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Tribune Staff

Put your phone down

On July 1, a law goes into effect making it illegal to text while driving on our state's roads and highways.

While it remains to be seen how, exactly, the law will be enforced, few can argue that it's an important step in keeping our highways safe.

A 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (one of the world's largest vehicle safety research organizations) found that drivers distracted by texting increased their likelihood of having a crash or near-crash event 23-fold.

Yes, it bears repeating: A driver's risk of being in an accident or a close call increases by 23 times when the driver is texting.

For the sake of comparison, another study by the Virginia Tech institute indicates drivers increase their risk of a crash or near-crash by three times when dialing a cell phone and 1.3 times when talking on a phone.

The study indicates the highest risk comes when drivers eyes are distracted from the roadway — when dialing or reading and sending texts.

According to a New York Times story about the study, texting drivers “typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices — enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than a length of a football field.”

Unfortunately, it's an all-too-common sight around here to see a weaving vehicle — in town or speeding down the highway — piloted by a driver who is texting feverishly and glancing toward the roadway only periodically.

It's scary stuff. Especially considering that some of the most frequent texters are the least experienced drivers.

Beginning July 1, law enforcement will be on the lookout for offenders. But given the enormous risks — to texting drivers and others who share the roadway with them — it's also up to drivers to police themselves.

And, since young drivers are unlikely to be reading Tribune editorials: Parents, please make sure your youngsters are aware of the huge risks of texting while driving before they get behind the wheel.

Most people say that scent is the sense tied to memory — I believe taste is a close second.

After a long night and a short morning of sleep on a recent weekend spent in Billings, I went to breakfast with some friends.

As soon as I opened the menu I knew exactly what I wanted — a Belgian waffle.

Thank you, Perkins, for printing delicious pictures in your menu.

This was no subtle food craving, it was deeply rooted in the cortexes of my brain.

Even the thought of eating this mass of carbohydrates flooded my mind with images of laughing with friends, hours spent writing and the great outdoors near Story, Wyo.

The spark of these memories started at Young Writer's Camp (YWC), which I attended as a high school-aged kid. On the first day of camp in 2004 we were teamed up to write something as partners. I was teamed up with Jason Cooper, the camp faculty member who taught screenplay writing.

Together, we wrote a story about an odd character, Brian Ariel. We decided our protagonist's name should be a combination of characters we liked at the time — The Little Mermaid (his) and Brian Griffin from Family Guy (mine).

Tangent: Nothing epitomizes the YWC like a big burly, bearded man in a red flannel shirt and overalls who knits and likes the Little Mermaid.

The story Jason and I wrote filled one short page in my journal with atrocious chicken scratch I call my penmanship.

Brian Ariel and his best friend “Blank” go on a dining excursion from the pancake house to Baskin Robbins where Brian is continually proclaiming that this and that, from goldfish crackers to waffles, are his favorite foods.

One short line of dialogue from our tale became a catch phrase for me and a tie to camp for years to come.

“Dude, I love waffles.”

After camp there were a handful of meetings of campers at the Perkins in Sheridan to share in the enjoyment and elation of waffles.

At a mere mention, a few YWC alumni proclaimed the need to have another waffle meeting this summer.

This all resulted from a simple memory and the desire to eat a waffle.

I find in times of confusion in life, we often regress or try to find the feelings of simpler times.

I had a stressful couple of weeks recently, and for no reason I had the undying desire to eat waffles with my favorite topping — strawberries. This craving came to fruition that morning at the Perkins just off King Avenue and 19th Street in Billings while I dined in bliss with two newer friends after a night of youthful frivolity.

This, of course, led to the need to connect to my camp friends current and old to reaffirm — dudes, I love waffles.

In short, thanks to camp, I can recall this amazing experience and the feelings of peace and self-realization.

Oh, the magic of camp, simple foods and memories.

The camp is sponsored by the Sheridan Arts Council and takes place from July 24 -31 in Story. Admissions still are open, and applying is easy to do at the camp website, www.youngwriterscamp.com.

