario.

“You’re never going to get 100 percent coverage,” he said, acknowledging that working around service gaps is a learning process for workers who rely on the system.

“I’m not a salesman,” Symons said as a disclaimer. “I belong to a lot of national organizations that talk about interoperable communication, and Wyoming is a leader. That makes me feel good.”

“I think it’s wise for agencies to go to it,” Conrad agreed. “Otherwise, you’ll become an island.”

 

 

Local sausage maker grinds out two awards

SHERIDAN — A Sheridan-based sausage company racked up two awards at the Wyoming and Colorado Meat Processors Association convention earlier this month. Legerski’s chorizo sausage won grand champion placement in the specialty cooked sausage category and the Polish sausage was also named reserve grand champion in its respective category.

“That’s a big deal to me because I’ve never competed before,” Legerski Sausage Owner Jimmy Legerski said. “It’s kind of a rarity to win an award the first time, let alone two awards.”

Legerski said approximately 75 people attended this year’s convention March 14-16 in Laramie, and there were a dozen entries for each award category.

While the convention was the premiere exposure of Legerski’s Sausage among meat industry experts, the family’s signature products have been a staple of Sheridan’s local economy for decades. Legerski’s grandfather initiated the family’s trade in 1927 when he started up Legerski Meats, which operated until 1963. From then, the company was known as the Sheridan Meat Company, though as a different company than the one that exists today. Then, in 1986, Legerski’s father and two uncles split the business into three legs: one became a cattle buyer, one ran a meat packing plant at Acme and the other uncle, George Legerski, made sausage. In the most recent leg of the family history, George’s Sausage operated in Sheridan, and Jimmy Legerski worked with his uncle from 2000 to 2012. Today, Jimmy Legerski is the last in the family to carry on the family trade of meat processing.

As of the first of the year, Legerski changed the name of the family product from “George’s Sausage” to “Legerski’s Sausage.”

 

Otherwise, his product is consistent with the traditional recipe formally established in 1963.

While the family’s sausage recipes have been similar throughout the decades, ’63 was the year a uniform recipe was established and documented for the purpose of U.S. Department of Agriculture inspections.

Today, all of Legerski’s Sausage is authorized for retail, while the polish, italian and chorizo sausages are also available for wholesale distribution. Plans are in the works to form stronger ties within the community by having the sausage available at local restaurants to be incorporated into existing menu items. Legerski said he’s not interested in seeing his sausage sold at local grocery stores, though, as it would drive traffic away from his main location next to the Maverick gas station on North Main Street. However, he said he would consider allowing out-of-town grocers to carry his product as a step to expand distribution.

Legerski said that while some processors might take feedback from the convention and tweak their recipes, he said he’s keeping his tried and true formulas the same. Sticking with the script serves two purposes: it upholds a tradition established by generations of entrepreneurship, and it also avoids the debacle of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

“I’ve known for a long time that we have good sausage,” he said. “I hear it from customers all the time.”

Now, the common knowledge of Legerski’s regular clients that the sausage is one of the best in the region is backed with two awards.

Legerski said that while his business is subject to seasonal changes in traffic volume, he sells between 600 and 800 pounds of sausage each week to local customers.

 

 

 

Making way for history

SHERIDAN — The barn on West Fifth Street began its journey to a new location Sunday. The structure, roughly 90 years old, was the last telltale landmark of a ranch that once existed near the fairgrounds, and is now privately owned.

While several interest groups, including the Sheridan Community Land Trust, had expressed interest in acquiring the historic barn and relocating it to either the Sheridan County Fairgrounds or another site to be used as a public facility, none of those plans ever materialized. State officials put the barn up for public auction last fall, and the building only received one bid — for $10. Thus, a deal was made, and the barn became the property of local rancher Carey Sampson.

The beehive barn began its career as a staple structure of the North Heights Ranch, which was purchased in the late 1950s by Donald Hudson Roberts. It’s listed on the city of Sheridan’s Register of Historic Landmarks and served as a community gathering place in the 1930s and 1940s.

The “beehive” architecture of the structure is also unique in that the process of shaping the curved ribs is uniquely more time intensive than other structural possibilities for a barn, but the result is more storage space on the upper level.

The barn served its intended function until approximately 15 years ago, when the land and building were purchased by Rockwell Petroleum. At that time, Rockwell agreed to incorporate a historic easement for the barn after the purchase, and had discussed plans to use the building for an oil and gas library.

However, Rockwell went bankrupt and the state of Wyoming bought the land roughly five years ago without the historic easement agreement.

The Rockwell building and improvements were converted into the existing DEQ office, but the barn went undesignated.

The barn’s designation on the city’s historic register is largely an idealogical suggestion that adds to its fanfare, but carries no real weight in terms of mandating historic preservation or consideration. A conservation easement, like the one discussed when Rockwell bought the property, offered more leverage. When the property fell under the state’s control, administrators quickly identified the barn as a liability and indicated it would need to be torn down or relocated.

Project Manager with the State of Wyoming Construction Management Office Ian Catellier said the barn was in need of significant upkeep, to include a new roof and paint. The maintenance, he said, would not be worth the investment of taxpayer dollars, especially considering the building was no longer being used for anything.

That’s why, last fall, the barn was advertised for sale in a sealed bidding process. The proposed deal was whoever got the barn by bidding the highest would also be responsible for expenses associated with moving the building and reclaiming the land where the barn stood.

“The reason for the state disposing of the property this way was we wanted to be respectful of the original owners’ wishes and not demolish it,” Catellier said, adding he was happy to see the historic barn taken under the wing of a new family.

When the barn was sold, there were no guarantees it was in any condition to be relocated. The building was first lifted off the ground and observed for several days to ensure it would likely hold together while being trucked to a new location.

The transport of the barn from its historic site to its new patch of land on the Sampson family’s property past the gun range on the west end of Keystone Road is approximately six miles. Because of the barn’s stature, several sets of power lines will have to be raised to allow the 38-foot building to pass underneath.

The first such endeavor was less than 50 feet from the beginning of the barn’s journey, when the lines cross over Mydland Road at the intersection with Fifth Street.

Montana-Dakota Utilities Spokesman Mark Hanson said no customers were affected by the required electrical outage for that crossing, but there are a few more scheduled for Thursday and approximately 97 customers along West Fifth Street, Soldier Creek Road and Keystone Road will experience a power outage between 9 a.m. and noon. Hanson said those customers will be notified via telephone of the scheduled outage in their area.

The county also noted that travelers heading in that direction should proceed with caution and be aware that the barn may inhibit travel while it is en route.

Search continues: Sandhill cranes return to area

BIG HORN — Before flocks of tourists descend on Sheridan County for myriad summer events, another flock of visitors swoops in and sets up summer homes in some of the area’s prime real estate with views of the Bighorn Mountains and good eating nearby.

These visitors arrive like clockwork around March 17 and stay through August. Snowbirds of sorts, they then make the long journey back to Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, N.M.

It is the first 800-mile flight to Bosque for the baby sandhill cranes — called colts — that call places like The Brinton Museum, Parkman and Soldier Creek their birthplace. In fact, the colts that are born here will return to their Sheridan County summer home for the rest of their relatively long lives.

Once a Wyomingite, always a Wyomingite, it seems.

“What’s interesting about cranes is they have a lot of site fidelity and family fidelity. They have the same mate for their lifespan, which in the wild is very different than in captivity, so maybe 13, 14, 15, 20 years. And it’s the same pair,” Sheridan College Professor of Anatomy and Physiology Jackie Canterbury said.

Canterbury and several members of the Big Horn Audubon Society ventured out Saturday to The Brinton Museum to see if they could spot the tall, lanky visitors that have settled into the wetlands near the museum. There is at least one known pair of greater sandhill crane that reside near The Brinton.

Several other pairs have also been spotted around Big Horn, along Upper Road, in the Soldier Creek area and near Parkman. In fact, Canterbury said she spotted approximately 35 cranes near Parkman on Sunday.

“These are the Rocky Mountain Sandhill Cranes, and the population is thought to be about 20,000, generally. We have quite a few breeding pairs here, but nobody knows. There haven’t been really good surveys, and that’s kind of what this group is doing, hopefully, is looking to see how many pairs we have and where they are,” Canterbury said.

This week, the cranes will be feeding in the lands around their nesting areas to replenish their fat supply that was diminished over the flight to Wyoming, so it is a good week to try to spot the visitors. Canterbury said to remember to be quiet and keep a safe distance when viewing.

By early April, the cranes will begin to breed and need to be left alone, Canterbury said, discouraging treks to spot sandhill cranes during the breeding and fledgling season which lasts from April through mid-July.

The breeding ritual involves an elaborate dance and unison call that the pairs use to re-establish their couple status, much like a yearly renewal of vows, Canterbury said.

Typically, each pair lays two eggs, and they take turns incubating them for 30 days. The larger male sits on the eggs overnight, and then the female crane sits on them through the day. They changeover incubation duties like clockwork at about 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Once the eggs hatch, the colts enter a 70-day fledgling period. The incubation and fledgling period are a vulnerable time for the young birds who are in danger from snapping turtles, foxes, coyotes and other predators. Often only one of the two colts make it through the summer, Canterbury said.

The fledgling period is a time of learning and bonding. Parents transfer critical information about geography, safe foraging sites and roosting sites to their colts.

“They’ll teach the colt how to fly, how to dance, how to call. It’s pretty amazing. And then they’ll teach the colt how to fly and the route back. So the family bond is very incredible because it’s teaching and learning,” Canterbury said.

Canterbury said each family has its own call so that they can locate each other during migratory flights. She also said the strong family bonds make hunting — which is allowed in Wyoming — detrimental to the crane population.

The sandhill cranes stay in the area through August.

“Six months are spent here, so half their life cycle. This is a really important place for them,” Canterbury said.

On Saturday, no cranes were spotted by the group. But they did see a great blue heron and a herd of elk through their binoculars. And they enjoyed a quiet morning hushed by a fresh coat of snow, shrouded in mist, with the sense of anticipation birdwatching brings.

“The magic of birdwatching is not necessarily finding the bird. It’s exploring. It’s curiosity, and it’s learning about where they might be at one time,” Canterbury said. “When you go out, like today, we didn’t see the cranes, but I know they’re around, so it gets my heart pumping about thinking where they are. When you do find them, it’s just magic.”

 

Crane facts

• There are two races of sandhill cranes in Wyoming: the lesser sandhill crane migrates through the eastern plains and the greater sandhill crane nests in montane meadows and wetlands in the Bighorn Mountains.

• Cranes typically lay two eggs and incubate them for 30 days.

• The cranes that come to Wyoming most likely winter along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

• Cranes form permanent pair bonds after two to three years of maturing.

• Sandhill crane flocks can number in the thousands.

• Colts born in the summer begin to shed their gray crown feathers the next spring to reveal bare red skin that is vital for communication. At that time, the colts’ voices begin to change from a high-pitched whistle to a lower, more throaty note as their windpipes lengthen.

