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Tribune Staff

I consider myself pretty much a face-to-face communicator. I don't really love talking on the phone — though I hate that my little sister refuses to answer hers (Hallie, I hope you're reading this.) Texting will do in a pinch, but it doesn't take the place of real communication ... You know the spiel.

But, I'll come right out and say it: I love Facebook. And I do mean love — with a capital L.

It may just be that my birthday was last month. Unless you hate birthdays, it's pretty hard not to like Facebook on your “special day.”

Before Facebook, my best and oldest friend in the entire world didn't remember my birthday unless I was lucky.

Suffice it to say, I'm not the luckiest person as a rule. But this year: The birthday wishes kept flooding in! Even from Princess Stephanie, the aforementioned friend most likely to forget. It was better than a flaming chocolate cake — and calorie-free to boot.

Birthdays aside, thanks to Facebook, I'm now in touch with people I never thought I'd hear from again (and, frankly, with some I didn't care to). Formerly close friends — and friends not so close — who had disappeared from my life now share pictures, funny thoughts and, of course, many, many crude remarks.

On any given day, I know my cyber-friends' political leanings, religious or non-religious views, musical passions, curse word preferences — even, weirdly, if some of them are wearing underwear. It's a strange world out there ...
But perhaps my favorite thing about America's favorite “social networking site” is a Facebook love story.

For the sake of privacy (that's a big thing on FB), I'll call the two people Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill are both longtime friends of mine. Jill graduated from Cody High School with me — Jack, the year before.

While I remain friends with each of them to this day, our separate friendships blossomed at different times in life.

Jill and I met in fifth grade. She was at my 10th birthday party when we put balloons in our tops and paraded around the neighborhood in hysterics. We were two of the “smart girls” in junior high and high school and thus had our share of classes together. We spent some time together in college, but Jill was much more serious about school than I was at the time.

Jack, on the other hand, came into my life when I started venturing into ... let's just call it the more wild side of things. He was smart, funny, an amazing writer and musician, and we became good friends and party buddies.

So now, years later, I'm friends with both of them on Facebook. Pretty soon, I notice they've also friended (yes, that is a word) each other. Over the course of several months, their comments to each other become more and more frequent.

Jack, the consummate bad boy, started making an occasional soft, kind remark (not too often, mind you, and they were usually directed right at Jill). Jill, on the other hand, started dropping the “F-bomb” regularly. You see where this is going ...

At one point, I thought to my matchmaker self, “Maybe I should suggest that they get together...” But I convinced myself to mind my own business — not an easy task. But their back-and-forth continued — complete with little winking, smiley faces. ; )

And I couldn't resist: I sent the message to Jill. “Hey, it seems like you and Jack have a lot in common. You talk a lot about the same stuff. Maybe I'm crazy, but I think you should get together.”

Suffice it to say, they were miles ahead of me. Six months, numerous cross-country flights, and some “let's introduce our kids to each other” visits later, they're madly in love.

Two people whose paths likely would never have crossed again, who have suffered through personal crises and failed marriages, have found each other. All because of Facebook — what's not to like about that?

(And, yes, my little sis is my Facebook friend, too. Sometimes, she even responds to my posts.)

Call it lucky number 13. Thirteen years ago, the Powell Valley Healthcare Board hired the 13th candidate interviewed for the position of chief executive officer.

In Rod Barton, Powell Valley Healthcare found an esteemed director with financial savvy and strong leadership skills to grow the institution as a profitable, reputable health-care facility in the region.

The numbers speak for themselves.

When Barton began in 1997, Powell Valley Healthcare was operating in the red with a nearly $1 million deficit. Thirteen years later, the budget is very much in the black — to the tune of $6.5 million in cash available, or 57.5 days of operating expenses.

Under his leadership, the hospital expanded to include an assisted living center, a walk-in clinic, an MRI and a brand-new medical clinic to accommodate a growing number of physicians who have signed on during Barton's tenure.

Last year, Barton was one of 50 hospital CEOs in the nation honored by the American Hospital Association.

His skillful leadership over the past 13 years makes Barton's recent resignation hard to swallow. Barton's departure, effective in late August, is indeed a loss to Powell Valley Healthcare and the community as a whole.

His resignation also comes at a difficult time as health care issues are hotly contested nationally and at a crossroads locally. Next month, Park County voters will decide on a primary ballot whether to fund a $14.2 million capital-facilities tax for proposed renovation and expansion of Cody's West Park Hospital.

Barton is leaving Powell Valley Healthcare in better shape than he found it in — and the challenge for his successor is to continue in that vein.

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As of today (Thursday), texting behind the wheel is illegal. A new law makes it a misdemeanor for motorists to write, send or read text messages. Violators face a $75 fine. The state transportation department says Wyoming is one of 28 states to have a texting while driving law. Tribune photo illustration by Carla Wensky

Wyoming now prohibits texting while driving

Effective today (Thursday), text messaging while driving is illegal in Wyoming, because legislators and law enforcement officials want drivers to focus on the road.

Under the new law, police can stop drivers and give them $75 tickets if they believe motorists are texting and driving. Proving a driver caused a car crash while texting, although tricky, could happen.

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News that Chief Executive Officer Rod Barton will be leaving Powell Valley Healthcare was greeted by long faces around the hospital board table on Monday.

Barton, who has held that post since 1997, announced on Monday he will leave in late August to take a position as the executive director of the hospital in Burley, Idaho.

Once again, Powell Volunteer Fire Department firefighters will celebrate the Fourth of July with a fireworks show sure to knock everybody's socks off, with an explosive $9,000 arsenal, thanks to the community's financial support.