Francis Charles “FranC” Gillette, 74, died Sunday, June 13, 2010.

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Clayton Tucker of Cody, a former Northwest College bull rider, is bucked off during his turn in the Dusty Tuckness/Kanin Asay Classic, which featured freestyle bullfighting and bull riding Saturday night in Cody. Tribune photo by Kevin Kinzley

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy will hear oral arguments today (Tuesday) in Missoula, Mont., about whether gray wolves can be legally removed from the Endangered Species list in Idaho and Montana while being kept on the list in Wyoming.

Earthjustice, on behalf of 13 wildlife conservation groups, filed the suit, questioning whether wolves, hunted in Montana and Idaho last fall, can be removed from federal protections in those states while remaining under federal protections in Wyoming.

Feds make funds available to fight infestation

Grasshoppers are expected to be a huge problem in eastern Wyoming this summer, and Park County is taking steps to ensure the bugs don't cause extensive damage here as well.

Josh Shorb of the Park County Weed and Pest District said last week that Park County is not particularly susceptible to grasshopper infestations, but people are still advised to take precautions against them.

Powell Valley Recycling is looking to cut its costs — and it would like help from the city of Powell.

At a work session with the Powell City Council last week, Powell Valley Recycling leaders asked the city to fully take over the job of collecting cardboard at various businesses around town.

“We want to get out of the collection business,” said Powell Valley Recycling President Ann Hinckley, citing the expense of the operation. Hinckley said struggling world markets have kept recycling commodity prices low.

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With Northwest College head rodeo coach Del Nose looking on, the Trappers' Cody Proctor gets set to take her first attempt in breakaway roping competition at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper on Sunday night. Courtesy photo/Matt Young /Casper College

Powell's Asay sitting second after first go

The Northwest College Trappers got off to a rough start on Sunday in the first go of the 2010 College National Finals Rodeo in Casper. For fans following Powell's Kaleb Asay, the night's results were far better.

Asay, a sophomore at Vernon College in Texas, emerged from the opening night of CNFR action in second place in the saddle bronc competition. Asay turned in an 81-point ride, finishing as one of just two riders to top 80 points with their first draw.

If you happen to tune into a Myrtle Beach Pelicans home game this year, you might catch a familiar voice.

This season, Powell native Anthony Masterson is providing color and play-by-play commentary for the Pelicans — the Class A Advanced, minor league affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.

News of the city of Powell's decision to purchase the $6.5 million Powellink bond was met with mixed reactions last week.

Some are critical of the city's choice to invest its enterprise reserves in the bond, while others applaud city leaders for what they see as a fiscally responsible action.

Part of the skepticism comes from the city's change in course. Originally, the bond was to be held by a private investor, and the city was to obtain ownership in about 20 years. During development plans several years ago, Powell citizens also were assured that no public money would go toward the fiber-optic network.

In an agreement expected to be finalized this week, the city will invest $6.5 million from its enterprise reserves toward the Powellink bond — owning the network early, opening it to other service providers sooner and, yes, using public money toward the investment.

The recent development certainly is a change of course, but by the numbers, it will provide more money for the city of Powell. As more subscribers sign up for Powellink, the city's rate of return will increase. Even if Powellink subscriptions stay at around 450 — the number TCT currently has — the city of Powell still will receive more than $11,000 per month on its investment.

The $6.5 million in reserves formerly was invested in the local government investment pool WYO-STAR, where in recent months, it drew an interest rate of only 0.8 percent or less. In May, the investment provided just $4,000 back to the city — about a third of what will be earned through the Powellink investment.

It's understandable that citizens are surprised and even upset by the recent decision, especially given that public funding will go toward what was marketed as a private venture.

Yet, strictly looking at the numbers, we also understand why the city decided to invest its enterprise reserve funds in Powellink rather than WYO-STAR or another investment with dismal rates of return.

As one of the few municipalities with a citywide fiber-optic network, use of the reserves in the bond is a unique investment option for Powell — and one that could help the city persevere financially in difficult economic times.

Page 489 of 508

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