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Tribune Staff

Cowley youth qualifies in three events for nationals

Cowley's J.R. Vezain captured the 2010 Wyoming High School rodeo boys' all-around title and earned the right to compete in three events at the High School National Finals Rodeo later this summer. Vezain is the defending high school national champion in bareback riding.

Not surprisingly, it was Vezain's skill in that event that helped fuel his all-around title during the 2010 season. Vezain was the 2010 state bareback champion, amassing more than 3,000 points during the high school rodeo season in that particular event.

Every now and then, you run into someone who jogs your memory back to a simpler time. I encountered one of those old friends recently, (let's call him “Mark Skates,” since that is his real name).

We saw one another at (let's say “church,” although that is not where it was), and since he was my American Legion baseball coach in 1973 and a softball coach/teammate years later, we commonly talk sports.

After Mark pointed out how ridiculous my hair looked, I realized he regularly reads my column. But then he asked an intriguing question. “So how come you write about the old baseball days, but never about the softball years?”

I pondered, then said, “Ya know, Coach, you're not the first one who's asked me that. And as God is my designated hitter, you shall see a softball column soon.”

Today, I keep that vow to Mark, and to Sen. Hank Coe, who had asked me that same question several years ago at a local spot that also wasn't church.

Throughout my 20s and early 30s, Cody Men's Softball League was a bastion of male revelry. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... actually, there wasn't anything “worst” about it; I was young, quick, had long, thick hair, and I could run the bases without carrying an inhaler.

My first year after Legion baseball was dedicated to a team with my two brothers and our elder statesman/coach/pitcher, Irv Gerber, called the “Men's Christians.” Opposing us with mocking, maddening glee, in that league of about a dozen teams, was a team officially called “Chief Service.” But my brother Jess and I both recall they derisively referred to themselves as “The Heathens.”

Oh, Mark Skates and his merry men weren't a bunch of atheists or anything; I'm sure most of them were church-going young men who took communion and went to confession. But their confessions were probably a lot more fun to listen to than ours.

Since I was no altar boy myself at 20, I secretly hung around after the games to drink beer with the Heathens in the shadows. It was dubious, I guess, but I never saw it as a betrayal of Judas' proportions or anything.

So here's Skates, Jerry Skar, little George Francis, John Wiley and an entire family of “Ballingers” going against us Christians. Oh, and did I mention Bill “Blackie” Blake, often wearing some kind of fake, obscene nose, passing around a bottle of tequila between innings? How was our sincere, pre-game prayer gonna compete with THAT?

We had our big orange cooler of ice water and paper cups, versus their beer and tequila. Heck, occasionally they'd even carry their beers along while running the bases. That really got our goat, not to mention our oxen.

We chattered desperate clichés like, “Hey batter; hey batter … swing, batter!” They guffawed things like, “Hey, Francis popped up; guess who's buying the beer next game?” They they'd convulse in laughter, as we'd roll our eyes and try to turn the other cheek.

Oh, but how we Christians came to hate those Heathens. Our legendary games always ended 8-7, or 5-4, or 12-11 … always in their favor. As Skates reminded me the other night, “I remember one game, you guys were up 5-0 in the bottom of the ninth … we came back and beat you 6-5.” I said to Mark, “You're a dear to remember!”

We played a season or two at those old, short fields, with an over-sized ball we called “Melon Ball.” Coe hit home runs with irritating regularity, Loren Grosskopf once hit five in one game, and soon the league expanded to new, longer fields on Blackburn Avenue.

By that time, the rapture had taken place for the Men's Christian team and I had taken my under-rated skills to free agency. I played a few years for “Hidden Valley Ranch” with the Poulsen brothers, Alan Richardson and big Marv Nelson among other notables. Then for the bulk of my softball career, I found myself on “Jack Sports”… which was the Heathens under a new name. Suddenly, Blackie Blake, “the legend,” seemed almost mortal.

Oh, I joined in with their jokes about always beating our Men's Christian team, and my new, heathenistic teammates laughed like drunken hyenas. A piece of my heart, though, remained with that disbanded gaggle of second-place warriors that were heckled during team prayers.

