Tuesday, May 31, 2005- - -
What part of 'illegal' don't they understand?
An illegal immigrant stopped and released on three occasions by the Denver police is now accused of shooting two police officers. Local authorities are reluctant to enforce the immigration laws, but I've got to wonder if there is any other federal law that receives the same ambivalence. These are indeed strange days we live in.
Little purple pills
Jacob Sullum has a very interesting review of Szasz Under Fire: The Psychiatric Abolitionist Faces His Critics at Reasononline:
"To a large extent, then, the issue of involuntary treatment comes down to a question of where the burden of proof should lie and how heavy it should be. Even those who are skeptical of psychiatric pretensions cannot easily dismiss Pies’ invocation of “the young man, rocking back and forth in a pool of his own urine, responding to voices from ‘a CIA computer’ that are instructing him to kill himself.” If such a person is indeed suffering from an incapacitating brain disease, it should be possible to allow his family to make treatment decisions on his behalf. At the same time, anyone who cares about liberty has to hesitate before imposing treatment on someone who insists he does not want it."
This isn't an academic issue for me. My first wife was kidnapped by space aliens who secretly planted a radio receiver in her head to tell her what to do. Ultimately, their instructions led to grief. She refused treatment and I refused to have her hospitalized involuntarily, despite the recommendations of the physicians at the time. Oddly enough, little purple pills shut down the alien transmissions and allowed her to lead a normal life — for a time. A sad story that ended many years ago and I will not burden you with the gory details, but it perhaps explains why I've found myself aghast at Thomas Szasz' rejection of the concept of mental illness: While there certainly are problems with psychiatric diagnoses, and imposing medical treatment on someone who rejects it is rightly anathema to libertarian ideals, schizophrenia is real. You can take my word for that.
Of course, Szasz would respond that schizophrenia is not a mental illness, but rather a physical illness that can be treated with medication. True enough I suppose, but such academic quibbling is cold comfort for anyone faced with a loved one supposedly so afflicted. For a long time I doubted that Szasz had anything to offer but muddied water, but Sullum does a good job of illustrating Szasz' argument vis the troubling issue of involuntary treatment and the difficult legal issues involved. After 25 years, I'm still not sure whether I made the right decisions at the time, nor will I ever know. I do know that, given the state of the psychiatric art, only a clairvoyant could predict the result of such decisions. Should someone's life and freedom hinge on the psychic ability of a psychiatrist? Despite my own experience I'm still inclined to say 'No', although I certainly sympathize with those who disagree.
Sunday, May 29, 2005- - -
Just another Monday…
Sigh. Yes, we're working today, we worked yesterday, and we'll be working tomorrow too. The price to be paid for this idyllic existence in the wild, wild west. It seems that the oil companies have a bit of money to spend and want to give us some of it. Who's to argue? Soon enough there will be tumbleweeds blowing down main street in all these little oil boom towns again.
Saturday, May 28, 2005- - -
Another successful passage
The birthday celebration was a success! Funny though, I must be getting old because I failed to celebrate hard enough to make me feel old this morning. Just to make sure that I don't forget the moment, my wife presented me with a T-shirt which proclaims that I'm "Older Than Dirt." Being a geologist I guess she'd know.
I celebrated with a new CD, the first from Nickel Creek. I ordered Essential Techniques for Mandolin, taught by Chris Thile, a couple of weeks ago and I'm amazed by his pickin' ability, so thought I'd buy a CD by his current group. It is extraordinary, bluegrass with more than a hint of traditional celtic, and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys the genre.
From the Essential Techniques DVD, I note again that most good mandolin players have long, straight little fingers for reaching those high notes, nothing like my gnarled, sausage-sized appendages. Still, in a week of working with the lessons Thile presents I've improved considerably. The DVD is worth the price just for the explanation of "picking theory" and accompanying exercises. That's something I'd read about several places, but never really understood. Basically, if you want to play really fast you've got to pick up and down really fast. That sounds simple, but it's not so easy at first. (Hmm… probably not so easy ever, but Thile certainly makes it look easy).
For instance, if you're picking the G and D strings and then back to the G (uppermost and second strings) it would seem fastest to pick the G and D with a single downstroke and then pick upward on the G for the third note, a simple down and up stroke. But no. Assuming 4:4 time, which is probably most common in mandolin music, you pick down on the G, up on the D, and then down on the G again. At first that seems awkward as hell, with a lot of excess motion, but after a couple of days of working through the exercises it comes easier and it starts to become obvious that a simple 'down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, …' picking motion is a lot faster than a more intricate 'down, down, up, down, up, up, down', or some such continually varying motion. Oddly enough, after practicing this for a bit, not only is my playing faster, it's starting to sound more like traditional mandolin music too. Not surprising, as up-strokes are lighter than down-strokes and sound slightly different.
I should also note that I'm most pleased by my little Martin Backpacker. It will never win any awards for beauty, with rather coarse, straight-grained wood and a finish that's rudimentary at best, but with a little work on the bridge it's very playable and sounds just fine, at least to my tin ears. I was worried that it might be hard to hold onto — and you've got to use a strap even when seated — but it's really not bad at all. Best of all, it was
cheap inexpensive, so I don't wince every time I bump it against something in the confines of the 5th wheel. I'm having fun, satisfying a life-long ambition, and not making my spouse too crazy in the process.
Ah, the idle rich…
You've got to excuse them. While wandering the fancy stores in Steamboat yesterday we were again reminded why we don't live in Steamboat, or Aspen, or Jackson Hole. My wife was preceding me down the aisle when a very elaborately coiffed, silk-shirted, Gucci-shod gentleman about our age took two steps backward from between the racks and staggered into her. I said "excuse us" and he replied with a sniff "That's alright."
Friday, May 27, 2005- - -
Yes, reports of Blogger's suckiness are only slightly exaggerated. I posted the bit below a couple of hours ago and it's still not appearing on-line. This is more than a bit unusual though. Blogger may be slow, but it's not usually this bad.
My favorite time of year!
We were out in the hills yesterday and it was gorgeous. Huge patches of daisies are turning entire hillsides bright yellow, with occasional touches of vivid crimson and blue thrown in by the Indian paintbrush and penstemon. The biscuit root is doing particularly well, and there are occasional blooms of primrose, bee weed, pincushion cactus, phlox, milkvetch, blue bells, and many, many others, all taking advantage of a few drops of moisture to put on a show.