• Cranes reach heights of 2.5 to 4 feet tall and weigh 9-10 pounds when full grown.

• The trumpet call of cranes sounds like a French rolled ‘R’ sound.

• The Rocky Mountain Sandhill Crane population is estimated at 20,000-30,000 but little is known about population size and trends in Wyoming.

 

On TV

Catch local bird expert Dr. Jackie Canterbury and her mentor and crane expert Dr. Paul Johnsguard on a TV special about the sandhill cranes on the Platte River in Nebraska during the CBS News Hour tonight.

 

 

Unusual instruments, familiar notes
SHERIDAN — Not all instruments sound alike and not all musicians march to the beat of the same drum, or bodhran.
These artists found and learned their art on instruments unfamiliar to most people by appearance, but with well-known sounds.
Bill Bradshaw
What is the instrument you play?
Mandolins. I call one Mrs. Stiver and Mr. Kimble. Those are the people that made them.
How did you first become interested in this instrument? I was in graduate school in Louisiana and a friend played different stringed instruments and he had this old Aria mandolin that he let me play and he taught me a couple of fiddle tunes. It was something I was able to do. It was intuitive on the mandolin. I tried to play guitar a little off and on over the years and it never gelled, but it did with the mandolin. So then my wife bought that mandolin from him and gave it to me as a gift.
How did you learn to play it? I am self-taught by books, listening, watching other people play and listening to other people play. I taught myself how to read music. I’ve probably had three lessons in my life and the last two were really very helpful. I had been playing long enough that it meant something. I was pushing 30 when I started playing. That is relatively late to expect to be real good.
Do you know the history of the instrument?
It is an old instrument, with European, maybe Asian roots. One is an A and one is a F. The A model is older; the F model was developed in the 1920s by the Gibson Company mostly. Essentially they look and play the same. You pay a lot for the fancy scrolls (designs on the instrument) but they don’t mean anything. The sound box dimensions are the same on both kinds. The Stradivarius design on violins was adopted by mandolin makers, I believe by the Gibson Company. That was a stroke of genius.
What makes your instrument special or important in a band?
It depends on the band of course and the type of music you are playing. In an Irish setting, it plays the melody along with the fiddle. In a blue grass band it tends to be the snare drum of the group, but there is typically not a drummer in a blue grass band, so it is the back beat. And they are also very well known for brilliant, inspirational, really cool instrumental leads. They work really well in a jazz, bluegrass or classical setting. They do well in any genre. One of Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits had a mandolin in it. People ask me what it is all the time. For as versatile as they are and as many genres as they show up in they are surprisingly unknown. But they’ve been around forever.
Steve Baskin
What is the instrument(s) you play?
I play an instrument called a bodhran. It is an Irish frame drum. They usually vary in diameter from 14 to 18 inches, but there are smaller and larger drums as well.  The single drumhead is traditionally made of goat skin, but synthetic heads are also now available.  The drum is played in an upright position and is struck using a beater called a cipin or tipper, but also can be played using the bare hand.

How did you first become interested in this instrument?
I began playing jazz on a drum set when I was 12, so any kind of drum and percussion interests me.  I saw Celtic Sage perform when I first moved here and loved the rhythm component of the group.  I immediately thought it would be fun to play that kind of music.  A few years later there was an opening in the group for a bodhran player, and I auditioned and got the job.
How did you learn to play it?
I learned by watching videos and reading about technique. But mostly by just playing with recorded music of every Irish group I could get my hands on. After awhile, rhythm and technique meld into the ability to play on a high level.
Do you know the history of the instrument?
The history is somewhat in dispute. Some say the drum has an ancient history in Ireland and can trace it back hundreds of years. Others say that it is a fairly recent instrument on the music scene. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Simple frame drums like the bodhran are found in cultures throughout the world.  The bodhran seems not to have gained widespread use and acceptance until the 1960s and 1970s, when it began to be played in many groups with the resurgence of Irish folk music in that era.  It is, however, unique in the way it is played and that gives it a very distinctive sound which works well with the cadence of Irish music.
What makes your instrument special or important in a band?
The bodhran is simply the pulse of Irish music.  It has such a distinctive sound when coupled with Irish melody and time signatures that you know on hearing the song that it is Irish!
Jim Hardin
What is the instrument you play?
Besides the guitar, I play two unique instruments. One is called the banjolele, which is a cross between a banjo and ukulele. It is a four-string instrument that tunes and chords like a ukulele, but has a small banjo head on it that helps you get more volume with it’s snare design and the sound of a banjo. The other is the guitalele, which is a cross between a classical guitar and ukulele, having six nylon strings and about one-fourth the size of the typical guitar.
How did you first become interested in this instrument?
After spending most of 2012 battling Stage 4 throat and neck cancer, I thought I would give up playing and singing music. A friend named Doug at the VA hospital where I work encouraged me to take a jam session class in the spring of 2013 led by Lynn Young, a prominent musician and jammer from Johnson County. With Lynn as my “musical therapist” and his sidekick named Bill, I was able to regain some skill in playing the guitar and singing, though not as the high tenor I used to be. Through this class I became connected to multiple jam sessions in Sheridan County and even helped start one in Story and the VA hospital for both patients and employees. We have banjos, fiddles, mandolins, upright bass guitars, dobros and, of course, guitars.
I wanted to play more than just the guitar as some others could, but wanted something different, so after a little research I chose the banjolele, soon to be followed by the guitalele. Needless to say, I selected unique instruments which raised some eyebrows and provided some source for jokes at my expense, but it’s all in good fun.
How did you learn to play it?
I’ve been playing the guitar since I was 15 years old (I am 53 now) which I learned as a result of getting an “F” in algebra. My father grounded me for six weeks, which meant house arrest in my bedroom after school. Instead of studying extra in algebra I used my “confinement” to teach myself guitar as I had one my parents bought the year before. It did not take an “F” in algebra to get me to learn the banjolele or guitalele, but I did teach myself to play these as well. I used charts and YouTube videos to assist with learning the banjolele. The guitalele chords just like a grown up guitar so I just need to remember that I am playing a fourth higher from guitar tuning. For those who understand music this just means that when I play a typical “G” chord on the guitar, it is actually a “D” chord on the guitalele.
Do you know the history of the instrument?
Supposedly, the banjolele was invented in 1917 by Alvin Keech, who manufactured many of these instruments. They became a staple in Vaudeville acts and were played by prominent musicians, including George Harrison. The key advantage of the banjolele is you get a very playable small compact instrument like a ukulele that adds the volume of a banjo, even with a head of only six to eight inches in diameter. As for the guitalele, frankly I think it evolved from a toy guitar. I believe it is a relatively newer instrument and was designed primarily for its compact size, making it easy to take on trips. Serious players can spend several hundred dollars on a guitalele.
 What makes your instrument special or important in a band?
Both of the instruments provide comic relief if nothing else, especially the banjolele. They do provide high pitched sounds which blend well with deep sounding stringed instruments. They are very easy to learn to play, very compact, and when you play these it is not hard to think happy thoughts. You just can’t sing a sad sounding song with instruments that sound like a ukulele. In other words, even a song like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams can’t help but sound happy on these instruments. Whether through chuckles or their sound, these are important to the band as they brighten a crowd up.
Joan Puma
What is the instrument you play?
It is the Little Lady harmonica-ette by Hohner—only one octave from high C.
How did you first become interested in this instrument?
I have several regular size harmonicas and maybe 30 years ago stumbled on this one, probably as a joke. I’ve kept it in the car year-round, so the plastic case has partially melted.
How did you learn to play it?
I’m not sure I’ve learned to play any of my harmonicas—you just sort of breathe in and out—the key you’re playing is conveniently on the out breath.
Do you know the history of the instrument?
A free reed instrument, says Wikipedia, in 1857, Matthias Hohner, a clockmaker from Trossingen, started producing harmonicas.
Eventually he became the first to mass-produce them. He used a mass-produced wooden comb that he made by machine-cutting firms.
What makes your instrument special or important in a band?
A harmonica player like James Cotton or Little Walter (there ain’t many like them!) lifts a blues band to Seventh Heaven!
Big West Arts Fest to be replaced with symposium

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College visual and performing arts department announced today its intention to launch the Sheridan College Cultural Arts Symposium, a new cross-disciplined, student-centered event, to replace the Big West Arts Festival.

SC art faculty member Rod Dugal said the new event will allow the college to shift resources and increase involvement of students with the community.

“The Big West was a wonderful event, started in 2006 with the intention of providing additional opportunities for the community to come to campus and interact with our students,” Dugal said. “That event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the local musicians, artists and supporters of the arts.

“Our visual and performing art faculty members are excited about the idea of an even greater event with a slightly different focus, but the end result will still be to provide opportunities for the community to visit campus and have an experience around the arts,” he continued.

The Sheridan College Cultural Arts Symposium is still in the planning stages, but Dugal said it will likely include a number of workshops, art-related activities, involvement from the college’s art, theater, music, culinary, welding and even machining students.

“By changing the timing of the event, most likely March or April of 2015, we will be able to engage our college students as well as high school students, which is a huge benefit to our programs,” Dugal said.

With 16 art classes offered during the spring semester that began Jan. 20, Sheridan College’s art department is serving more than 150 students.

“We are seeing an increase in our degree-seeking students, and we are also seeing an increase in our cross-disciplinary activity as well,” said Mercedes Batty, dean of Arts and Humanities. “Our art students are recognizing the value of the technical trades such as welding and machining and the reverse is also true. We have a number of arts students enrolling in a more technical program for practical reasons.”

The Big West Arts Fest has been held for several eight years at Sheridan College and featured live entertainment as well as a place for local and regional artists to show off and sell their work. The event also included live art production by SC students, kids activities and food and drink vendors.

‘Forever Plaid’ opens tonight

Vocalists, from left, Philip Garber, Michael Gondal, AJ Longhurst and Ryan Koltiska perform on stage during the rehearsal of “Forever Plaid” on Tuesday night at the WYO Theater. The musical performance by the Civic Theater Guild and the WYO Theater is directed by Matt Davis with musical arrangements by James Raitt. The production will show at the WYO Theater March 20-22 and March 27-29 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. on March 23 and 30.

Sheridan native fighting for equal rights in Utah

SHERIDAN — Sheridan has cultivated and exported a gutsy political activist. Steven Germann, 21, was among a group of 13 arrested in February in the Utah state Capitol building after the Salt Lake City-based Legislature refused to consider a bill broadening rights for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals.

Germann was raised and schooled in Sheridan and even attended Sheridan College, but moved to Salt Lake City in 2012 to accept a job offer. Around that time, political activity involving LGBT rights was well in the works. Germann saw the immediate implications working for change could have in his own life, and he joined an established group of activists.

