"Go ahead and give him a kick with your heels and he'll go into a lope."

The words floated across the barren sage-brush pasture. Troy Lake, a long-time cowboy by evening and white-collar high school principal by day was the orator. I was pupil. The horse below me was my bridge into the cowboy way. I had arrived at the moment I'd long thought about in theory.

A trot took me to the edge of the smallish pasture (though nary any grass budded on this bleak semi-arid terrain).

I slowed my steed as I performed a right-hand turn, learned only moments earlier (it's kind of no-brainer, honestly). I am an obvious novice though. Noticeable principally to Blue, the wondeful eight-year-old Quarter below me donating his time and effort for my personal glory.

He staves a glance over his shoulder and our pupils meet briefly. I chuckle, embarrassed at my incompetence. He mutters something under his breath. I swear it's "amateur."

So there we were. In Wyoming. In October. As the sun set on the WIDE OPEN Western prairie, with more horses in the immediate area than homo-sapiens. No wind (remarkable for Wyo). No distractions. Practically no ambient noise.

Horse, saddle, jeans, reins, man. Nothing more.

I dig my heels in and say "get up!" Magically, that's just what happens.

And while there are countless other impulses that register to a first-time rider, I'll simply state that I completely understand, after only one ride, why there exists in the wide world so much lore surrounding horsemanship.

The delight of a loping saddled steed on a warm Western day, as my backside smacks the saddle and my hat nearly loses its lofty grip will long be with me, whether I ever ride again.

And certainly there's much to perfect in my shade-tree riding technique. Much to learn about communicating with a living animal that is carrying you about hither and yon(der). That's a relationship new to me, certainly.

And wow. I totally understand why chaps were invented. Holy icy-hot overdose, Batman! Whoever says the experience of riding a horse is over once you de-saddle obviously didn't live to the morning after his chafing experience...

But let us peruse the photo documentation, shall we?

Pre-ride with my Quarter horse steed 12 Bar Blues (or just Blue). Horses always have cool names.

Learning how to steer. Blue is perhaps the most docile horse I've ever seen. His owner, Troy, said he's super lazy and tends to get pretty chubby if not exercised frequently. Figures. I get the slow, chubby horse. A novice's friend though, no doubt. The Wyoming governor rode this same horse in the State Fair parade back in August, so I felt pretty good about my chances of staying on the brute. (...and go SOONERS!)

Troy cleaning out the horse shoes. Blue is on the right. That's Troy's son Jake tending him. Notice the array of animals. Classic cowboy scene. Ha. Love it. Multiple horses and 6 dogs to boot, little puppy wieners included. Side note: puppy wieners LOVE to eat horse poo. fyi...

Most worthless cow dog ever. But still pretty endearing. The big dogs keep them in their place, Tami, don't worry.

Wiggle rump.

End of the line. Not a bad scene to close out the day. It can be cold here, certainly (tho the worst is obviously still to come), but there's always sunshine aplenty out here, and heaven knows there's not a tree for miles to block a single ray of it.

Thus ends Lesson 1. Stay tuned for lesson two: learning to gallop!

Oh I wish I were an Oscar Meyer...

POSTED IN | 12:05 AM

i want one, but methinks mon Molyneaux would have a fit...


A surprising spotlight seat

POSTED IN | 11:38 PM
It's perhaps a common idea among journalists that they, so the thought goes, are unlike those they interview, and are indeed outside the camp of what we consider "public officials." Often there's the fly-on-the-wall mentality. I just report it, people. I'm detached, I'm neutral. I'm uninvolved.

This thought is perhaps an easier one to entertain, you might think, in a place like Douglas, Wyoming (pop. 5,800). But, while I'd like for it to be true personally, I'm learning that a plight of the smalltown city reporter is perhaps one of increased public spotlight rather than one of nimble streamline.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not a flipping icon in this cowboy mecca. By no means. But I find myself being further pressed for my opinions and input from people on city happenings of late, as well as becoming further known as one of the reporter corps soldiers.

Thus have been my experiences previously and lately cementing the matter:

-People passing me in the grocery store and recognizing me as "the guy who wrote the article about us." i smiled and waved.

-A kid stopping his bike and indicating "hey, that's the newspaper guy" to his father as we passed on the street. i smiled and waved.