The wildlife seem particularly evident this time of year as well. As well as thousands of deer and antelope, in the last few days we've seen elk, coyotes, fox, bobcat, and rodents galore. This isn't their best-looking time of the year — the shedding deer and antelope look particularly scruffy, and the females are all looking a bit fat and slow with another two weeks to go before the fawns and calves appear. The one fox we saw close-up looked gray and mangy with big tufts of shedding hair, but bounded over a fence with the easy grace that always suggests to me that Vulpes should have been classified with the Felidae rather than the Canidae.
We are noticing a distinct absence of rabbits, both cottontail and jack. This is in contrast to the last couple of years, when cottontails were everywhere and jackrabbits not uncommon. I've also noticed that the cottontails we are seeing here on the Colorado border are larger and more grayish, lacking the reddish patch on the back of the neck that we see in desert cottontails. I'll have to look in the books but I'm thinking these are a different species.
We're also quite surprised by the number of elk we're seeing running around out in the desert. No big herds, but singles and groups of two and three. We have a single spike bull hanging around in our project area who still had his little spikes a month ago, which seems late. I've seen his tracks several times since, but don't know if he's shed. I do note that spike bulls often still have remnants of velvet in mid-October, so I wonder if they don't grow and shed their antlers later than more mature bulls.
Ah well, today we have the whole day to make observations on the wildlife — we're going to Steamboat Springs to have a burger and a beer in celebration of my birthday. Yes, it's the big Five Oh, and I'm pulling out all the stops! It's the off-season in Steamboat but there's still plenty of wildlife to be seen from the sidewalk café, and it's way more entertaining than watching the pickups go by in Craig. We also want to try their brew pub, which is only open after 4pm — damned uncivilized — what about the beer for lunch bunch, don't they care about them?
So have one for me!
Thursday, May 26, 2005- - -
What a hike!
We just got back from a three day dash home to Worland, where I spent my time out looking at well pads. We managed to put 1500 miles on the little Jeep in three days and my backside feels every mile of it. I'll be glad to get out and tromp in the hills for a few days.
Even Wyoming is starting to look green, and Boysen Reservoir is 92.4% full, the most water that's been in that puddle in a long while. They may even have water coming over the spillway as the snowmelt progresses into June. That means the walleye will be biting below the dam and I won't be there, dammit.
Our little garden in a bucket is doing great! The tomato plant has grown close to 6" since we planted it and the peppers and egg plant aren't far behind. I think the portable garden will be a great diversion.
Saturday, May 21, 2005- - -
On the Outlaw trail
And so never ending, but always descending,
Sounds and motions for ever and ever are blending
All at once and all o'er, with a mighty uproar, -
And this way the water comes down at Lodore.
Robert Southey — The Cataract of Lodore
Supposedly, one of John Wesley Powell's 1869 expedition members thought of this poem when they first saw the chasm that forms the entrance to the Gates of Lodore, on the Green River in Brown's Park. It is most spectacular, as I can now personally attest! Yes, after 21 years exploring Wyoming and northern Colorado, today we finally turned in at the county road that leads to the Gates, and even hiked the trail to the mouth of the canyon. The photo here doesn't begin to capture the immensity of the place. It is indeed a heck of a gully.
We couldn't have timed our trip better, the flowers were in bloom, including some I couldn't name, and I about wore out the macro setting on the digital camera. Although the canyon is in Dinosaur National Monument we didn't see any dinosaurs, only a few snakes and lizards. We also saw a couple of hundred bicycles, participating in the Tour de Maybell, all peddling up the highway between Maybell and Craig, Colorado, and several groups of rafters setting off down the canyon. I wished I was going with them as it was a glorious, 80° day.
On the way back we stopped at one of my wife's favorite spots, the "Swinging Bridge," a single lane suspension bridge over the Green River. You can drive across it — it's rated a 3 tons — but after getting out and walking across we thought better of that. It's not exactly rickety, just a bit on the flimsy side.
Friday, May 20, 2005- - -
I feel safer already!
Just knowing that the FBI is on the trail of this woman who has the temerity to feed the poor and fix bicycles. Jim Spencer of the DenverPost sees something sinister here, but I suspect that it's just rampant ineptitude. And just think, we give these guys guns.
Sigh. Here's more of the same. It would seem that the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force can't distinguish between terrorists and political protesters. Or could it be that the politicians who pull their strings can tell the difference and are more afraid of political dissent? Actually, I suspect that the problem is simpler and less sinister: We hire these guys and tell them to 'do something!' If they can't find any actual terrorists they will find someone to annoy.
Thursday, May 19, 2005- - -
For months now the powers that be in Wyoming have been cracking down on bingo parlors, poker parties, video games, and gambling of any kind. Now they're debating a Powerball lottery. It would appear that some aren't opposed to gambling as long as they get a cut. Imagine that.
Wednesday, May 18, 2005- - -
But what if I want a purple McMansion?
Joanne Ditmer has an article in today's Denver Post on Historic Preservation. Now I think Historic Preservation is a grand idea — that's how I make my living — but these folks aren't asking for guidance in how they can better preserve their own properties. They want to tell all their neighbors what they can or cannot do with their property. Often, right down to what color they must paint the shutters and how big the address numbers can be. It's amazing how fast this sort of thing devolves into a bunch of busybodies who want to micromanage the neighborhood with the force of law behind them. And god help you if you cross that army of
control freaks little old ladies in tennis shoes. They may well decide that your doorknob is the wrong shape and your bushes are a half-inch too tall.
It's the same old story: "Just a few reasonable restrictions!" But who decides what's reasonable? Someone who's relatively laissez faire, or someone who was born with the urge to run our lives? Which of those personalities would put the energy into passing the reasonable restrictions in the first place? Who's more likely to put the energy into enforcing them?
Tuesday, May 17, 2005- - -
Where have all the outlaws gone?
When things got too hot for Butch Cassidy here in the west, he went to Argentina to start a ranch. It's interesting that Kit Laney plans to do the same.
It must be something in the water
Over in Topeka advocates of "intelligent design" want the Kansas school board to redefine science. Perhaps they can consult with the Rev. Fred "God hates fags" Phelps, who's also led me to wonder about those good folks in Topeka.
Where were these guys five years ago?
DenverPost — In the midst of a drilling boom, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $92 billion energy bill last month that includes $8 billion in new tax breaks and a host of environmental rollbacks designed to eliminate impediments to even faster industry growth.