Germann added that he considers himself fortunate to have never been the victim of a physical assault or extensive harassment while he was growing up in Sheridan, but did indicate he saw evidence of bias.

“I’ve never been beaten up or anything like that,” he said. “Sure, people said demeaning slander at me, but I have hard skin and it doesn’t affect me much.”

Germann said he was relieved to find a supportive community when he moved away from home, though he emphasized that by and large, growing up in Sheridan was great.

“When I moved (to Salt Lake City), there were others in the community that were already active about these issues, and I was able to jump in with them,” Germann said, indicating his first involvement in political action entailed attending a dinner, but gradually evolved into participating in public events, including being part of a standing barricade in front of meeting rooms of the the Utah legislature Feb. 10.

On that day, LGBT advocates were hoping to nudge the state’s senators to hear a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity in housing and employment situations. Because a federal judge had cancelled the validity of more approximately 2,000 same-sex marriages that had occurred in the state a few months earlier, emotions were high, and the legislators indicated they did not want to hear the bill because its context had not yet been established.

Germann, along with a dozen other demonstrators, stood in front of meeting rooms of government officials, blocking traffic. The group was warned they were on the threshold creating a public disruption, but refused to budge. That’s when the Utah Highway Patrol executed the arrest of 13 demonstrators, including Germann.

“There was this moment right before we got arrested when we could have walked away,” Germann said, admitting that while being arrested is a shameful and difficult experience, he felt it was something that was necessary to get public eyes on the issue of how LGBT people are systematically marginalized.

“I looked around and there was my boyfriend, my fellow activists and our straight allies who weren’t going to stand down. I couldn’t let them go down and take the bullet for me.”

Germann was detained for six hours before being released sans bail and has had no further court proceedings. The jail roster for the Salt Lake County Detention Center lists Germann’s charges that as disorderly conduct and disturbing a legislative meeting, both misdemeanors.

While Germann has chosen his present battlefield in Utah, he shared his story with The Sheridan Press because he said the fight for equality for all citizens isn’t localized to Utah. He said that while Wyoming already has laws on the books that prohibit job and housing discrimination, the state has no provisions that provide for homosexual marriage or even a form of civil union with equivalent rights and responsibilities.

The state of Wyoming is struggling with similar questions, as is the rest of the nation. Earlier this week, a statewide campaign in support of gay marriage began in Cheyenne with a rally at the Capitol building.

There’s also a case working its way through the Wyoming court system in which four homosexual couples filed to challenge the state’s existing ban.

Germann said extending equal rights to all members of society is imperative for social progress.

“Everyone knows someone who is gay or lesbian, whether they know it or not,” Germann said.

“The most important thing people in Wyoming now is speak,” said Germann. “Tell your family you support LGBT rights, tell your family who you are. The best type of activism is out lout activism. Don’t be silent.”

The question of LGBT rights is not one that is localized to urban areas or relegated to seldom-seen social circles. Germann said he wants to make society better for future generations, even if it means getting a black mark on his record for getting arrested.

“I believe in this wholeheartedly and would do it again for equality,” Germann said.

Kids work to fight hunger abroad

Shayla Christensen, center, sets down a bag of dehydrated food as Mario Montaño, right, directs traffic during the food packing day Saturday at Sheridan High School. SHS and Sheridan Wesleyan Church youth group partnered with Kids Against Hunger and the Nice Foundation to pack 12,000 meals to send to the children in Nicaragua.

Run ‘Til You’re Green event a hit

SHERIDAN — It was the greener the better at Saturday’s ninth annual “Run ‘Til You’re Green” fun run hosted by the Sheridan Jaycees.

In spite of temperatures in the 20s with winds gusting over 30 mph, more than 100 Sheridanites of all ages showed up to run through town — or ride in a stroller, for the wee ones — sporting a variety of green outfits. And nothing was too wacky or too green: there were green tutus, striped socks, green bow ties, oversized glasses, toppling green leprechaun hats, a pair of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” shorts and even dogs with green bows in their fur.

“My dog really enjoys coming out and doing the runs. She doesn’t really like the bow, but she likes to get out and get some exercise,” Mallory Zimmerer said about her dog Layla’s little green bow and the reason she and Megan Ahrens were lining up to run in bright striped socks.

Although some runners were out to score a good time and launch their running season, many were out just to run for fun with family and friends.

Kristi Smith, Liz O’Harra and Liam O’Harra, who sported a snappy green bow tie, were out running as true blue — or green — Irish folk to enjoy celebrating St. Patrick’s Day together.

“You can raise money when you sign up to help the community,” Liam O’Harra, 7, said.

Liam O’Harra has been running in the fun run since he was 5 years old and said he just likes running with his mom and his friends.

“We get everybody and anybody. You can sign up for the 10K, the 5K or the mile, so we have a lot of serious runners because it’s chip timed now, which is nice through the Sports Stop, and then we have people who just want to do the mile and show up for the green, and the prizes and raffles and such,” event organizer and Jaycees member Lacey Van Horn said.

The fun run is a key fundraiser for the Sheridan Jaycees’ yearly Christmas shopping tour, Van Horn said. Funds are used to take kids who are in need of clothes and other necessities out for a day of fun that includes a movie, lunch, shopping and a stop to see Santa.

If running for training or fun wasn’t enough of a motivator, the charity aspect added an extra boost.

“There’s no excuses. It’s a fundraiser. You gotta do it. You kind of suck if you don’t do it. I saw babies out there running it, so, just saying,” runner Lauren Hyder said.

The event was Hyder’s first ever 5K.

“A half marathon is on my bucket list, and I figure it’s better to do it now when I’m 30 instead of when I’m 70, so this was my first milestone training for that,” Hyder said.

“I don’t think the time is the important part. It’s the fact that I actually started and finished. I’m not a runner. I actually despise running. But lots of supportive people out there made it fun,” Hyder added.

She will run her half marathon in November in Las Vegas.

Hyder’s trainer, Molly Boyer, an avid runner and member of Jaycees, was glad to see Hyder accomplish a goal Saturday and encouraged more people in the community to get out, dress wacky and green and give the run a try next year.

“She definitely made a pact, she had a goal set, and she accomplished the goal by being here today,” Boyer said. “I would say definitely come out and give it a shot. If you have to walk, you have to walk, and that’s absolutely okay.”

Besides, that green bow tie, and those “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” shorts and that green tutu in your closet would appreciate the chance to shine.

 

Lady Broncs take third at state

CASPER- The Sheridan Lady Broncs took third at the 4A state tournament this weekend, defeating Gillette 70-62.

See a full recap in Monday’s edition of The Sheridan Press.

Celtic Sage takes center stage this weekend

SHERIDAN – For almost 15 years, local band Celtic Sage has been entertaining Sheridan audiences with traditional Irish music.

The band had its beginnings in 2000, when co-founder Leslie Viren gathered a few musicians to create an Irish band, the only one of its kind in Sheridan.

Viren said her love of Irish music and desire for a local band was influenced by the annual concerts performed by Colcannon, an Irish band based out of Laramie, that has been a regular performer at the WYO Theater for many years.

“I was in the front row listening to them play and I was just intrigued,” she said.

Viren said she knew the flute player from her time at the University of Wyoming and he actually gave her Irish flute lessons over the phone.

Though band members have rotated in and out over the years, the band currently has five members: Viren on flute, Karen Bearden on fiddle, Kathy Beagle on upright bass, Dan Lindly, the newest member, who sings and plays guitar, and Steve Baskin who plays an Irish drum called the bodhran. Viren is three-quarters Irish and Baskin has an Irish heritage as well. However, they say it is the character of the music rather than their personal family history that has attracted them to the musical genre.

“It’s all about the rhythm,” said Baskin. “Most Irish music is in 4/4 or 6/8 (time) and the melodies are beautiful, they are absolutely beautiful. It is fun music to play, it really is. You listen to it and you think ‘that is easy to play’ but then you try it and you don’t get it.

But once you do get it, it is simple. It is played differently. There is a push-pull pulse to the music that goes back and forth and makes it really come alive.”

Many of the band’s current members are trained in classical music, making the change to Irish music a big, but welcome, challenge.

“I am classically trained, so I mainly do orchestra work and this was a nice change,” said Beagle, who plays the upright bass. “I wanted to do something different. With orchestra, you are very precise; you play what is written. I think one of the fun things with Irish music is we decide how we are going to play it, who is going to play the melody, who is going to play the harmony; we spice it up.”

“We can be very creative,” she added. “We get a simple tune, we can make it fancy, change the speed, change the rhythm a little bit.”

Karen Bearden joined the group in 2005, the same year as Beagle. She had been a member of the community orchestra, but was asked to audition for Celtic Sage. After receiving an invitation to join the group, Bearden said she was unsure how she would fit in a small group compared to a larger orchestra.

“It’s more personal,” she said. “At that time I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it, just how much I would enjoy the people in the group. That is the big draw. We enjoy playing together and a perk is that you keep learning new things musically.”

“I enjoy the idea of learning a new style of music because I had never played Irish either,” she continued. “And I am still learning. Site reading at a fast speed has been my challenge. I have to practice it slow and speed it up.”

The group can be seen locally at two St. Patrick’s Day-related performances. They will perform Saturday, March 15 at Warehouse 201 from 9 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and Monday, March 17 from 7-9 p.m. at Blacktooth Brewery.

 

Event helps residents understand life in poverty

SHERIDAN — The idea is to host a simple dinner, encouraging attendees to forgo their usual routine to experience a meal someone would likely have in a shelter — soup, bread and water. The soup is served in handmade bowls donated by the community, which attendees then bring home with them. At home, the bowl acts as a daily reminder that elsewhere someone’s “bowl” is empty tonight.

The sixth annual Empty Bowl fundraiser in Sheridan was held last night at the Sheridan YMCA.

The soup dinner benefits the Volunteers of America Northern Rockies homeless shelter located on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus and has been growing steadily each year.

The Empty Bowl was started as a national grassroots campaign for hunger and homeless awareness and was adopted by the VOA. The simple event has grown over the years and is the main source of income for a program that relies entirely on community support. All funds raised by the event are put directly into the shelter’s operating budget.

“The VOA has several programs but this one is unique as it relies on community support more than any other,” said Angela Lockard, special events and community outreach coordinator for VOA. “This event literally keeps the lights on out there.”

The homeless shelter in Sheridan hosts 30 beds, 16 of which are dedicated to veterans and the rest are often filled with families and women.

The shelter is not an emergency shelter, meaning it is not just a place to sleep on a cold night. The shelter is open 365 days a year and functions in 30-day cycles of goal-oriented work for those staying there.

When a new person is accepted into the shelter, they undergo an entrance interview to determine what resources and jobs may be suitable for them and then goals are set for their stay. The VOA employees that staff the shelter work with the guest to reach their goals, with a final goal of being a functioning part of society when they leave.