-Having the power to detain an incredibly busy US Senate member (Barrasso, R-WY) after a speech for an exclusive brief interview for my 4,500 circulation weekly. i said "um" too much and smiled.

-Individuals commenting on my columns in the paper when we randomly meet in public ("oh yeah, you're the one who doesn't wear jeans...")

-A local school board candidate coming in to simply talk about the upcoming school board election and the so-called wrongs of the current board. i nodded, said "mhh-huh" often and blinked repeatedly.

-And most recently, the notion was rammed home when I was accused of "slanting" an article written about a local city council member (who has historically been a rogue in the public eye), and being accused of having "an agenda." I almost laughed out loud.

-And then being asked my frank opinion by high ranking city staff about the previously mentioned city council member and his actions (seems i drew the short straw for the city council beat).

So it's a curious place to be in, this fish-bowl community where the odds have you being related by blood or bride to at least one other family in the area. Or else you're just a crash-landed coal miner.

I often find myself amazed at the sheer devotion the locals have to their community, while also being mildly freaked out by the regular lack of a life-giving external perspective coming from outside the sacred county borders.

What you see is what you get, oftentimes. Which is a provocative, scary package.

And it seems I now have to watch my P's and Q's, at least among certain peeps at certain times.

That's just kind of a strange realization.

But, with that said, come and see me for all the town gossip. I've got the dirt on everybody...

Fun with textures and colors...


...and lots and lots of shotgun shells...

Mas fotos de la boda

POSTED IN | 12:09 AM
A few more snaps from my sis' wedding. Perhaps this is not overly interesting to you, as would be the case if it weren't my sister/familia. That's okay. Might I just direct you here for something a bit more entertaining in lieu of these photos.

I wanted to get a few more bridal shots in the mix. The photog guy posed my sis the whole time and I just stepped in here and there to get my own shots. Thus:

"There ain't no swimmin' in my show!"

Wedding chapel, pre-ceremony. The folks seated represent the entire wedding party. Nice and simple. Not such a bad idea I was thinking to myself. Almost effective as the under-used elope. Though certainly less of a haul in the wedding gift booty department with either option. Hmm...decisions decisions...

Man and wife, say man and wife!

wardrobe malfunction...

Bro Aaron moving in for some sweet, sweet lovin from sis-in-law Laura. I missed their anniversary back in August amid moving to Wyoming, but they celebrated 10 years of being hitched Aug. 8. Woohoo! I offer my late congrats, as only a younger brother can.

The Fatman grows weary of photo-making, turning to his Apple side-arm to procure tip-of-the-finger Nascar updates. Laura is rightfully unimpressed.

A & L with our hotel diggs. Pretty nice, Clark...

If my brother were on a single's web site, this would be his profile pic. "Classy and yet spiritual, a moderate hipster looking for love within the pew and without..." (that one's for free, bro. next one will cost ya)

classic negus. (note: TCU tie)

and of course, requisite scenery photos. you didn't think you'd get out of here without some, surely...

Back to Wyoming. A dash of snow on Pikes Peak as seen on I-25 northbound through The Springs. Oh those Springs...how I love thee...

Cemetery Colors


As seen from the Glenrock, Wyoming town cemetery.
Well, my sis' wedding went down without a hitch last weekend in The Springs of Colorful Colorado. I think it would be an old codger indeed who would say he didn't have a good time at such an event. Lordy. And it was good to see the whole fam as I likely won't make it back for Thanksgiving or Christmas this year (yes brethren, that's the ball and chain of the real world. we can't all have cushy euro vacation standards, which of course is sad).

But as the pre-dinner buzz waned (read: empty stomach w/pre-dinner vino) and the entrees were served at Saturday night's weekend summation meal, I thought that I was quite happy for my sister and new bro-in-law. It's an interesting relationship you have with your siblings, as you're all separate and yet inextricably joined. Your lives affect each other, if only indirectly, and at times directly (see: Grumpy older brother = in-house strife, or bickering girl siblings = fatherly intervention, or angelic youngest child = ultimate bliss).

So, it's just nice when you see something come along in your siblings' lives and know it's a good thing for them, and also take personal enjoyment in the matter, whether it's a marriage, a new bambino, Texas Christian beating Brigham Young, or a random job in Wyoming. Indeed, there's much to be thankful for. And I'm pretty sure I'm not thankful enough.