Five years ago gasoline was 98¢ a gallon and there were tumbleweeds blowing down Dewar Drive in Rock Springs. Half the workers in the energy industry were unemployed and a little help would have been appreciated. Now, it's hard to imagine getting any busier. For one thing, most jobs in the oilfield require considerable skill and training. Think of a drilling rig as one huge piece of heavy machinery that requires the coordinated efforts of several people to operate. You don't just go down to Job Service and hire a half dozen derelicts and dress them up in greasy coveralls. Not unless you want to damage a few million dollars worth of equipment and get somebody killed in the process.
Everyone I talk to is crying for help and good hands are getting down right impossible to find. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that a lot of the folks who were working rigs, or driving trucks, or laying pipe, went and got real jobs the last time the oil bidness went bust. Now they don't want to give up their secure positions for what may be a few months of work, no matter how lucrative it may be.
Naturally, Congress is reacting to the screams of their constituents, who don't appreciate paying $2.50/gallon for gasoline, and this will give the illusion of 'doing something' about the problem. Unfortunately, they can't do much about the fact that 1.3 Billion Chinese, who used to ride bicycles, are buying cars.
Hang on to your hats, it's going to be a wild ride.
It's green alright!
The Denver Post says that Colorado has received higher than average precipitation these last few months. We've been sitting in Wyoming watching the winter storms pound northern Colorado and now we see the result. Driving south out of Baggs to Craig yesterday we were absolutely amazed. It's so green it almost hurts your eyes. And what really hurts is the line at the border between the brown of Wyoming and the green of Colorado. We certainly didn't remark on the greenery during our drive from Rock Springs to Baggs on Sunday!
And now, on the first official day of the field season, it's lashing rain across the project area and the wind is whipping the little tree next to the 5th wheel against the bedroom window. We'll see how much we get done today, as our GPS (Geographic Positioning System) doesn't work well during thunder storms. But then I don't work well during thunder storms, either.
The big decision for the day will be whether to put the garden outside. We didn't get to have a garden last year; we were on the road too much to care for one. But we decided we had to do something, as our supply of frozen 'fresh' tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, and such, left over from year before last, was dwindling rapidly. Eating the tomatoes they strip mine down in Texas just doesn't appeal after you've had the real thing. A few days ago they put up their garden tent at the Albertson's in Rocket and we wandered through wishing we could buy something. So we did. We bought one healthy-looking tomato — and Early Girl — and eight little green pepper and serrano plants. We also bought a couple of cubic feet of potting soil, two big pickle buckets, and a wire trellis to prop up the tomato. Voila! One traveling garden.
It's particularly necessary that the garden be portable, as it's still frosting at night. We bring the buckets into the RV and set them by the door to keep them cozy, a routine that we will keep up until at least Memorial Day, my traditional garden planting day when we're home. There's no guarantee that it won't frost after Memorial Day, but then there's no guarantee that we won't get a hard frost in July. Sooner or later we just cross our fingers and stick plants in the ground. Also, it's easy enough to move the buckets now, but won't be so easy once the plants start getting bigger. Still, if we have to move the garden will ride just fine in the RV.
Ross Hopkins claims that he lost his job as a Budweiser distributor when he was seen at a local bar drinking a Coors. So what's he going to do now? Well, he's thinking of getting a teaching degree.
Ps. Hey! Maybe he can get a job in Topeka!
Monday, May 16, 2005- - -
That was scary!
Okay, I guess we're just not trailer trash. We got to Baggs and checked into the local trailer court — there is no RV park — only to find that we had no cell phone service and thus, no internet access with our Verizon air card. Then the local police and sheriff's dept. came and took our next door neighbor away in handcuffs. This morning at 3am we heard his wife and kids leaving, with the kids going "where are we going, mom?" So…
One night and we decided that the trailer court in Baggs was not for us. We packed up this morning and moved down to the KOA in Craig, Colorado, where we have cell service, internet access, and neighbors that are a bit more up-scale. Blogging will continue, although on a limited basis, as we're about to get very busy.
Sunday, May 15, 2005- - -
Off to Baggs!
It's time to pack it in and bid Rocket City a fond adieu. We've got to get down to Baggs and get set up in time for my wife to watch Desperate Housewives (of course, I don't admit to watching it myself). I'm certainly hoping that Baggs has Verizon service, or this may mark a severe restriction in my blogging. We're off! Wish us luck!
And thanks for stopping in!
"There's ants under my skin!"
I knew an old addict years ago who'd had just a bit too much meth over the years and had the crawlies. They really shouldn't lock up such folks, they should leave them at large to serve as an object lesson for anyone foolish enough to be thinking of trying that stuff. I know that one look at ol' Mike convinced me — that stuff is poison!
… just don't make us blue!
Clark Walworth, editor of the Casper Star, writes a teaser about some of the changes being planned for the paper. They've been running little ads saying one of them will be a bigger type face. Of course, I don't know what all the changes will be or how it will work out, but that bigger type face is troubling. I remember when the Casper Star had correspondents in Rock Springs — that became too expensive years ago. The general drift of the paper over the last 20 years has been toward less news and more fluff, less reporting and more printing of news releases, etc. I suppose they had to do something, with the cost of newsprint and ink going through the roof. But there's the rub: The cost of paper and ink hasn't gone down. Will the bigger print being advertised come with added pages to contain it? Or will it entail another cut in the content of the paper? We shall see.
One from my aunt Mickie:
Ole and Lena lived on a lake in northern Minnesota. It was near the end of winter and spring was yust beginning. Ole asked Lena if she would skate across the frozen lake to the yeneral store to pick him up some tobacco. She asked for money, but he told her to put it on their tab.
So she skated across, got the tobacco, and skated back. Then she asked Ole vhy he didn't send her with any money.
He said, "I vasn't goin' to send any money ven I vasn't sure how tick the ice vas."
Sounds like some of my relatives...
Saturday, May 14, 2005- - -
In perusing the various on-line music stores in search of a new mandolin, I was struck by the extreme similarity in styling of F-model mandolins, regardless of the luthier. In contrast, there's a good deal more variation in the styling of A-models. Note particularly the outline of the head stock (the top of the instrument that has the tuning pegs), the 'scroll' on the upper left of the bodies, and the 'points' on the upper and lower right of the bodies of the F-model mandolins. None of those features appears to be functional — except perhaps that the scroll provides a handy place to attach a strap — but they are ubiquitous and virtually identical in most maker's offerings. Why?