“When you are just surviving and worried about where your next meal will come from or where you’ll sleep at night, you’re not thinking about your goals and dreams,” Lockard said. “The shelter serves as a hand up, not a hand out, to find and reach those goals.”

This year the organizing committee for Empty Bowl had received 800 donated bowls, 1,000 servings of soup were ready to be dished out, two tables of silent auction items were available for bidding and Canary Joe performed live music.

Lockard said everything was set except the one thing that was out of her control, whether or not people show up. They did.

The event ran from 5-8 p.m. but people were lined up to get in prior to opening and by 6:30 p.m. it looked as if they would run out of soup.

“On a Thursday night, after a long day of work, when the weather is beautiful, to pack up your family and go to a gym to eat soup,” Lockard said, “I mean, this is just incredible.”

The community support for the program was evident from the crowds of attendees to the numerous volunteers.

Lockard said this is the first year she has not needed to seek out volunteers. The Life House, another VOA program that is a men’s rehabilitation center, approached the organizers and asked if they could help. They set up the gym and served the soup as a way to give back to the VOA, which has given so much to them.

Junior high and high school ceramics classes, as well as local artists, crafted and donated the bowls.

The local Ministerial Association lead by Pastor Doug Goodwin spearheaded the efforts and Lockard said every church in town contributed to the cause.

In fact so many people volunteered to help, the VOA only needed to provide eight staff members for the event. All of the support helped the VOA in their goal to have a $0 event budget to maximize the shelter’s profits.

Initial estimates show that this year’s event was attended by 700 people and raised $14,000.

“It’s easy to go to one of the more elite events in town; who doesn’t love to dress up and have drinks for a cause?” said Lockard. “But what event can bring this many people out without alcohol? They came to support the cause because they believe in it and we are so grateful for that.”

Setting the stage

Retired Sheridan schoolteacher Natalie Wright watches 4-year-old Alexandra Viren as the Celtic Sage members setup their instruments Wednesday morning at the Sheridan Senior Center. Alexandra is the granddaughter of the band’s longest playing member Leslie Viren.

Find a pothole in town? Report it

SHERIDAN — In a misty rain or a relaxing bathtub soak, water may seem harmless, but when it freezes — expanding by approximately 9 percent in volume — it is a force to be reckoned with.

Over the winter and into spring, when water that has seeped into roadways freezes and thaws, it can make rock-hard cement crack overnight.

Those tiny cracks, seemingly inconsequential, widen under the weight of passing cars and trucks.

“With winter, we have water that gets in and freezes, then expands, then freezes, and after a while, with the frozen water and the traffic driving over the cracks, the asphalt is weakened and when it does thaw, we get a pothole,” City Engineer Lane Thompson said. “This winter, with the extreme cold and all the precipitation, it has been a much higher than average year for potholes.”

Thompson said city crews work hard to stay on top of pothole repair, fixing as many per week as they can using a machine called a Durapatcher that sprays oil and rock into the holes to fill them up.

In fact, the city has rented a second Durapatcher for the month of April to take care of as many potholes as possible.

However, repairs are temporary. Permanent repairs can’t be made until June when it’s warm enough for city crews to fire up the asphalt plant and use hot mix and asphalt to make permanent patches, Thompson said.

Some roads that are aged or experience heavy traffic, like the intersection of Loucks Street and Highland Avenue, the Lewis Street Bridge and Thurmond Avenue, suffer from new or renewed potholes almost weekly.

Thompson said the city tries to keep up with all the potholes, but that it welcomes input from residents who regularly drive the city’s roads.

“Especially with potholes, being everywhere, it really does help when citizens call us because if we can get on them sooner to keep them from getting so big, we can usually at least stop the growth,” Thompson said. “We don’t look at it as a complaint. We are happy to know they are there because we don’t know where they all are.”

Thompson said all reports are tracked on an Iworq program that logs the concern, notifies the necessary staff members, prepares a work order and keeps track of progress.

While potholes keep city crews busy, they can also amp up business for local auto shops.

“It’s one of the best things that happens to my kind of business,” Owner of Cherni Auto Repair and Sales Fred Cherni said. “Of course, it happens fairly. It happens to my cars, too. It’s springtime. We get potholes every year.”

Cherni said it’s rare that a customer will come in and say he or she hit a pothole and now there’s a problem — though hitting a bad pothole at 30 mph can damage a wheel bearing and cause that ominous grinding sound — but he does see several cars in the spring with telltale signs of being out of line: uneven wear on the tires, pulling to one side or another, and wear and tear on shocks, struts and ball joints.

“Any time you hit a big pothole, there’s a possibility of something going on afterwards. As a consumer, all you can do is pay attention,” Cherni said. “The first time you whack them it’s a surprise; the second time, you should be looking for it.”

 

• Report a pothole

Call the City Service Center at 674-4112 or visit sheridanwy.net, click on the “I want to…” tab, then the “Report…” tab and select “A pothole” to make a report about a pothole.

 

 

Organizers: 15th annual Wine Fest a ‘wild’ success

SHERIDAN— Friday night was the 15th Annual Wild West Wine Fest hosted by the Downtown Sheridan Association. This year’s event was sold out nearly a week in advance and was attended by approximately 400 people.

Twenty-two wine vendors and a handful of brewers dolled out their spirits with heavy hors d’oeuvres. While the event is a premiere social event for Sheridan, it’s also gaining a reputation among wine aficionados across the state.

“All of our wine vendors were extremely happy,” DSA Director Stacie Coe said. “They kept raving about the event being one of the best wine tasting events across the state.”

In addition to sampling food and spirits, guests bid on high-profile silent auction items. Coe indicated this year’s biggest items were a basket that included four tickets to a National Football League game. She said she was pleased with bids for all items auctioned, and indicated the locally painted wine glasses did well also. This year’s event was hosted at Warehouse 201, which allowed for space to accommodate participants. Coe indicated the ability to sell more admission tickets resulted in record financial success.

The Wild West Wine Fest is the major fundraiser for the DSA. This year’s profit from the event grossed $55,000, though the take-home value will be less when expenses of the event are deducted. Coe indicated the $55,000 figure also does not include in-kind service and other donations.

“We’re so thankful to the community for its support and our volunteers,” Coe said, indicating approximately 30 people contributed their time and effort to pull off the event.

Tongue River Lady Eagles win second-straight state championship

CASPER — They had to earn it, but the Tongue River Lady Eagles walked out of the Casper Events Center on Saturday night as 2A girls state champions.

Kemmerer held the lead for much of the second half, but the Lady Eagles forced overtime play and thanks to the free throws of Sarah Rawlings, got the 55-54 win.

After winning their first two state tournament games by at least 20 points, the tight game challenged the Tongue River team, which got in foul trouble early, eliminating the Lady Eagles press defense.

Each team scored just seven points apiece in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Tongue River jumped ahead to a lead of five points.

But with the help of fouling from Tongue River, Kemmerer kept the game close and reversed the gap to earn their own five-point lead.

At several points in the second quarter, TR senior Kortni Sharp could be heard yelling to teammates to stop fouling and sending Kemmerer to the charity stripe.

“In such a close game, a nail-biter the whole way through, we can’t be having stupid fouls,” Sharp said after the game. “All the silly ones like reaching, we can’t have that in a game that close.”

The Lady Eagles went into the halftime break trailing by two points.

The third quarter saw more back and forth plays, with both teams forcing missed shots and turnovers and the teams entered the final portion of regular play with Tongue River down by just one point, 40-41.

More on-target shots from Kemmerer put the Lady Eagles down by five points with just over three minutes of play left in regulation. But, the Tongue River team closed the gap and Rawlings sunk a shot to tie the game at 52 with just about 23 seconds left to play.

As fans in the events center cheered “Go big green!” the Lady Eagles held strong on defense, sending the game into overtime.

Both teams struggled to sink shots in the four extra minutes, but Kemmerer made several fouls, sending Rawlings to the line.

Coach Dianne Moser said Rawlings carried the team on her shoulders throughout Saturday night’s battle and that showed as the senior sunk the Lady Eagles winning shots from the charity stripe.

“Felt like a lot of pressure, but it felt good to actually have a back and forth game,” Rawlings said of the close game. “It felt good to pull it out in the end.”

Rawlings led her team with a total 27 points. Sharp contributed 12 and Amanda Buller added eight points. Tara Stimpson put up four points while Cheyloh Bluemel and Kylee Knoblach each added two points to the team total.

Overall the Lady Eagles shot 31 percent from field goal range and 29.4 percent from behind the arc.

This is the second year in a row the Lady Eagles have won the state championship under Moser. After the game, Moser added that next year will likely be her last year at the helm for the Lady Eagles.

“I’m getting up there in years and I’ve done this a long time,” Moser said after Saturday’s game. “Morgan Mines is doing a great job and she’d be a great fit in our program and maybe it’s time.”

Moser added that while she still feels like she can connect with the kids, she wants to go out on her own terms.

 

Repeats! Lady Eagles take another state title

CASPER — They had to earn it, but the Tongue River Lady Eagles walked out of the Casper Events Center Saturday night as 2A girls state champions.

Kemmerer held the lead for much of the second half, but the Lady Eagles forced overtime play and thanks to the free throws of Sarah Rawlings, got the 55-54 win.

After winning their first two state tournament games by at least 20 points, the tight game challenged the Tongue River team, which got in foul trouble early, eliminating the Lady Eagles press defense.

Each team scored just seven points apiece in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Tongue River jumped ahead to a lead of five points. But with the help of fouling from Tongue River, Kemmerer kept the game close and closed the gap to earn their own five-point lead.

At several points in the second quarter, TR senior Kortni Sharp could be heard yelling to teammates to stop fouling and sending Kemmerer to the charity stripe.

“In such a close game, a nail-biter the whole way through, we can’t be having stupid fouls,” Sharp said after the game. “All the silly ones like reaching, we can’t have that in a game that close.”

The Lady Eagles went into the halftime break trailing by two points.

The third quarter saw more back and forth plays, with both teams forcing missed shots and turnovers and the teams entered the final portion of regular play with Tongue River down by just one point, 40-41.

More shots from Kemmerer put the Lady Eagles down by five points with just over three minutes of play left in regulation. But, the Tongue River team closed the gap and Rawlings sunk a shot to tie the game at 52 with just about 23 seconds left to play.

As fans in the events center cheered “Go big green!” the Lady Eagles held strong on defense to send the game into overtime.

Both teams struggled to sink shots in the four extra minutes, but Kemmerer made several fouls, sending Rawlings to the line. Coach Dianne Moser said Rawlings carried the team on her shoulders throughout Saturday night’s battle and that showed as the senior sunk the Lady Eagles winning shots from the charity stripe.

This is the second year in a row the Lady Eagles have won the state championship.

See more details in Monday’s edition of The Sheridan Press.