And it begs the theological question, “Did God abandon the Men's Christians during those losses?” Certainly not, but he only helps those who help themselves. He wasn't the one over-throwing first base and misjudging fly balls during all those late-inning chokes.

Living in bear country often results in conflict.

Eighty-eight bear and human conflicts were tallied in Park County in 2009. That number doesn't include seeing a bear when hiking or hunting. Last year, seven grizzlies were killed in self-defense situations near Yellowstone.

Unfortunately, the Greater Yellowstone Region recently tallied its first fatal grizzly mauling in 25 years. In a June 17 attack, botanist Erwin Frank Evert was mauled to death after hiking in a North Fork area where a grizzly had been tranquilized for research conducted by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. He was not carrying bear spray or a gun.

Questions remain about why Evert, who was familiar with hiking along backcountry trails, entered a dangerous area that researchers say was clearly marked. An investigation is under way to help piece together details of the tragic encounter.

The incident underscores the need for humans in bear country to be vigilant as well as armed with bear spray or a gun.

Considering the region's grizzly population and a new federal law that allows loaded guns in national parks, those carrying loaded weapons must be educated about bruin behavior.

Misreading a grizzly's behavior or acting out of fear can easily result in a dead bear —and, quite possibly, consequences for the shooter. Unless it's a proven case of self-defense, killing a grizzly is a federal crime punishable by up to six months in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Last month, a Jackson Hole hunter who claimed self-defense was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge of illegally taking a grizzly.

“This whole thing adds up to that people need to make sure they are in a self-defense situation. You can't kill wildlife based on an undemonstrated fear of an unrealistic threat,” Mark Bruscino, Game and Fish chief bear biologist, told the Jackson Hole News and Guide after the trial.

In order to understand bears' behavior and how to react during encounters, residents coexisting with grizzlies should take advantage of the Game and Fish Department's bear safety educational resources.

Carrying bear spray is an effective way to protect yourself against a bear attack and can stop a bear without killing it. Research shows bear spray stopped grizzlies in 46 of 50 cases — 92 percent of the time.

Game and Fish bear-wise community coordinator Tara Teaschner highly recommends carrying bear spray and said she is happy to show residents how to use it. For information, call her at 307-272-1121 or 307-527-7125.

The threat of grizzly encounters is inevitable in our region, but by being prepared and educated, the number of fatal conflicts can be reduced.

(Jan. 15, 1949 - June 13, 2010)

Susan “Soli” Gail Johnson died June 13, 2010, in Powell.

(Oct. 7, 1993 - June 26, 2010)

EmiLee Ann Bapst, 16, died June 26, 2010, of injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Richard Thomas Canapp, 73, died June 27, 2010, at his home in Powell.

(April 30, 1990 - June 23, 2010)

Nicolas Gillett, of Powell, died Wednesday, June 23, 2010, of injuries from a rodeo accident in Jackson Hole.


Powell sports legend Keith Bloom stands among the rubble of the old Panther Gym Wednesday morning. Bloom played in the gym's opening basketball game in December 1949. Like many alumni attending this weekend's reunion festivities, Bloom has many fond memories of the old gymnasium. For a special feature on the old gym, see the print edition of the Powell Tribune pages 10 and 11. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

$15.7 million budget calls for wage freeze

Tough economic times call for leaner budgets, and like many municipalities in Wyoming, the city of Powell reduced its operating budget for the next fiscal year.

On Monday, the Powell City Council unanimously approved a $15.7 million budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2011.

Three of the front-runners for the Republican nomination for governor agreed on many issues — small government, limited regulations and pushing against the federal government — at a forum in Cody on Monday.

Matt Mead, a rancher and former U.S. Attorney from Cheyenne; Ron Micheli, a rancher and former state legislator and state agricultural department director from Fort Bridger; and Colin Simpson of Cody, an attorney and the current Speaker of the House, squared off in a two-hour event hosted by the Park County Republican Party.

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