Well, it turns out that Orville H. Gibson patented a new style of arch-top mandolins back in 1898, doing away with the rounded or "bowl-backed" body that was common to all earlier models. This new design was based on violin design and featured an arched top and back. In the process Gibson created the A-model and F-model styles that are still the most common mandolins today. According to this brief history of Gibson mandolins, the "A" stood for "Artist" and the "F" for "Florentine". Here's an F-model made by Gibson in 1906, complete with scroll and a headstock outline that is virtually identical to those in the eye candy lineup, and to the Michael Kelly Dragonfly I'm drooling on.
So the F-style mandolin has a long history, but this doesn't answer the question: Why are these non-functional stylistic elements of the F-style mandolin so slavishly copied by so many luthiers? Is it because the legendary father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe, played an F5 Gibson? The F-style Gibsons are certainly sought-after, and if you have to ask what they cost, you can't afford one. Here's a nice, slightly used F5 model made in 2003. It's only $11,500! Here's another, a 1929 vintage, for $80,000!! But it's sure pretty. Musicians rave over the sound of the Gibson F5, but if yer payin' five figures for an instrument it better sound good!
I've got to figure that the Gibson F-style mandolins are so widely copied largely due to market demand. That's the style that sells. But again, why? Surely the simpler A-style, for the same price, could be made to a higher quality and give better sound? If a musician is looking for the most pluck for his buck, wouldn't that be the way to go? Or is it that the F-style mandolins are just so outrageously cool-looking that they can't be resisted? Well, it worked on me!
Ps. Just to prove (once again) that I'm a bit of an oddball, my old mandolin, a hand-me-down from my dad, is a Kay, and looks something like this one, neither an A– nor F-style, but something else. It's a mail-order mandolin and not a particularly valuable instrument except to me.
All work and no play…
I've promised myself that I'm not going to get so wound up in work this year that everything else goes by the way. Re-starting the blog is one of my resolutions. For another, I've decided to dig out the musical instruments. I've played the guitar, banjo, and mandolin since I was a kid, but never got very good at any of them. My musical interests run toward vintage country and bluegrass, not genres that have had a great following around here, and I've never had the opportunity to take lessons, rather trying to learn from those little "How to play the —" books of music and tablature. Not easy when you have no idea what many of the songs are supposed to sound like.
But that was then. Now there are several good websites with lessons in the various instruments. They provide the same old music and tablature, and mp3 examples that I find enormously helpful. Right now I'm working my way through Mel Bay's Mandolin Sessions, which are really great.
My mandolin is a 60-year-old antique and I'd cry if anything happened to it — not to mention that space in the tin tipi is at a premium — so I sent off for a Martin Backpacker. It's way cute and has a lot better sound than you might think given its tiny box. Also, despite its minimalist dimensions it's not at all difficult to play, although the strap (included) is a must. The best thing is the incredible smell of a new instrument.
On the downside, its action was quite high and the bridge isn't adjustable (probably better than having the action too low with a non-adjustable bridge though, eh?). The problem was easily solved with a sheet of medium grit sandpaper and a dead flat surface to work on. I also used a caliper to measure the height of the bridge as I worked it down to avoid over-doing it. I took it down a few hundredths at a time, replacing it, retuning, and playing for awhile between episodes of sanding. After three days of this I'm getting close to where I want it, which is a good thing, my wife is getting really tired of the constant sessions of tuning and retuning. Of course, I can't play for long before my fingers start screaming in pain — those tiny little double strings are tight and the too high action exacerbates the tender finger syndrome.
Unfortunately, in the process of searching for replacement strings and picks, pitch pipe, & etc., I've stumbled on the object of my dreams: A Michael Kelly Dragonfly. Check out the inlays on that neck, including the tiny dragonfly! That is one purty outfit. Perhaps after we've gotten a couple of checks in the bank… The hard part is, I can't decide of I like the tobacco sunburst finish, the antique sunset, or the black. An ecstasy of indecision!
Ps. Besides the beautiful instrument itself, buying a new mando would give me the excuse to buy one of these funky 1930s-style cases to keep it in. Then all I'd need is a pinstriped suit and spats. Or bib overalls and Redwings.
LUTHERAN AIRLINES, INC.
My dad also sent this along:
If you are traveling soon, consider Lutheran Air, the no-frills airline. You're all in the same boat on Lutheran Air, where flying is an uplifting experience. There is no First Class on any Lutheran Air flight. Meals are potluck. Rows 1-6, bring rolls, 7-15 bring a salad, 16-21 a main dish, and 22-30 a dessert. Basses and tenors please sit in the rear of the aircraft.
Everyone is responsible for his or her own baggage. All fares are by freewill offering and the plane will not land until the budget is met. Pay attention to your flight attendant, who will acquaint you with the safety system aboard this Lutheran Air 599. Okay then, listen up: I'm only gonna say this once. In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, I am frankly going to be real surprised and so will Captain Olson because we fly right around 2000 feet, so loss of cabin pressure would probably indicate the Second Coming or something of that nature, and I wouldn't bother with those little masks on the rubber tubes. You're gonna have bigger things to worry about than that. Just stuff those back up in their little holes. Probably the masks fell out because of turbulence which, to be honest with you, we're going to have quite a bit of at 2000 feet... sort of like driving across a plowed field, but after a while you get used to it. In the event of a water landing, I'd say forget it. Start saying the Lord's Prayer and just hope you get to the part about forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us, which some people say "trespass against us," which isn't right, but what can you do?
The use of cell phones on the plane is strictly forbidden, not because they may interfere with the plane's navigational system, which is seat of the pants all the way... no, it's because cell phones are a pain in the wazoo and if God meant you to use a cell phone, He would have put your mouth on the side of your head. We're going to start lunch right about noon and it's buffet style with the coffee pot up front. Then we'll have the hymn sing... hymnals in the seat pocket in front of you. Don't take yours with you when you go or I am going to be real upset and I am not kidding!
Right now I'll say Grace... "Come Lord Jesus be our guest and let these gifts to us be blest. Father, Son and Holy Ghost, may we land in Duluth or pretty close. Amen."
Hmm... I didn't know they were still in business.
I wondered where this little fella went to…
I haven't seen Gerard Baker since he was the site supervisor at Ft. Union, west of Williston, ND. He introduced me to the fine art of the sweat bath, having constructed one in the Missouri bottoms south of the fort. There's absolutely nothing like a sweat bath, followed by a night in a tipi rolled up in a buffalo robe!
It looks like he's another NoDak boy made good: Now he's superintendent at Mt. Rushmore, a job fitting his stature. For a Mandan-Hidatsa he's just a little fellow. Can't be an inch over 6'6".
