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Devils Tower

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Wyoming can toss rocks. Talk about a bunch of ingrates! What's going on up there, anyway? I've read recently that some people in The Equality State are talking about Wyoming seceding from the United States. They want to be an independent sovereignty. In their imaginations, they see Wyoming joining with like-minded states (if there really are any) in forming a new alignment of states that lack common borders but which share the common gripe that the federal government is the devil in disguise. They ironically believe their only way to be free is not to reward strength in unity, but to admire strength of isolation. It's the kind of thinking that got such temporary Wyoming outlaws as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James killed. Sure, they were on the same page philosophically, but they weren't a team.

Such romanticized, century-old thinking percolates all through Wyoming and much of the Mountain West. I grew up enthralled by the actions and brave deeds of good guys versus bad guys in nearly every Saturday matinee movie that played in my youth. At that time, Westerns were huge at theaters, and TV of the time was full of memorable shows like Maverick, Have Gun Will Travel and Gunsmoke, but I also remember the programs Laramie and Cheyenne. I mean, who doesn't fondly remember Cheyenne Bodie? Those two programs put the Wyoming brand in full view, so all Americans were introduced to the lark that Wyoming was full of good guys trying to keep the bad guys away. Let me be the first to say that it's largely true about Wyoming, that its residents are mostly good people, but don't forget that Wyoming is also home to the Cheney family.

I've no bone to pick with the Cheneys today. But as vice president, Dick Cheney did nearly take the head off a bird-hunting companion, removing the burnish from the myth of Wyoming men being comprised of gold medal-caliber gun handlers. Cheney also bulldozed us into Iraq. His daughter Liz famously disavowed gay marriage in order to help cement her rise to the U.S. House of Representatives, a huge slap to her openly gay sister, Mary. The scent of power is strong in those Cheneys. Fast forward, though, and it was Dick Cheney who rallied the nine other living, former secretaries of defense in constructing a document supporting Joe Biden as fairly winning the U.S. presidency. Plus, it was Liz, Dick's conservative Republican daughter, who championed the second impeachment of Donald Trump in the U.S. House this past week.

That has some Wyomingites pulling their whiskers. The GOP leadership of Carbon County, Wyoming—home to 15,885 residents in such map grabbers as Baggs, Medicine Bow and Muddy Gap—voted to censure Liz for speaking words like these taken from the Casper Star-Tribune, "... when it came down to it, the president of the United States incited a mob to attack and interrupt the democratic process. And then, while the violence played out, the president refused to take steps to stop it. In my mind, those are absolutely high crimes and misdemeanors. There is just simply no question. This was a vote that could not have anything to do with party or politics."

They should have censured Liz for her stance on gay marriage, but this? This time she was telling the truth, not expressing a tactical feeling. It is what it is: Wyoming men and women celebrate individualism until it conflicts with theirs and were simply tolerant of Liz till she spoke up.

Wyoming is being a spoiled brat right now, still licking its wounded image because their vagabond medicine man, Donald Trump didn't win. Wyoming officials have talked of succession before Trump's defeat, so that's not it entirely. What it is, actually, is that men in Wyoming today still think wearing a too-big hat, too-tall boots and too-tight jeans makes a man a man. Nope. It just makes it awkward at the urinal and that's about it.

I grew up a big fan of Wyoming, with one of my earliest memories being a wrangler chuck wagon breakfast in Evanston. I bought loads of firecrackers there and even more beer (if they do secede, will the beer I buy there be considered an import?). I had wild times during Cowboy Days in Evanston (is that still held?) and also made trips to Wyoming Downs. One of my favorite running backs of all time is Jim Kiick who wowed the nation in the late 1960s at the University of Wyoming. Who doesn't love Yellowstone, the Tetons, Fontanelle and the Wind River Range? For several years, we published Planet Jackson Hole, one of the smallest but most spunky alternative newspapers anywhere, thank you very much, Ms. Robyn Vincent! I love Jackson even though we failed at keeping the paper alive.

There are 582,328 people living in Wyoming—one third the population of Salt Lake County (and only 182,000 more than have died nationwide of the coronavirus they courageously deny—we've nearly lost a state to COVID-19). They have two Senators and one House rep in Cheney. Wyoming ranks No. 1 for state government dependency on the federal government. Cowpokes get paid with my tax dollars to ride their ponies. In the last election, 193,559 Wyoming residents voted for Trump.

I live in Salt Lake County where 289,906 people voted for Joe Biden. We coulda carried Wyoming! But, Salt Lake County is gerrymandered, cheating Democrats out of a House rep. We aren't crying about leaving the United States. We bitch like crazy, but it's what a democracy is (except for the aforementioned cheating). Wyoming has nothing to bitch about, A shame, then, that the modern Wyoming cowboy is more Sugarfoot than tenderfoot. Let 'em go. CW

Send comments to john@cityweekly.net.