Gardeners gather from across the state despite mountains of snow

SHERIDAN – Although piles of snow still dot the landscape and cap the mountains, gardeners from around the state will gather in Sheridan next weekend to learn new gardening techniques and swap seeds at the Wyoming Master Gardeners and Farmer’s Marketing Association Joint Conference.

Despite the title, the conference is not only for ‘master’ or accomplished gardeners, but for anyone interested in learning more about gardening.

“The conference is open to the public,” said Chris Hilgert, Wyoming Master Gardener coordinator. “Of course it is something that master gardeners and the farmer’s market growers are going to be interested in. Some of the conference is really geared towards them, but I believe there are 28 different sessions or workshops to choose from so there is really something for gardeners of all interests and all levels.”

Educational sessions offered include growing herbs, arranging cut flowers, growing grapes, common diseases of vegetables and ornamentals, information about bees and pollinators, raising poultry, fruit tree pruning and much more.

Hands-on workshops are also being offered, covering fruit tree grafting, home food preservation techniques and tomato grafting.

“Some of the other things that are happening at the conference, there is a seed swap, so gardeners are encouraged to bring seeds they’ve saved and exchange seeds with other who have done the same,” said Hilgert. “We are particularly interested in plants gardeners have had success with growing in their gardens. There is a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction and master gardeners are donating products (for the auction) from all over the state.”

Hilgert said attendees can register for the full conference or for individual days. To view the full schedule and register for the event, visit www.eventbrite.com and search for Wyoming Master Gardeners.

“This conference is a chance for the Wyoming group to come together as a whole and highlight the best educational and hands-on experiences we offer to help train other Master Gardeners and the general public,” added Hilgert.

There are approximately 534 Master Gardeners in Wyoming, located in 14 counties. They donated 10,904 volunteer hours and 2,216 educational hours in 2013.

The Master Gardener program is a national program offered through county extension offices associated with land grant universities. Though each county has its own unique program, the basic outline is the same, explained Sheridan County Extension Educator Scott Hininger.

“The master gardener program is training for people that want to know more about horticulture,” said Hininger. “It usually amounts to 30 to 40 hours of training and then in order to become a true Master Gardener, you have to give back around 15 to 20 (volunteer) hours the first year, then after that it depends on the county, maybe 15 hours a year. The original concept of the master gardener program was to train volunteers in horticulture so they could help out in the extension office to answer homeowner questions or lawn and garden questions and then to be able to go out in the community and help troubleshoot horticulture problems. It has been really a successful program and it has been emulated in other areas of extension.”

The training thoroughly covers many aspects of gardening in Wyoming, from dealing with short growing seasons and harsh weather conditions, to general information on botany, soils, trees, shrubs, flowers, lawns, vegetables, entomology and diagnosing plant problems and diseases.

Hininger said that although participation in the master gardener classes locally has consistently been high, due to people’s busy schedules, it is much more difficult to get participants to commit to the volunteer requirement of the program. Therefore, he has adapted the program and created the Sheridan Garden Club, which functions similarly to a master gardener club, with each club meeting featuring an educational session on a different topic.

“I thought it would be a slam dunk that we would have one of the larger master gardener programs in the state because of our demographics,” he said. “But that hasn’t been the case.”

Because local residents seem to be more interested in learning about gardening rather than volunteering, Hininger said he has modified the program and offers educational classes through the garden club on a range of topics so participants have the materials and training they are interested in.

Anyone wanting to learn more about the Sheridan Garden Club can contact Hininger at the Sheridan County Extension Office at 674-2980.

 

A day in the life of a legislator

CHEYENNE — During a Legislative session in Cheyenne, not all battles occur over a bill on the House or Senate floor. For the 90 legislators who travel across the state to vote aye or nay on more than 300 bills that will impact life for citizens across Wyoming, the days are packed with myriad other battles that often go unseen.

Like donuts, for example. (So many calories; so much sitting.) And germs. And exhaustion. And inboxes that burst with hundreds of new emails overnight, each email containing words of support or disdain that must be processed, filed away and, whether admitted or not, felt.

Each legislator has his or her own way of dealing with the daily stresses — which begin several hours before sunrise and last until midnight for some. However, it can’t be denied that legislators have weighed the demands and the long days and found them wanting against their passion for what they do.

So, they grab their hand sanitizer and green tea and hole up at a hotel or apartment for a few hours each night for the duration of each year’s session of the Wyoming Legislature.

This year, The Sheridan Press followed Sheridan County Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, for a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of a Wyoming legislator.

 

Feb. 26

Day 13 of the 20-day budget session for the 2014 Wyoming Legislature started early for Berger, as usual. It was jammed full of votes, meetings, email correspondence and functions. Here’s a peak inside Berger’s journal for the day:

4:30 a.m. — Get up, shower

5:45 a.m. — Oatmeal

While Berger simply wrote “oatmeal” in her journal, the word conveys more than it may seem.

“I try to stay pretty healthy because it really can be a bad environment. I actually try to stay out of the legislative snack room because it is filled with bagels and donuts,” Berger said.

She has oatmeal and green tea almost every morning to start her day off with a healthy dose of grains and antioxidants.

As for coffee to get through the day?

She waits to drink any coffee until she arrives at the office and limits her intake to a couple cups due to how dry it is in the building and the increased stress level. She used to think she needed lots of coffee to maintain her energy, but she found that too much was detrimental.

“I really want to have a calm presence amongst my members because they come to me needing advice and direction. It’s my job as the Speaker Pro Tempore to keep the House in a more peaceful manner if at all possible, if you can do that with 60 people. If I’m nervous, I think that creates negative energy in the House.”

6:20 a.m. — Drive to Little America Hotel

7 a.m. — Emcee Governor’s Prayer Breakfast

9:30 a.m. — Drive to Capitol

9:50 a.m. — Meet with Legislative Services Office staff

10 a.m. — Gavel, prayer pledge

Official business for Wyoming’s senators and representatives typically begins at 10 a.m. each day.

This is when bills progress through a variety of stages.

10:30-11:30 a.m. — Collect bills for Corporations Committee, hear bills on third reading, listen to bills with amendments, vote for third reading bills on the consent list (all bills on the list are approved all at once), Rules Committee ruling, introduction of Committee of the Whole bills to be heard that day.

Noon — Not lunch

Lunch is a pretty rare occurrence, Berger said. In her 11 legislative sessions, she has been in committee meetings at least three times a week over the noon hour. Other lunch hours are filled with luncheons, meetings with lobbyists, visitors, email correspondence, and, maybe, a bite or two.

This lunch hour was spent preparing to introduce her bill, House Bill 47, in the Senate Revenue Committee. The bill, which has passed all the way through the system, will allow municipalities to apply for state funds to build natural gas pipelines for a cheaper heating alternative.

Berger met with representatives from Dayton and Ranchester and lobbyists then presented her bill to the committee at her next meeting.

1:15 p.m. — Senate Revenue Committee. Berger watched her bill squeak through on a 3-2 vote. Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, agreed to introduce it on the Senate floor.

2 p.m. — Gavel back in to hear 23 COW bills.

(Not cow bells, although there is music or other entertainment in the lobby of the Capitol most days; Committee of the Whole bills, i.e. first reading).

2:45 p.m. — Ate some veggies while listening to debates on bills.

This was lunch.

4:30 p.m. — Adjourn

5 p.m. — Follow up with lobbyists on insurance bills

5:30 p.m. — Respond to emails

6 p.m. — Attend Wyoming Association of Municipalities dinner reception

7-9:15 p.m. — Dinner and conversation with several Sheridan-area business representatives in town for Leadership Sheridan County

10 p.m. — Review emails, activities of day, get ready for bed

Berger said getting to bed before 11 p.m. is rare. Often it is closer to midnight. She grabs a few hours of sleep and gets up at 4 or 5 a.m. to do it all over again.

 

Another day

Feb. 27, Day 14 of the 20-day budget session, progressed at just as fast of a rate as day 13, but this day included conversation on natural resources, women in leadership and culture and economics in Taiwan.

Berger got up, got ready and took a few minutes for herself.

“Early morning, I typically have an hour in the morning that I try to designate for me to just do a devotional, regroup and think,” Berger said. “I might write notes or greeting cards. I do things that are related to my personal life because, basically, you put your personal life on hold when you leave for Cheyenne.”

Since she misses nearly two months of birthdays, anniversaries and simple conversations with loved ones, Berger tries to prepare cards and gifts and greetings in advance. Then she eats, sleeps and breathes legislative life.

“Truly, most of the time is just thinking about the next bill, the next committee meeting, the next leadership meeting,” Berger said.

The rest of Berger’s Day 14 is filled with bill debate and meetings — including one with Taipei Economic and Cultural Office for discussion on developing stronger international trade with Taiwan, especially to develop sales of Wyoming’s coal and soda ash.

That night Berger took part in the Leap into Leadership dinner reception at Little America Hotel. The event, sponsored by the Wyoming Women’s Legislative Caucus and Wyoming Women’s Foundation, seeks to empower women to pursue leadership roles.

A highlight of the event, Berger said, was being able to join with several women leaders and collectively read a poem to honor Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, who died at the age of 56 just weeks before the 2014 session began.

 

Downtime and recuperation

There isn’t much spare time during session for the Wyoming Legislature. However, Berger does try to slow down and re-center on the weekends. She tries to get a solid six hours of sleep each night and will often bake cookies on Sundays to give to friends — just like at home.

She does not typically head back to Sheridan during the session because she’s learned better, she said. The roads in Wyoming aren’t dependable enough to be good both ways, and the time is too short when sandwiched between a five-hour drive.

However, there are walks. Berger tries to walk at least a mile a day and several miles on the weekends to get out of the “stone city” of the Capitol building and feel the fresh Wyoming air on her face like she does in Big Horn.

And then, Berger and the other 89 legislators head home. Berger shuts off all phones and computers, makes no social engagements, and spends time decompressing with her husband, Bob, by her side again.

Whitney board fears SCSD2 trying to influence members

SHERIDAN — Members of the Whitney Benefits board fear Sheridan County School District 2 may be trying to influence the individuals the district appoints to the foundation.

The Whitney Benefits board consists of 13 members who serve four-year terms and are appointed by the boards of trustees of the three county school districts — one from SCSD3, two from SCSD1 and 10 from SCSD2. This arrangement of Whitney Board members being selected by county school districts was laid out in Edward A. Whitney’s will.

Whitney member Roy Garber, who joined the board in 1992, explained that in reading Mr. Whitney’s documents and will, Whitney seemed to struggle with how to have board members appointed to his foundation. He ultimately settled on having school district boards, of which there were 30 to 40 at the time of his death, appoint members. However, once chosen, the board members were to be representatives of Whitney Benefits and not the individual school districts, Garber said in his interpretation of the will.

“It is kind of a hard concept to understand but that is what it is,” he said. “Once you are appointed, you are a Whitney Board member, you are not a representative of any school district. At that point, your sole responsibility becomes the operation of Whitney Benefits.”