It will be very interesting to visit Rushmore after he's been there a while. It sounds like he'll expand the scope of the monument considerably.
Ps. My dad writes:
Your mom & I were supposed to put on a program at the rock club one month & we didn't know what the hell to do — we finally decided to call Gerard & see if he had any ideas —- did he ever! & he was tickled shitless to come and give a talk. I'll tell you what — that was the most interesting program anybody had ever come up with. He had everybody sitting on he edge of their seats! He came out of the back room dressed as an old-time Indian with buffalo robe & the whole works. What a guy!
Friday, May 13, 2005- - -
Some things never change
Blogger is being recalcitrant this morning, hanging up and double posting. Of course, if I didn't beat on the keys when it hangs up it might not double post… Sigh.
More old shit
Here's more than you ever wanted to know about the Cherokee Trail. Incidentally, we relocated the burials shown on the home page a couple of weeks ago, and some numbnuts has made off with the old headstone! Some folks just have no sense and for that reason I try not to be too specific about the locations of such stuff.
Speaking of Baggs…
Where we'll be moving camp in a couple of days (and I heartily hope they have Verizon cell coverage or blogging will take it in the shorts): Here's a great tidbit of Butch Cassidy lore, including the story of the Wild Bunch's attempt to drink the town dry. I linked to this one yesterday, but it's too good to miss. The Bull Dog Saloon is no longer standing, as far as I know, but I'll certainly research the matter.
Drink Canada Dry!
It can't be done. While attending the U of NoDak we spent many weekends in Winnipeg trying to do just that. We did have more success in Baggs, Wyoming, a few years back though.
It must have been 15 years ago, we descended on Baggs with a big seismic crew. Back then doodlebuggers were a hard-drinking lot and the Drifter's Inn wasn't prepared for the inroads we made on their stock. First they ran out of Bud, Coors, and Miller's. Then they ran out of Pabst and Old Mill. Then they ran out of whiskey, tequila, vodka, gin, and rum. By Wednesday night all they had left was root beer schnapps and other assorted undrinkables — okay, in a pinch we found them barely drinkable. Then on Thursday the distributor made his weekly run, reportedly bringing the big truck (and a big grin no doubt). When we drifted in after a hard day in the badlands the bar had a big trough full of ice and beer with a sign saying it was on the house and promising never to run out again!
An advertisement in the Casper Star caught my eye this morning: With gasoline at an all-time high, someone's opened a new car dealership in Casper, specializing in Hummers. I certainly wish them good luck.
Thursday, May 12, 2005- - -
The wild and wooly west
Over at Bill Quick's (who's kindly reinstated me in his blog roll) I've promised to regale you with tales of the old west, so I'd better get busy.
It's a local truism that Wyoming is a place where many have passed through and few have stayed. In the boonies south of Rock Springs, where we've been doing the majority of our work over the last year, the truth of this old chestnut is verified by the ruts of the Cherokee Trail, the Overland Trail with its stage stops and historic landmarks, and the Outlaw Trail, which left few traces but many tales. We cherish our heritage and particularly our outlaws, historic and modern. Wyoming has a rich history of gentleman bandits who refused to recognize the supremacy of the cattle barons and often rapacious titans of our early industries who, often as not, used the law to their own ends. This is the land that nurtured and sheltered Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch, and this is where the infamous range detective Tom Horn enforced the law of the cattle barons by allegedly hunting and shooting Matt Rash and Isom Dart. The later was a former slave and black cowboy who was alleged to be the last surviving member of the ill-fated Tip Gault Gang.
I say 'alleged' here very advisedly. The exploits of these larger-than-life characters are as much the stuff of myth as are those of their archetype, Robin Hood. Butch Cassidy was famously known 'never to have shot anybody', long before Hollywood entered the myth-making business, and as with most myths it's not quite true — he did shoot "Irish" Tom Walsh in the leg, but it was an 'accident'. I wonder if this isn't the origin of that playful threat sometimes heard in the Big Horn Basin: "I'll shoot you in the leg!"
Despite the rich mythology, it should come as no great surprise that the truth is an elusive commodity when you're talking about outlaws. Again take ol' Butch as an example. There's no shortage of stories, yet historians can't even agree on his real name! Some sources say he's "Robert Leroy Parker" and others refer to him as "George Leroy Parker". Somewhere I have a copy of a letter written by his sister, who refers to him as "Bob," probably telling us who's correct in this trivial but telling bit of lore.
Anne Meadows and Daniel Buck offer one explanation of the Robert/George confusion, which suggests that perhaps "George" was another alias. This is supported by another account in Wyoming Tales and Trails, which says he originally took the alias "George Cassidy" to avoid embarrassing his family and later earned the nickname "Butch" when he worked as a butcher in Rock Springs (the butcher shop still stands, although it's long abandoned). Meadows and Buck also add a few more colorful names bestowed on the gang: the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, the Powder Springs Gang, the Robber's Roost Gang, the Notorious Johnson County Gang, and the Train Robber's Syndicate were among them. The gang's name usually referred to where they were operating/hiding out at the moment and often seems to have been a dig at local law enforcement by 'law-and-order' journalists of the day, although according to John Rolfe Burroughs' eminently entertaining book Where the Old West Stayed Young, shooting up the saloon at Baggs, Wyoming, gained them the name "That Wild Bunch from Brown's Park." Maintaining their Robin Hood mystique, Burroughs tells us that they later returned to Baggs and paid for the damages! The Train Robber's Syndicate may have been how they referred to themselves during the time they made themselves an annoyance to the Union Pacific Railroad and gained the wrath of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
There's a good deal of overlap in these gang names: The Hole-in-the-Wall is in southern Johnson County and, while there were several "Robber's Roosts" along the old Outlaw Trail, the two most pertinent here are the Hole-in-the-Wall and Brown's Park (or Brown's Hole). Gang membership was also fluid: While dozens, if not hundreds of young cowboys road the 'outlaw trail' at one time or another, the more famous outlaws were likely to be blamed for every missing milk cow and general misfortune save cloudburst. Nor was Butch Cassidy the organizer or leader of all these gangs, although you might get that impression. Unfortunately for historians, the outlaws themselves rarely wrote memoirs and the truth is often lost in a blizzard of dime novel fantasies and tales manufactured for the insurance companies. Yet, while the names have often been changed 'to protect the [not so] innocent' and the history has been manufactured, the places are real — the Hole-in-the-Wall is still spectacular, Brown's Park is still remote and inaccessible, and I've been nosing around Powder Springs for the last couple of weeks. You can tell that I really hate my job!