“It will start at 10 p.m.,” said fireman Sam Rodriguez, who is organizing the annual show with fireman Tracy Sweet.

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It was a rough night for pitchers like Powell's Grant Geiser, (above), on Tuesday, but a great night to be swinging the bat. As evidenced below, Powell and Cody combined to send the scoreboard soaring during Legion baseball action. Tribune photos by Randal Horobik

Pioneers send scoreboard soaring with 32 runs

The Powell Pioneers remained unbeaten in Northwest Conference play on Tuesday night with a wild 32-14 victory at Cody that left scoreboard operators and play-by-play announcers working overtime. Contrary to final appearances, that was, indeed, the final score for a baseball game.

Duran becomes second player to sign with Trappers

Northwest College women's basketball coach Janis Beal announced this week that Mariah Duran has signed a letter of intent to play for the Trappers next season. Duran is a 5'5” shooting guard from Murray, Utah.

Last summer, I dared to tred into history's footsteps and quote from a 1965 gubernatorial proclamation, reclaiming the title of Wyoming's baseball capital for Powell. With the calendar transitioning to the month of July, the time has come for Powell's various teams to defend that lofty status.

It was only fitting, then, that on the eve of calendars turning from June to baseball's title month, the Powell Pioneers delivered a warning shot across the bow of the rest of the state. The premature fireworks display came in the form of a 32-run explosion on Tuesday night.

There isn't a team in the state that wouldn't gladly accept 32 runs as its output in a doubleheader. For a single game, that sort of total is practically unheard of in video game circles, much less on an actual grass-and-dirt stadium surface.

It was, as best I can tell, the greatest offensive output by a Wyoming baseball team this summer. Gillette shelled Rapid City for 28 runs in what appears to have been the previous 2010 summer high.

Admittedly, those 32 runs on Tuesday night mean very little aside from giving the Pioneers the inside track now for a No. 1 seed when district tournament play opens on July 22. Powell won't be able to carry any of that scoring surplus forward as post-season action opens. Scoreboards will still begin each game reading 0-0.

Still, there is a significance to the number.

The 2010 edition of the Pioneers has, in some ways, been a victim of its own prior success. I'm probably as much to blame as anyone for being blinded by it.

A stellar 26-11 summer has been lost in the relative familiarity of been there, done that. One year ago, that's a record we would have been celebrating. This year, it looks almost pedestrian, despite the fact that it has been achieved with as many as two regulars out of the lineup for two weeks of the summer.

The Pioneers' 12-game win streak in June was nice. But, again, it probably didn't turn heads around the community the way it should have because last year's team chained together 13 W's.

Of course, we forget that 13-game streak was believed at the time to be the longest on record for the club.

Two hitters clobbering the ball at an over .500 clip? We've seen that. A team drilling the ball in play at a .400 clip?

Impressive as it may be, that's a sequel as well.

So as we sit here at T-minus three weeks away from the start of Legion baseball's post-season, it was indeed refreshing to see the Pioneers step out of their own shadow with a statement so thunderous, so outrageously inconceivable, that it simply cannot be ignored. There's no guarantee that a title will come home to Powell in July, but the message has now been sent — the road to the title will, most likely, run through Powell.

There's still much work to be done. Pitching needs to be sharpened. Double-digit strikeout performances by the batting order need to be exorcized once and for all from the scorebook. Defensive play in the field can always be fine-tuned.

But the call to arms has now been issued. Not only the Pioneers, but the Babe Ruth and Little League squads should hear its call and respond with alacrity.

The calendar has officially turned to baseball's title month. Let the excitement and anticipation begin to build.

There should be a gradual buzz building in the days ahead as state tournaments move nearer. March may have its madness, but July holds fields full of dreams.

Here in Wyoming's baseball capital, that's just the way we like it.

The upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend will be filled with exciting events and fun activities throughout the area.

While enjoying all the area has to offer over the Fourth, it's crucial Park County residents and visitors practice safety as well.

The recent rash of traffic fatalities in Park County — due to excessive speed, lack of seat belts, driving under the influence and motorcyclists' failure to wear helmets — should serve as a strong reminder to use additional caution when traveling Wyoming's roadways.

Not drinking and driving — along with slowing down, buckling up and wearing helmets — can go a long way toward keeping the holiday weekend tragedy-free.

People traveling to the mountains to celebrate should make sure others are aware of travel plans and destinations. Travelers should be prepared to encounter high water in area creeks and rivers, and hikers should have bear spray or a firearm handy when enjoying the back-country.

Fireworks should be handled with care to avoid the burns and injuries that send thousands of people to emergency rooms across the nation each year during Independence Day festivities.

Young children should not handle or ignite fireworks, and older children should be supervised by adults at all times. In order to prevent unintentional fires, fireworks should be used only in still conditions and in areas cleared of brush and debris.

The Fourth of July should be a time for all Americans to celebrate our independence and to create long-lasting memories with family and friends. The proper measure of caution can ensure weekend revelry doesn't take a tragic turn for the worse.

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Powell emergency personnel work to extricate the last victim from a car that crashed into a tree off Wyo. 295 north of Powell Saturday. EmiLee Bapst, 16, of Powell was killed in the crash and three other Powell teens were injured. Tribune photo by Don Amend

Three others injured

A Powell girl is dead following a Saturday crash north of Powell.

EmiLee Bapst, 16, was a passenger a 2000 Ford Taurus driven by Jack Farwell, 18, when the accident occurred. Two other passengers, Erik Rodriguez, 18, and Luke Sherley, 16, were seriously injured in the crash. All four occupants are from Powell.

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