 

Differing opinions arise

However, recent letters from SCSD 2 have raised concern among the Whitney board that SCSD2 is encouraging its appointed representatives to align themselves with the school district and its funding requests.

In December 2013, a letter from Whitney Benefits Board President Tom Kinnison to SCSD2 school board members said that five board members were seeking reappointment to the board. Only two, Kim Love and Dr. Stephen Holst, were reappointed.

Dave Withrow, Val Burgess and Everett McGlothlin received letters saying their previous service was appreciated, but they would not be reappointed for another term. They were replaced by Tom Pilch, Lori McMullen and Lyn Phipps.

In a letter from SCSD2 Board Chairman Richard Bridger on Dec. 3, 2013, he congratulated new board members and closed his letter with, “We know you will do an outstanding job in enhancing the educational opportunities for all the children in Sheridan County School District #2 through the actions of the Whitney Foundation.”

SCSD2-appointed Whitney board members were also singled out in a letter written by SCSD2 attorney Tracy Copenhaver of Powell. Copenhaver sent the letter on Dec. 30 and specified that his interpretation of the Whitney will allowed for direct funding of school district projects, rather than only post-secondary education.

Copenhaver concludes his letter with the statement, “I would hope that all of the participating entities, members of the school board, and of the Whitney Benefits, Inc. board could ultimately reach agreement as to appropriate uses of the funds to benefit all the youth in Sheridan County in acquiring a quality education. To that end, I hope that those Whitney Board members appointed by the Sheridan County School District #2 Board of Trustees will look favorably on those proposals coming before the Whitney Board later this spring.”

Garber said no official requests to the Whitney board have been made recently by SCSD2, though school district officials attended a Whitney board meeting on Feb. 18 and discussed some priorities for school facilities and programs on which they hope to partner with Whitney.

However, Garber has said in previous interviews that SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty unofficially approached Kinnison at least three times last spring and summer, requesting $10 to $20 million for a proposed community recreation center the district is investigating.

The school district has worked with or hired companies to complete a market analysis, cost estimates and a campaign for a bond election issue. Those reports have cost the district more than $17,000 and indicate the recreation facility could cost $45 million and operate on a $700,000 to $1.7 million deficit.

Copenhaver’s letter created a concern among Whitney board members that the district was trying to improperly influence board members, which prompted a return letter from Kinnison, written on behalf of the board.

It notes, “…Trustees must exercise a wholly disinterested and independent judgment, in this instance ‘consistent with the terms of Mr. Whitney’s will.’…this responsibility calls for an undivided loyalty, which precludes each Trustee from ever acting for or in the interests of themselves or a third party…There is no indication anywhere in the will that Mr. Whitney ever intended that the appointed Trustees were to ‘represent’ the individual School Districts or Boards.”

It added that statements made in Copenhaver’s letter, “raise the specter that there may be a view of an obligation or loyalty to the District by reason of the appointment. While your letter acknowledged that it was a request not a mandate, the tone of the letter, coupled with the Copenhaver opinion letter designed to interpret the will to allow direct programmatic and capital funding to school districts, strongly and inappropriately suggests an alliance clearly unintended by Mr. Whitney and at least the appearance of an appointment demanding divided loyalty.”

 

Responsibility weighs heavy

The charge for Whitney Board members to act only in the interest of the foundation and not in the interest of themselves or a third party is of vital importance, Garber said.

Garber noted that several years ago, the Whitney Board began distributing informational packets to prospective appointees, letting them know ahead of time about what are considered potential conflicts of interest. For instance, board appointees cannot have any close family members, including children or grandchildren, with current student loans from Whitney Benefits.

“(It) explains the basic conflicts of interest and they can read that and if they don’t have any conflicts and want to go ahead and leave their name in, that helps,” Garber said about the packet.

Once appointed, Garber said board members receive more in-depth training and information about Whitney Benefits operations and also about general nonprofit and IRS rules that members must know.

“We have our attorney come in and explain to them all the ramifications involved in conflicts of interest, self-dealing and all of the things that could get you in trouble with the IRS and any other statutes that apply to nonprofits. We do provide a training right off the bat,” Garber said.

One important issue that each board is made aware of is every member’s financial liability to the foundation. Once on the board, each member is personally financially liable for decisions they make with the organization’s money.

“Basically, what it means in the terms of Whitney Benefits, if you were to obligate foundation funds to something that didn’t fall under the terms of the will and that were challenged in court…you could be held personally responsible to repay that money,” Garber explained. “You decide that just handing a few million here and $10 or $20 million there, you want to be careful about how you spend the foundation’s money.”

Garber said this financial liability rests heavy on each board member and therefore, the board carefully weighs funding decisions it makes and seeks the opinion of an attorney regularly, to make sure decisions fit within the parameters of the Whitney will. He said each board member is also expected to consider each funding decision in terms of what Mr. Whitney intended when he set up the foundation and for the future of the organization.

“It was a dilemma I think most every foundation has had,” he said. “I think if you look statistically across the country, that’s one of the biggest threats to foundations across the nation is that people come along and as time passes, because times change, they start to slowly, with good conscience, change the foundation that they serve. Pretty soon foundations are so far away from the person who started them that sometimes they are unrecognizable from where they came from and where they end up.”

“Mr. Whitney said, in so many words, you serve here because you want to be part of the community,” Garber continued. “You get no compensation for serving on this board. I think he foresaw some of those dilemmas. How do you appoint people for the good of the foundation? It wasn’t easy then and it continues to be a dilemma today for many foundations.”

SCSD2 Board Chairman Richard Bridger refused to comment on this article and referred questions to the district’s attorney Kendall Hoopes.

SCSD2_letters

Kinnison_Response

Ash Wednesday

Nicole Dillon has an ash cross marked on her forehead during the children’s service on Ash Wednesday at Holy Name Catholic Church. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent.

A different grind

Dave Gundersen, left, watches as Mark Constable of England shows him a billet that the group will be making. A billet is a stack of metals — in this particular workshop, a stack of non-iron metals that are used in decorations and jewelry. Constable was one of the main demonstrators during the weekend forge-in.

Water wonders at Science Saturday

Ian Smith, 6, looks at a container of colored water spin around on a stir plate during Science Saturday at the Sheridan College Science Center.

What is Indian enough?

SHERIDAN — To the residents of Montana and Wyoming, Indian culture is not a foreign concept. However, there are nearly 600 federally recognized tribes existing in the United States, each with their own customs, history and traditions and many of which are completely unknown to mainstream culture.

Matika Wilbur, a widely-exhibited and collected photographer from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes in Washington, is on a mission to change that.

Wilbur has embarked on a journey to visit and photograph each of the tribes in America in their natural state to reveal a realistic image of contemporary Native Americans in the 21st century. “Project 562” is named for the number of existing tribes at the start of the project, a number that has grown even since the project began.

A similar project was attempted by Edward Curtis, a non-Native American portrait photographer who embarked on a mission to photograph American Indians more than a century ago.

However, many of his subjects’ names and tribe names were not recorded and many of the props he paired the subjects with were not representative of their local culture.

 

A project’s beginning

“The project evolved out of necessity,” Wilbur said. “I’ve had a series of successful Native photos in the past that have brought me some recognition for my art nationally.

“I’d give lectures and people would ask me about the Apache or the Pueblos or other tribes and I’d have to say I don’t know anything about contemporary Indian cultures outside of my own,” she added. “So I started to look for info and there is not one place to find collective info about the different cultures anywhere. No library or article or photo book anywhere.”

Wilbur has already traveled more than 60,000 miles and photographed almost 200 tribes and is on track to complete her project in two years.

Representatives from the local Crow Nation have participated in her journey and one local contributor has made a sizable impact on the project.

Bethany Yellowtail, a 2007 graduate of Tongue River High School who was born and raised on the Crow Indian Reservation and went on to become a fashion designer in Los Angeles, became acquainted with Wilbur through a mutual friend in California.

The meeting occurred shortly after Wilbur had kicked off her 562 journey.

 

Indian Enough

When they first met, Yellowtail had been working as a fashion designer in LA for more than three years. She remained active in Native American youth programs and arts organizations. Like Wilbur, she maintained her connection to her tribe through her work, designing clothing she felt represented modern Indians.

“Growing up, I did not have any Native role models who were present in mass media,” Yellowtail said. “Especially in fashion, Native culture is misappropriated season after season with fringed, feathered, beaded and buckskinned clothing and when those images are set in the minds of our youth, what does that tell them? It tells them that they must be what the image is…impoverished, oppressed, stereotyped and yet still not ‘Indian enough.’”

When she met Wilbur, Yellowtail said she knew she wanted to help with the project.

Her first contribution was to bring Wilbur home with her for the Crow Fair — a weeklong tradition of powwows and parading, naming ceremonies and Indian rodeos.

“Being Crow,” Yellowtail said, “we’re from the plains, so we’re a horse and teepee culture, and her tribe is a canoe and smokehouse culture so it was really important for me to share that with her.”

While in Montana, Wilbur photographed Yellowtail, her brothers Matthew and Stephen, and Joree LaFrance, a Dartmouth student who carries the title of Miss Crow Nation, as representatives of their tribe for the project.

“Matika is amazing,” Matthew Yellowtail said. “She is just so driven and motivated, I am really in awe of her. The amount of courage it takes to drop everything you know over a gut instinct and just trust it is inspiring.”

Wilbur allows her subjects to choose where and how they would like to be photographed, stipulating that it must be somewhere on their native land that they normally frequent. Yellowtail chose to be photographed in Western attire on his family’s ranch where he helps his dad.

“It’s great that she’s shedding light on the diversity of cultures within each individual tribe, going against the generalization that all of us are prancing around fires,” he said. “It’s nice to have something portray us in a more modern, forward-thinking, positive approach that doesn’t show us as impoverished victims to the government. It’s showing that we are capable and modern and contributors to society.”

Yellowtail and his siblings grew up spending Sunday through Thursday nights in Ranchester to attend Tongue River schools and heading back to the reservation on weekends to help on the ranch. The lifestyle showed the Yellowtail children the importance of cultures being tolerant of one another.

Bethany Yellowtail said when she was in school she was one of only three Native children and the racism and animosity was present as soon as she started school in kindergarten.

“Discussion is always about the poverty and the struggle of my people, it’s never about the beauty,” she added. “And if it is, it is about the historic beauty and the ancestors. It’s like our generation now doesn’t exist. That’s why the project was so important to me, it shows us as we are now and opens this much needed conversation.”

 

Funding modern art

Yellowtail’s involvement grew from offering her home and family to the project to offering a direct collaboration as well.

The journey Wilbur took on turned out to be harder, and more expensive, than she had planned. To help ensure the completion of the project, she opened a 30-day crowd-funding campaign on kickstarter.com with a fundraising goal of $56,000.

To encourage donations, Yellowtail created a line of custom clothing to be used as gifts to donators. The pair collaborated to transform Wilbur’s images from her project into fabric textiles designed by Yellowtail.