The menu at the Cowboy Bar in Meeteetse, Wyoming (best sourdough burger on earth!), tells the story of Butch's arrest in front of their bar that led to his single sojourn in the crowbar hotel. It seems that there was a bit of a misunderstanding over the ownership of three horses. Butch had a bill of sale, but couldn't produce the seller in court. Still, when he was charged in Fremont County with stealing one of the horses the jury saw it his way and acquitted him, whereupon he was arrested in Big Horn county and charged with stealing another one of the horses. This time he wasn't so lucky when he went to trial. There's certainly more to this story than I know as, a few months after being imprisoned in Laramie, the Governor pardoned him. As far as I know, no warrant was ever sworn out for the stealing of the third horse.
Adding to the myth and mystery of our history, Butch's youngest sister claimed he wasn't killed in Bolivia, but rather lived to a ripe old age in Washington state. Is this true? Well, I know one generally reliable old timer in Worland who claims to have met him in the 1920s. Then again, Meadows and Buck argue that this later day Cassidy was an imposter. On the third hand, archaeologists have excavated his supposed burial place in Bolivia and claim to have identified him, while others say the guy buried there isn't Butch. It seems nobody really knows for sure what became of our enigmatic gentleman outlaw.
To be continued...
Tuesday, May 10, 2005- - -
Stupid Human Tricks
I hope the folks at the Darwin Awards can confirm this one. If it's true, ol' Khay deserves the Darwin with oak leaf cluster: It seems that Iraqi terrorist Khay Rahnajet didn't put enough postage on a letter bomb, and when it came back marked "return to sender" he opened it...
Ps. If true, it also means that the idiot put his own return address on a letter bomb. If only all of our enemies were this dumb.
It seems that the Sixth Amendment requires that a jury be drawn 'from the state and district where the crime was committed' and that would be a mite difficult in the sliver of Yellowstone NP that extends into Idaho — the population of the area is zero. Brian Kalt, an associate law professor at Michigan State University, sees this as a legal loophole that could set a criminal free. However, I suspect this is akin to the argument that the income tax is unconstitutional — the sort of thing you can whine about all the way to jail. Or, we could just feed you to the bears, although I suppose there's some silly rule about the jury being human.
Sunday, May 08, 2005- - -
(Another one from my dad, who obviously has too much time on his hands)
Tom works hard at the plant and spends two nights each week bowling and plays golf every Saturday. His wife thinks he's pushing himself too hard, so for his birthday she takes him to a local strip club. (Sound good so far?)
The doorman at the club greets them and says, "Hey Tom...how ya doin?" His wife is puzzled and asks if he's been to this club before. "On no" says Tom. "He's on my bowling team."
When they are seated, a waitress asks Tom if he'd like his usual and brings over a Budweiser. His wife is becoming increasingly uncomfortable and says, "How did she know that you drink Budweiser?" "I recognize her from the golf club. I always have a Bud at the end of the first nine, honey."
A stripper then comes over to their table, throws her arms around Tom, starts to rub herself all over him and says, "Hi Tommy...want your usual table dance, big boy?" Tom's wife, now furious, grabs her purse and storms out of the club.
Tom follows and spots her getting into a cab. Before she can slam the door, he jumps in beside her. He tries desperately to explain how the stripper must have mistaken him for someone else, but his wife is having none of it. She is screaming at him at the top of her lungs and calling him every 4 letter word in the book.
The cabby turns around and says, "Geez Tom, you picked up a real bitch this time!"
On our way into town on the 5th we lost 5th gear in the pickemup. No noise or grinding, it just suddenly let go and the engine roared while we coasted. Luckily the rest of the gears still worked fine and we limped into town in 4th at a screaming 45 mph. So it went off to the shop, where I'm told it's probably a pin in the linkage that occasionally shears off. The parts will be cheap, but they've got to pull the engine to get at it! Fine. We've put the old truck to hard use, towing a 36' 5th wheel all over the Rocky Mountain west and 4-wheeling through some amazingly rough country, so I suppose we shouldn't complain if, after 120,000 miles, it occasionally needs a bit of work.
In the mean time, we rented a car and drove to Worland to retrieve the Jeep. Hertz was the only rental agency with a franchise in Worland that would accept a one-way rental out of Rocket City, so we went with them and got a nice little car, a spiffy new Toyota Camry with only 5000 miles on it. It had the traditional sewing machine-sized engine and it was a bit short on legroom, but then I need a bit more than normal. Otherwise, it was quite comfortable and it did very well going over South Pass, which features some moderately steep pitches. It also got very close to 40 mpg, even though I pushed it pretty hard. Although I didn't have the opportunity to find out, I bet it would also be a lot easier to park in those fee lots in Denver than a ¾-ton pickup, or the mother-in-law's ElDorado. OH, did I mention that it got 40 mpg? Too bad they don't make it in 4WD.
With all the new super bullets available — the Barnes X, Winchester Fail Safe, etc., — even the hardcore big bore aficionados have started to mellow and concede that cartridges in the .270 and .30-06 class are adequate for elk, so it's interesting to read Ross Seyfried's latest. When he went into southwest Colorado in search of a really big bull he didn't use one of his antique black powder cartridge rifles, or a Dakota Model 10 .270. He used a .416 Rigby. An interesting article. I'd wondered what became of Seyfried, who had been writing for Wolfe Publishing but hadn't appeared much lately.
Thursday, May 05, 2005- - -
There's no joke too lame for me!
And these probably prove that. From my dad, but I tracked them down to this web site:
A Madison, WI policeman had a perfect spot to watch for speeders, but wasn't getting many. Then he discovered the problem, a 12-year-old boy was standing up the road with a hand painted sign, which read "RADAR TRAP AHEAD". The officer then found a young accomplice down the road with a sign reading "TIPS" and a bucket full of money.
A motorist was mailed a picture of his car speeding through an automated radar post in La Crosse, WI. A $40 speeding ticket was included. Being cute, he sent the police department a picture of $40. The police responded with another mailed photo of handcuffs.