So, such was the case with seeing both parties in mutual enjoyment at all the wedding festivities last weekend. It does a sibling good, mane.

And as a side note I think Colorado Springs wouldn't be a bad place to get married, either. Whew doggie. I'll put that one on the List...

Pretty compelling, awkward fam shot. My father takes the cake though. WOW.

We blasted some clays the morning before the wedding. Here's Alex, dispatching with his over-under. (OU was pissing away a cushy lead in the Red River Rivalry as this very photo was taken. but i don't want to talk about it)

Lots of delicious things to masticate. All wedding guest parties reported record short-term weight-gains, according to hotel culinary officials.

The fam in a better light. Our first successful all-encompassing fam photo in some time.

Just the siblings. Glasses on the left, losers on the right.



Autumn is deep in the air here in the Cowboy State. This is the view I have directly outside my apartment, basically. Not a bad one to accompany me on my daily walk to work (4 blocks). This weekend it's quite chilly here. The first Wyo snowfall of the year is in progress! Lovely. Here's to change...and autumn's remarkable vibrance...

3rd Quarter Gut Check


...in more ways than one...

I think this is what Ol' Blue Eyes had in mind when he sang those words...

Coal Mine tour with the Chinese

A few more snaps from the coal mine tour of last Monday. Interestingly, there were also about 15 other Chinese people on the excursion (which was the whole point of the event). And we're talking Chinese big-whigs. Not sure about most of them, but the Western Governor of Inner Mongolia was there. Some real Party old-schoolers, I'll bet.

I resisted the urge to say "how about that Dalai Lama!" or other such awkwardness inducing commie witticisms that come to a person's mind in such situations. You know what I'm talking about...

They ate the provided BBQ brisket and cole slaw lunch with chopsticks and laughed at the MADE IN CHINA stamped on the provided safety glasses. A humorous irony for all parties present, though we'll see who's still laughing in 50 years when China owns our entire flipping country. Words of wisdom: beat the rush, learn to use chopsticks now. It could be a Reddish-hued future...

Anyway, economic ramblings aside, the Party-pride moment of the day came when I talked with one of the twenty-something translators. We were chatting idly about Beijing where she lives and then she switched into robot, indoctrinated mode and pointedly told me I should definitely visit Beijing, and that it's a very wonderful, beautiful place. And then told me when I do visit the motherland that I "shouldn't bring many clothes. There are many clothes to buy in China."

I almost laughed it was such an awkward, forceful transition from small talk to anecdotal pitch. Seemingly far beyond an "I-love-my-country-and-am-proud-of-it" mindset. Golly.

At any rate, some additional photos of the day at the mine with los chinos are below.

(As a side note, the whole experience seemed somewhat surreal and random, what with being at a massive coal mine in a still largely foreign state and hearing Chinese peppered in here are there as lumbering hundreds-of-ton machinery ambled past on the desolate sage-brush frontier.)

World's largest scoop machine. We got to go up in the control room and watch it get its scoop thang on. Pretty impressive.

The world's largest series of dumptruck. She's a Caterpillar 400 ton jobby that carries an additional 400 tons of payload. Not your grampy's dump truck.

It's just really, really massive...

See...there's beauty in a coal mine too...

Attention spans waned after the chopstick-fed brisket lunch was over.

Wyoming has some of the cleanest burning, highest BTU content coal out there, so they say. The smallish looking dump truck there weighs 250 tons empty.

Roadway to Heaven



Working in the Coal Mine


I got a tour of a local coal mine this week by means of being a group photographer for a mine corporation tour. Did you know Wyoming has the largest surface coal mining operations in the world? I didn't. It's not overly interesting by my watch, but it makes the state a crap-ton of dinero, and that's the the gospel T (the mine I toured grosses $445 million per month. no lie, bra).

But I'm tired so I'll give you more tour photos later, after some pillow time and a Wednesday at the office. If it seems I've been less than forthcoming with textually denser posts, it's largely because my writing duties have pressed me toward other harbors (i.e. writing 70 percent of this week's paper).

But I can't be sarcastic in my city council stories, so don't worry. There will always be an outlet here, my sandbox of personal media sanctuary, where there's no attribution necessary and deadlines are kept in a lock box full of scorpions (a la the movie Hook).

So it's a good setup for the both of us. You dig, Player?

Straight up. Fa'reel.