One example of the creations, Yellowtail’s favorite piece, was a dress called the “Paddle to Quinalt.”

An annual tradition of Wilbur’s people, the northwest coastal natives embark on a weeklong canoe journey every August on the Washington coast. They set a destination point, canoe, pray and hold ceremony, out on the ocean for the whole week. As the men neared their home, the women of the tribe dance and sing on the beach, letting the men know they are almost home. The songs are sounds of relief to the weary paddlers. Wilbur’s photograph of this ritual was transformed into a dress by Yellowtail.

“It was such a powerful image to think that hundreds of years ago they were doing this to bring their fishermen back to shore and this is still happening,” Yellowtail said. “I had never known about the small tribe of northwest coastal natives. It’s beautiful imagery.”

Complete with custom gifts and a flurry of media attention, the kickstarter campaign ended recently exceeding its initial goal by nearly 400 percent, raising more than $200,000 from 3,882 contributors.

 

Promoting conversations

“562 is sparking conversation that’s questioning the concept of being ‘Indian enough’ without making people feel like they are ignorant,” Yellowtail said. “It is a trip to see how people respond or what they ask you when they first find out you’re Indian because a lot of times they just don’t know. They say things like, ‘You don’t look Indian.’ That’s where the question arises of, are you Indian enough?”

Yellowtail is hopeful that the images of what a “real Indian” looks like today will start breaking down the stereotypes and start building on the conversations started about what it really means to be an Indian in modern America.

“To us, it’s just about our communities,” she said. “Native people are raised to remember where we came from and remember to give back. It’s this inherent quality in our culture.”

The University of Washington Press has offered to publish the portraits and stories collected in a multi-volume fine arts series. The Tacoma Art Museum is featuring select images in an exclusive show in May. The project was also featured on the New York Times website.

Those interested in staying up to date on the progress of the project can do so via twitter by following the girls — @byellowtail and @matikawilbur.

The Sheridan Press E-Edition Aug. 20, 2014

The Sheridan Press E-Edition Aug. 20, 2014

County reviews budgets, hears from resident on Darby Pledge

SHERIDAN — County Administrative Director Renee Obermueller told county commissioners at their meeting Tuesday that conservative budgetting and strict adherence by department heads to their budgets has lead to an approximately $2.38 million budget overage for fiscal year 2013-2014 that will be carried over into this year’s budget to reduce the amount that will need to be pulled from reserves.

“We generally have carry over, which we’re thankful for. We’re thankful for all of the elected officials and department heads adhering to their budgets which allows us to have that carry over. We budget conservatively, and they still maintain what they need for providing services back to our constituents, so we’re happy with the outcomes of our budget,” Obermueller said.

Budgetted expenses for the county for fiscal year 2014 were $22.5 million, but only $20.2 million was spent, providing the carry over amount of approximately $2.38 million that will be added to the budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, which began July 1.

Budgetted revenue was set at $21.3 million, and actual revenue for the year was $21.1 million.

Commissioners passed a resolution at the meeting to approve the annual statement for fiscal year 2014, which summarized where the county ended the fiscal year compared to what was budgetted.

In other business, commissioners heard from Sheridan County resident Tamy Green during public comment about her efforts to spread awareness about suicide prevention through a movement called The Darby Pledge.

“It’s just a statement to mental health clinicians to never turn a patient away that’s coming in saying, ‘I’m going to kill myself,’ which is what my son did. The clinician told him to go home and sober up,” Green said following the meeting.

Green is using the suicidal death of her own son, Darby, in June 2013 to reach out to mental health providers, and the community at large, and ask them to take suicide seriously, no matter what.

“We’re just asking them to make changes where nobody is turned away. I don’t care if they’re drunk, stoned, whatever, if they’re coming in and saying they’re going to shoot themselves or kill themselves, they need to automatically be put on that hold. Their family can then be contacted, and then they’ve got some backbone and some working space,” Green said.

Green was referring to the 72-hour hold at Sheridan Memorial Hospital that involuntarily places mentally ill patients under around-the-clock care for up to 72 hours to determine needed treatment.

There has been discussion in past months between hospital officials, County Attorney Matt Redle, representatives from Northern Wyoming Mental Health and County Commissioners about changing 72-hour hold procedures to have severely mentally ill patients sent to facilities in Casper or Gillette that are better suited for 24-hour care for psychopathic patients.

Some patients, particularly suicidal patients, are released from the 72-hour hold but recommended for long-term care. Green also asked commissioners to define “long-term” and asked that care be provided in Sheridan rather than sending suicidal people away from their local support systems.

Commissioner Tom Ringley said that commissioners cannot define long-term because it depends on each case and should be defined by medical professionals.

At that point, Green then requested that discussions and decisions on the issue be done in public so residents can have input, which officials have already assured would happen.

The Darby Pledge was started by a workmate of Tamy’s daughter in Indiana who made a public service announcement video about Darby’s life to illustrate the need for people to pledge to never turn away from a person who is depressed or suicidal. A Facebook page has been created and has more than 1,200 likes from all around the nation and as far away as England and Australia, Green said.

Incumbent commissioners move forward to general, challenger Fox eliminated

SHERIDAN — Three incumbent county commissioners will move forward to the general election for three open seats on County Commission following results from the primary election Tuesday.

Commissioners Terry Cram, Steve Maier and Bob Rolston pulled ahead of challenger Dennis Fox, who was running on a platform of lower taxes and financial restraint.

Fox pulled in 19.8 percent of the vote with 2,355 total votes, falling about 600 votes behind the next highest vote getter. Total tallies were Maier with 2,951 votes, Cram with 3,371 and Rolston with 3,205.

There were 66 write-in votes total. If one write-in candidate received 25 or more votes, he or she will have the opportunity to be placed on the general election ballot in November.

“I’m tickled to death that we won. I’m especially glad that we all won,” Cram said about the victory for the three incumbents. “I’ve said it before, but we don’t always see eye to eye, we don’t always agree, but we agree to disagree and life goes on and we work well together. Once you get familiar with working with someone, it works out good for us and for the county.”

Cram noted that Fox called the commissioners following the election to congratulate them and wish them well.

“I congratulate him on a clean campaign. I appreciate the call,” Cram said.

Cram said it’s always a little nerve wracking waiting for election results because he doesn’t always know how the public is feeling.

“I was relieved when I heard the results coming in that the public still has confidence in us. It tells me we’ve been doing a good job and can keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them,” Cram said.

At the same time, Cram said if the public’s wishes start to change, the commission will work to alter how they operate to suit the public since that is who they all represent.

Moving forward, issues on the radar for the county commissioners include:

• Meeting with Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, to discuss the county’s needs from the Legislature. Cram said the Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead have been good to the county, but that commissioners are eager to work on establishing a system to create more predictability in state funding in order to better prepare budgets.

• Participation with the city of Sheridan in creating an updated growth plan for the approximately one-mile “donut” of county land surrounding city limits that is managed as a joint planning area. Cram said the city has already begun working on the growth plan, and he looks forward to partnering with the city to incorporate fresh ideas and input into the plan.

The county hopes to eventually update its own Comprehensive Plan in coming years, and working with the city on the joint planning area would be a good start, Cram said.

• Continued work to improve air service in Sheridan County. Commissioners are meeting with a representative from Sen. Mike Enzi’s office today to discuss how the issue can be addressed by U.S. congress members at the federal level.

• Working on a notice of intent to amend county zoning regulations to allow on-farm retail sales of farm produce and associated products like jams and salsas. So far, Cram said, the county has received positive feedback on the amendment that would allow farmers to build and sell from a retail structure like a shed or farm stand.

Mark Jennings unseats Kathy Coleman in HD 30

SHERIDAN — Although candidate Mark Jennings pulled in 65 percent of the votes in the race for House District 30, he said he realizes there’s still an election coming, and he plans on continuing to get out to get to know his potential constituents.

“I view it like there’s still an election to be had. I’m not elected; this is just the first step,” Jennings said, adding that he will continue to go door-to-door and hold town meetings to get a pulse for what residents of his district want addressed in the state Legislature.

Jennings will be the only Republican candidate on the general election ballot. No Democrats filed for the seat, and there were no write-ins.

The 961-501 vote in favor of Jennings took incumbent Rep. Kathy Coleman, R-Sheridan, out of the race.

“I wish Kathy well. She ran a good campaign. It’s not about Kathy; it’s about the issues,” Jennings said, noting that he was appreciative of Coleman’s service but that he ran because of disagreement on some issues.

Jennings said he will begin talking to legislators with more experience than himself so that he will be up to speed by the time he enters legislative service if elected in November. He also said he would more deeply research constitutional views and legal histories on a variety of issues in order to be constantly learning and putting into practice what he has learned.

Jennings ran on a platform of upholding conservative, constitutional values with the foundational guiding principles of his Christian faith.

He said he has heard in his campaign that people want to return to conservative, constitutional values on Second Amendment rights, less taxes and wiser spending, and preserving traditional family values.

Jennings said he will always work to strengthen families as the bedrock of society.

“I’m grateful to voters who got out and put their trust in me. I need to work really hard to maintain that trust and to do what they’ve elected me to do, to try to serve them against the backdrop of the constitution and constituents’ wishes,” Jennings said. “If their wishes line up with the Constitution, I will 100 percent support that. And it sounds to me like that’s what people want is a move back toward more conservative, constitutional values.”

The general election is Nov. 4.

SCSD1 obtains property after ‘long saga’

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 1 will soon officially own a small strip of land they have been using but due to a surveying mistake made in the 1960s did not technically own.

In what SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith described as “the end to a very long saga” the board of directors voted unanimously during their regular meeting Tuesday night in Ranchester to purchase the land from the Kuzma Estate.

“It is the no man strip of land that exists between our middle school deeded property and the future elementary site deeded property,” Smith said. “Theoretically they are adjacent minus some surveying mistake done in the ‘60s. This corrects that mistake.”

The purchase of the property was $145 but attorneys needed to rebuild the estate making the total purchase price approximately $3,500 with attorney fees.

“It’s necessary so we have legal access to our lot, which seems kind of strange,” Smith said. “We could have done it through two other means, which would be quiet title and or condemnation, because there really was no owners of this property. They had not paid taxes on it since the ‘60s so we could have just simply acquired it but this is less harsh of an approach.”

The land runs underneath the stretch of 5-Mile Road that will be reworked to create access to the new elementary school.

The 5-Mile Road project was originally part of the whole elementary school project; however, the project came in over budget and the district is required to go back and rebid this fall putting progress on hold.

After discussions with the School Facilities Commission, it was decided the road project would be pulled out of the overall plans so progress could continue immediately.

Individual bids were received for this portion and came in slightly under the architect’s projected budget so work can now proceed.

From the highway intersection, the road will move over 40 feet, sewer and water lines required to serve the school will be buried and the road will be curbed, guttered and paved.