A young woman was pulled over for speeding. As Wisconsin State Trooper Officer walked to her car window, flipping open his ticket book, she said, "I bet you are going to sell me a ticket to the State Troopers Ball. " "He replied, "Wisconsin State Troopers don't have balls." There was a moment of silence while she smiled, and he realized what he'd just said. He then closed his book, got back in his patrol car and left. She was laughing too hard to start her car.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
Wednesday, May 04, 2005- - -
We were amazed at how well Fat Freddy took to traveling and figured he was born trailer trash. Now we realize how wrong we were. After all, he doesn't have a Democratic bone in his body. He's not trailer trash, he's tummy rubbish.
Allow me to point out that, judging from the folks I've hired over the last 15 years, young men and women are graduating from college with no writing skills whatsoever. Never mind high school.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005- - -
They ain't Bruce Springsteen
Matt Welch levels a bit of well-deserved criticism at Bruce Springsteen and other such politically active artistes and links to a great old piece at Reasononline: Rage On: The strange politics of millionaire rock stars. That's one thing I noticed about Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD — in almost four hours of music, there isn't a single bit of overt political commentary. Just excellent musicians who know how to shut up and sing.
"Philly bust or"
You've got to love computer generated closed captioning, especially when it comes up with that as a transliteration of 'filibuster'. But seriously, as I just commented at Glenn Reynolds.com):
I think political debate is generally a good thing, but the last time I saw an actual senate filibuster (in 1983, I believe) it featured a bunch of knuckleheads reading the DC phone book for days. It wasn't a debate, it was a stare down. I don't remember what the filibuster was about, I don't recall being outraged. I just recall changing the channel.
Much is being made of the merits of returning to the old rules on the filibuster, but I doubt it would produce an actual debate, and perhaps I'm overly cynical, but I've got to wonder if the public would be angered, or bored? I'm guessing that the power of the traditional filibuster didn't lie in the force of public opinion — outrage over the senate being shut down — but rather in the senators tiring of sleeping in the senate cloak room.
Also, as a commenter at Tigerhawk points out, the brunt of the old fashioned (at least post-1975) filibuster was born by the majority party. The minority only had to keep one senator on the floor to continue "the debate." The majority had to keep most of their forces there to avoid the infamous midnight vote. This explains why we now have the mock filibuster and it's no wonder the Nuclear Option looks attractive.
Candy is dandy...
We just tried one of Wyoming's newest products: Koltiska Liqueur, bottled by Kolt's Fine Spirits of Sheridan, Wyoming. Like most liqueurs it's a bit syrupy, but it has a pleasant, not overpowering flavor. The taste is familiar but we can't place it without more research. It ought to be excellent in coffee or hot chocolate.
This will come as quite a shock to a lot of NYTimes readers:
John Tierney — "But middle-class Americans don't simply cast ballots for Republicans. They also vote with their feet, which is why blue states and old Democratic cities are losing population to red states and Republican exurbs. People are moving there precisely because of economic reasons - more jobs, affordable houses and the lower taxes offered by Republican politicians.
"They're not moving for the churches, and they don't vote for Mr. Bush simply because he reads the Bible every day. One of the main reasons they like him is that he gets bashed so often. When Jon Stewart sneers at him, they empathize because they're used to being sneered at themselves."
The biggest shock is the New York Times publishing such blasphemy. Imagine! People don't vote Republican because they're too stupid to know better, they vote Republican because they want more jobs, affordable housing, and lower taxes. [Now if the Republicans would only figure that out… Sigh.]
As an aside though, I must point out that real men don't admit to watching Desperate Housewives.
According to the NYTimes, the Italians are claiming that our troops' "inexperience and stress" were factors in the shooting of Nicola Calipari and Giuliana Sgrena. (Stress? Jeez, you think?) They discount the argument that the Italian's car was speeding. But then they would — to an Italian 60 mph is driving slowly and carefully.
That's a lot of hay
An interesting editorial on the wild horse problem in today's Casper Star. Among other tidbits, they mention that there are an estimated 35,000 wild horses on public lands, and that it costs the BLM $14 Million per year to care for horses that are too old or too dangerous to be adopted. That would work out to $400 per horse, if all 35,000 of them were being penned and fed.
The editorial complains that the new amendment allowing sale and slaughter of old and unadoptable horses was included as a rider on a "must-pass" spending bill, arguing that such emotionally charged issues should be open to public debate. On one hand they have a good point, sliding legislation on any issue through the back door is bad government. On the other hand, suppose we had a referendum on the care and feeding of the stray and abandoned cats & dogs that are euthanized annually. That too is an emotional issue, and it is quite possible that the majority would vote for 'the government' to feed and care for these critters in perpetuity. That would be a very expensive warm and fuzzy feeling.
The wild horses and stray dogs and cats are difficult, and as the Casper Star notes emotionally charged problems. More public debate would certainly make good copy for the media, but it isn't likely to find an easy solution.
Monday, May 02, 2005- - -
Hey, everybody! Watch this!
This story from the Darwin Awards reminds me of the infamous Redneck's Last Words.
More gun blogging, eh?
Okay, you talked me into it. Today's rant is on the perils of second-hand guns and sledgehammer gunsmiths.
Ever since buying my little Mountain Gun a year or so ago, I'd been trying to get it to shoot as well as I thought it should. Granted, it's a bit on the light side for long episodes of blasting with full power .44 magnum loads and I'm beginning to see why S&W gravitated away from the round butt grip profile, but I rarely use full power loads and the grip isn't that difficult to use. So why were even my best efforts producing patterns rather than groups?
I wrote last spring that I suspected part of the problem was a rather large and ugly burr in the forcing cone, bad enough to leave a corresponding streak of lead in the barrel. To cure this, I ordered a chamfering kit from Brownell's. I'd also noted a bit of endshake in the cylinder and quite a bit of side-to-side slop in the hammer and trigger (enough to be wearing on the side of the case hardened hammer), so I ordered a batch of endshake bearings and sideplate shims at the same time. These arrived in good time and I went to work, just touching the forcing cone with an 11° reamer, enough to remove the largest burrs, but not enough to enlarge the forcing cone, which my handy barrel chamfering plug gauge indicated was already a bit on the large side, although well within tolerances. Fortunately, the forcing cone was already cut close to 11°, so a touch was enough. I found this part of the project to be quite easy, with Brownell's chamfering kit being well thought out and beautifully made. The accompanying instructions were thorough and easily followed as well. I do recommend that anyone attempting this buy the plug gauge, carefully study the instructions, and go slow to avoid mucking up the job.
Then I dissassembled the gun to install the endshake bearings and sideplate shims, and discovered that the gun had previously been 'gunsmithed'. I'd noted that the sights were set very high when I bought the gun and wondered what sort of loads the previous owner had been using. I'm now convinced that the answer was hot ones. It appears that at some point a cylinder full of empties hadn't ejected as easily as he might have wanted and he did what comes naturally: He reached for a hammer. Then when the front end of the extractor rod took on that ugly mushroomed look he'd 'fixed it' by filing it off flush with the center pin, effectively deactiviating the front cylinder lock. I'd overlooked this tiny detail — and I'm not convinced that locking the extractor rod really contributes much to accuracy — but it offends my sense of propriety to have anything less than perfectly functional on most guns (I do make an exception for those cross bolt safeties on lever guns, there a drop of locktite is the only answer to the lawyers who dreamed up that blasphemy!).
So, another ten bucks for a new extractor rod, and the Mountain Gun is now good as new. Better actually, as I suspect the burrs in the forcing cone were installed at the factory. I don't know how much any of my tinkering actually improved accuracy, as I haven't had time to put more than a handful of rounds through the gun since, but I had fun and I know my work didn't hurt the gun any. The cylinder now locks up tightly, with minimal end shake, and further shooting won't add to the unsightly wear on the side of the hammer. The double action trigger pull also seems a bit improved by the sideplate shims, and the action feels tighter and smoother.
Of course, a good gunsmith could have accomplished all this for less than I paid for the tools, but now I've got the tools. And a fist full of extra bearings and shims, which have already come in handy. My old M29 had a bit of excess endshake, enough to allow the front of the cylinder to drag across the rear of the barrel when the cylinder was being closed. A couple of minutes with the handy extractor rod tool and I dropped in an endshake bearing to clear up that little annoyance. It's interesting to note that all of my older S&W revolvers have tightly fitted sideplates and none appear to require shimming. Despite CAD/CAM manufacturing, it appears that they really don't make them like they used to...
Ps. Now why didn't my spell checker catch "deactiviating"? Is that a word?
By the way, if you have sufficient courage and mechanical skill to disassemble a S&W double action revolver, you'll find that this handy rebound slide spring tool is a life saver. A good set of fitted screwdrivers is also a must.
PPs. Okay, so it's been a really big handful of rounds. I've gone through 30 pounds of Midway's hardball alloy with my new .44 LBTLFNgc mold, mostly shooting the Mountain Gun and my Browning M92 carbine. Unfortunately, Wyoming's gentle (60 mph) zyphers have made accuracy testing a bit difficult on most trips to the range. Still, accuracy does seem better with the little S&W, although it's hard to say whether that's due to the gunsmithing or the LBT mold, or to getting used to the round butt grips. Probably some of all three.
Blogging is like herpes...
Tanker at Mostly Cajun writes:
You were on my original blogroll when I started a year and a half ago. I regretted your absence. I am also a fan of Veral Smith's stuff. I occasionally use cast bullets in my M1903A3 for 200-yard rifle matches. I have a Lyman lubricizer and a big Lee pot for casting. Looking forward to more gun posts from you.
Thanks, and good to see you again.-- Mostly Cajun
I'm glad to be back. After a year's layoff I've concluded that blogging isn't a hobby, it's an affliction. Once you've caught it you'll never get rid of it.
Ps. But that doesn't mean it's always easy. Now comes the moment I've been dreading, fiddling with the blog template. I've taken a look at Tanker's blog and it's well worth the read and an entry in my Favorites.
Sunday, May 01, 2005- - -
'A living symbol of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West'
"Wild" horses on public lands, that is. It seems that Montana's Sen. Conrad Burns has created a rider to a federal spending bill that has eased restrictions on selling wild horses for slaughter. The price of steak in France just went way, way down. While the author of this report thinks this is just awful, I think it's unavoidable. The BLM has horses coming out their ears, with far too many of them too old, too diseased, or just plain too cantankerous to be adopted out. The hooved locusts are eating the range to the nubs in some areas, not helping range conservation efforts at all in this time of drought, and holding pens are full of unadoptable horses.
The silver lining in the gasoline price cloud
Another interesting article in today's Denver Post on alternative fuels. The emphasis is mostly on ethanol and hydrogen. However, they do mention 'griesel', at least in the context of recycled cooking oils, where it has been most common. The advantage of griesel is that the technology is here. We know how to make oil from corn and other oilseed crops, and diesel engines can run on refined vegetable oils with no problem — I'm told the exhaust smells like French fries. At the rate that the price of diesel is going up at the pump, it won't be long before griesel becomes economically competitive, and at that point we won't need government subsidies to bring the stuff to market.
Of course, there's no free lunch here: Manufacturing motor and heating fuels from agricultural products will require, or at least encourage, cultivation of more acreage. More acreage under cultivation means less habitat for wildlife, and loss of habitat is the leading reason that species become endangered.
Ps. A big advantage of griesel in my eyes is that it can happen without all the governmental tomfoolery that has been the highlight of other alternative energies.
It's them dang carpetbaggers!
I knew it! According to an OpEd in today's Denver Post, there are troubles in paradise, aka the rocky mountain west.
"The harsh truth, according to Ed Marston, former editor of The High Country News, is that: "We live as Southerners did during Reconstruction, occupied by an often federal force, and for many of the same dismal reasons."
"The Rockies region plays a complex dual role for the nation, first laying out the welcome mat while serving as host for a nation seeking resources, recreation, climate and environment. At the same time, it serves as a doormat upon which the nation wipes its proverbial feet, leaving behind a scarred landscape, fouled air, congestion, struggling communities and under-maintained facilities."
I'm not sure it's as bad as all that. For instance, I'd like to know where they find the high unemployment rates they refer to later in the article. Quite to the contrary, Wyoming was recently noted as having the lowest unemployment in the entire US, and I believe it. Even the usually unemployable are fully employed for now. The want ads in the Rocket Miner here in Rock Springs have two pages of Help Wanted ads, and they're for good jobs — engineers, surveyors, architects, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, heavy equipment operators, etc., etc. I note a tendency toward construction and development jobs, with fewer ads for white collar, indoor folks, but with regional growth at 10%+ that's to be expected.
Having just completed a winter tour of the rocky mountain west, I'd be surprised if any other state in the region is far behind Wyoming. The Front Range in Colorado did experience a bit of a slump when the dot crash hit but, if housing construction is any indication, they're booming again. Of course, I suspect that the folks at the Denver Post see the construction and development boom as part of the problem, while I benefit from all the development and have a different bias.
The DP cite their source as Colorado College's 2004 State of the Rockies Report Card, a web site worth checking out.