In conjunction with this work, Montana Dakota Utilities will take the transmission lines that feed Dayton, running north and south of 5-Mile Road, and move them to the east side of the property, which will actually be on the middle school property.

Smith said MDU is hoping to build a second substation which will power Ranchester and allow for continued growth.

“We are trading them the cost of moving those poles over for the cost of giving them about 3,000 square feet of the middle school property to build a second substation,” Smith told the board of directors Tuesday. “So, at some point Dayton will be without power for about eight hours because of you guys.”

The lowest bid for the project was accepted at $461,000 by Northern Underground Construction of Sheridan.

Initial cost estimates for the first phase of improvements to the property west of Big Horn High School track and field complex were also received.

Vista West Engineering estimated a total project costs between $180,000-215,000 to develop the 15 acres in to a 400+ space overflow parking lot, widen the approach on Highway 335 and perform drainage improvements.

An update on the restructuring of the secondary lunch programs to provide locally sources food options was also given Tuesday night.

According to Smith, six head of cattle have been purchased, and more will be purchased six at a time in the name of freshness. It is anticipated the program will call for 30 total head.

The cattle won’t be processed locally as there is not a slaughter facility closer than Miles City, Montana, that is either state or USDA inspected.

The district still hopes to acquire local contracts for bread and milk.

“That might be a pie in the sky for the dairy side of it for a while but I would like to have the bread production locally,” Smith said. “In all cases, our food products have to be inspected so we have to continue to work through that regulatory hurdle but we have had great success with our local Wyoming Department of Ag folks in pointing us in the right direction and such and honestly I have not heard a bad word about it.”

Smith stressed that these changes were not done in the name of being cost effective but rather solely to provide a better product and do what they felt was right for their children.

“It is clearly not as cheap as the free commodity beef we get but what we believe is the flavor, the content and supporting the local communities outweighs the cost increases and it will be slightly offset by participation by our patrons,” he said. “I’m not a prophet for this stuff, I just think it makes sense in our situation. I’m not sure that it makes sense for everybody and it doesn’t make sense for our elementary schools yet frankly. Maybe Big Horn Elementary after this year will make sense but at Tongue River Elementary our poverty rates are just simply too high. I don’t know how we could subsidize that program locally.”

Smith added that Wyoming PBS will be visiting the district in September to film a half hour special on the new lunch programs.

 

In other business:

• The SCSD1 Board of Trustees meet Monday night at Sheridan College for a discussion only, no action taken retreat. They reviewed the strategic plan and identified changes they wish to see implemented which will be presented for consideration at the September regular board meeting. They also discussed the growing enrollment, increased class sizes and what can be done to keep class sizes small.

“Right now there won’t be any changes for this year, we have a good plan and moving forward with that,” Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “It is more just a consideration to keep in mind in the future.”

• SCSD1 donated $3,000 to D.A.R.E. program.

• A visitor at the meeting addressed rumors that the board planned to rebuild the bus barn and the board indicated there have been no such discussions.

• Kobza noted that enrollment for this school year is the highest it has ever been. Two years ago 898 enrolled and to date 1,004 have enrolled for this year. He stated that the school district does not anticipate everyone will show up and the actual enrollment will likely be around 975.

• SCSD1 is now fully accredited after the Advanced Accreditation Commission reviewed and took action on the Accreditation Progress Report filed by the district. The report is a required component of the five-year accreditation term and was submitted reflecting systems the district put in place to address issues identified by the commission.

Political scandals hiding in plain sight

The laboratories of democracy are blowing up.

A rash of relatively convoluted, thoroughly unsexy political scandals involving governors is moving through the country. So many of them involve Republican presidential hopefuls that conspiracy theorists could argue they must be manufactured, or at least overhyped, by wily Democratic strategists. At least one Democratic governor has also been implicated, though.

Most of the scandals (or, to be fair, sometimes pseudo-scandals) are pretty hard to follow unless you’re paying really close attention. Which most Americans are not. So here’s an overview:

Most recently Rick Perry, Texas governor and presumed 2016 Republican presidential candidate, was indicted for abuse of power and coercion.

The background: A district attorney in Texas pleaded guilty to drunk driving and was jailed. She also happens to run the state’s Public Integrity Unit, which investigates ethics violations by elected officials. Perry threatened to veto funding for the unit if the district attorney didn’t resign. She refused, so Perry carried out his threat.

Pressuring a convicted lawbreaker to leave office probably sounds legitimate. Problem is, that Public Integrity Unit was investigating a cancer research institute that was one of Perry’s pet projects. (One of its former high-ranking officials now faces a felony corruption charge.) If the district attorney had stepped down before she was up for re-election, Perry would have picked her replacement, who could then presumably have quashed the investigation. Whether his actions rose to the level of criminality is a matter of debate even among his critics.

Likely Republican presidential hopeful and scandal-ensconced governor No. 2 is Chris Christie. By now you might know about the “time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee” incident, which has cost New Jersey taxpayers $6.52 million this year in bills from Christie’s attorneys alone. Other embarrassments seem to be burbling up, too, including Christie’s own Solyndra-style debacle: the closure of Atlantic City’s glittering Revel Casino Hotel, which opened just over two years ago, thanks in part to $260 million in tax breaks offered by the Christie administration. There’s also the matter of another possible bridge scandal, this one involving securities law violations because of the source of the funding to repair the Pulaski Skyway.

On to Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor and possible presidential contender, who has been implicated in an allegedly illegal coordination scheme between his campaign and third-party conservative groups. A special prosecutor recently released a statement saying he has not yet drawn any conclusions from the available evidence about whether to file charges against Walker.

Need more?

Robert McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia and one-time rising star of the Republican Party, is on trial over gifts and cash he and his wife allegedly received while in office. Florida’s Rick Scott, a tea party darling once considered a possible future presidential contender, faces accusations involving personal financial interests in a rail project and a natural gas pipeline.

As for the lone Democrat among the bunch, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo allegedly hobbled an anti-corruption commission he created, steering the commission away from investigating his allies and a media-buying company that had worked on his campaign. He ultimately disbanded the commission altogether.

How could all of this been going on without anybody noticing?

I have one theory. Facing severe challenges to their business models, lots of mid-size newspapers have decided to go “hyperlocal,” thinning out their coverage of state-level issues and officials in the process. A recent Pew report, for example, found that the number of full-time statehouse reporters fell by 35 percent between 2003 and 2014. So perhaps governors got accustomed to the luxury of operating with little scrutiny from the Fourth Estate. Some of these imbroglios were first uncovered or pursued not by journalists, by the way, but by government investigators or an outside watchdog group.

Simultaneously, Americans are increasingly turning to comedy and entertainment sources for their news. Unfortunately, most of these newsworthy gubernatorial disgraces and boondoggles involve complex legal issues. Without lurid sexts or colorful femme fatales, they don’t especially lend themselves to late-night comedy material, or even a particularly pithy portmanteau (with the exception, of course, of Christie’s “Bridgegate”). There are a couple of stellar comedians, such as HBO’s John Oliver, who have actively tried to comedify serious but technical topics, but they are unusual.

The takeaway for politicians: If you’re going to engage in dubiously ethical endeavors, make sure they’re shrouded in complicated, confusing statutes like securities law. Good old-fashioned sex scandals may sound like more fun, but they’re intelligible enough to hold the attention of comedians, and voters, for longer than you might like.

 

Catherine Rampell is an opinion columnist at The Washington Post. She previously worked as a reporter for The New York Times, covering economics and launching the award-winning Economix blog.

Third Thursday, market downtown tomorrow

“How do you keep the Cleveland Browns out of your front yard?” asks one longtime Browns fan.

“Put in goal posts.”

••••••

Come Thursday, it’s the August edition of the Third Thursday Street Festival which also includes the weekly Downtown Sheridan Association’s Farmers Market.

Think: live music, home grown food, fresh vegetables, breads, crafts, activities and one more chance on Main Street to hang out with friends and neighbors before school starts back next week.

••••••

I see by the paper……

The recent edition of Conde Nast Traveler magazine lists Jackson has the seventh “friendliest” place in the U.S. To paraphrase the vernacular of a younger culture: Really?

Jackson? Maybe. In the 1970s.

The dominant criteria in the magazine’s determination: feeling welcomed.

The only other western locale to make the top 10 was Telluride, Colorado. Most of the travel-friendly cities were southern with Charleston, South Carolina topping the list. Guess it has something to do with Paula Deen and she-crab soup recipes.

The least friendliest?

Los Angeles and Oakland, current and past home of the NFL’s Raiders.

••••••

Last Friday’s Sheridan Press featured a page one story worth noting further. Sheridan County School District 1 has opted out of federal school lunch programs for some of its schools in favor of using local beef and vegetable producers instead. Jeremy Smith, the business manager for this school district, noted how his change provides greater flexibility in menu selection and has received mostly positive feedback. Holliday Family Farms and the Masters Ranch will be the vendors.

••••••

The great baseball writer Roger Angell was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame on the writer’s side of the house. His books are treasures in addition to his essays in The New Yorker. Recently, he wrote an essay on aging (he’s 93) and it was spot on. It’s online via The New Yorker’s website.

Here’s one of his favorite baseball stories.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, arguably the most competitive pitcher ever, was having an off day in St. Louis. Gibson was intimidating to both teammates and opposing teams. The Cardinals’ manager, Johnny Keane, was afraid of approaching Gibson when he was out of sorts so he called out to catcher Tim McCarver to “go talk to him.”

“You go talk to him,” McCarver replied, not wanting to challenge his ornery battery mate. Keane insisted and McCarver calls time and started walking towards his pitcher.

Gibson comes off the mound and says aggressively to McCarver, his teammate, “The only thing you know about good pitching is that you can’t hit it. Get back there and shut up.”

And McCarver did.

Of Angell’s books, I recommend: “Once More Around the Park,” “Game Time,” “Season Ticket.”

 

 

 

 

Don King Days set for Labor Day weekend

SHERIDAN— The annual Don King Days is set to kick off Aug. 30 with the World Champion Blacksmiths Contest.

The gates open at 9 a.m. both Aug. 30 and Aug. 31 for the contest.

On Aug. 31, the introduction of ropers, riders, players and horses will be at 11 a.m. with the Calcutta beginning at noon. Don King Days events will follow with live entertainment at the club house by Paul Bogart.

On Sept. 1, gates will open at 9 a.m. for the blacksmith’s contest and Don King Days events will begin at noon.

For more information call the Big Horn Equestrian Center at 673-0454.

Backcountry Horsemen to meet Tuesday

SHERIDAN— The Cloud Peak chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen will hold their monthly meeting on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the home of Dwight French.

A steak fry and potluck will be served.

Jim Pratt, the treasurer for the State Backcountry board will be there to answer questions.

To be included in the head count or for directions contact Dwight French at 674-8239.