It Ain’t Petticoat Junction

I’m pretty sure the one time I ever rode behind a bona fide steam locomotive was at Knott’s Berry Farm back in the early 1970s. There may have been one or two miniature steamers here and there but I don’t remember any other full-size ones.

This one would kinda redefine “full size.”

It’s been at the Union Pacific Steam Shop since four years ago and is undergoing restoration to working order — oil-fired, as most working steamers are these days, rather than coal.

And if you happen to be in Cheyenne these next few months, the Steam Shop will once again be open for tours, and apparently the Big Boy will be featured.

Damn, I wish I weren’t still here in Georgia.

And After All That, What If It Rains?

It does rain sometimes in Wyoming. It may rain there on August 21. Or another forest fire could be sending dense smoke across the state (assuming the ones doing it now have even been put out by then).

I can certainly understand why people are going to Wyoming to view the eclipse — totality will pass directly over the part of the state where Mrs. McG and I want to move to when she retires. It’s a high desert and the presumption is that the sun’s always shining in the desert.

Well, not exactly. Even if it isn’t raining, the sky can be obscured by clouds. The anvil of a thunderstorm dumping on a mountain range 40 miles away can put a town in the valley in the shade; in fact, the town may get nothing from that storm but shade, and a spate of gusty wind as it collapses.

And then there’s the remoteness. Gawkers by the tens of thousands seem to be assuming because it’s far from big cities it must be too difficult for other people to get there. Well, you do kind of have to be wanting to go there to wind up there — but a total solar eclipse is a strong motivation, and the whole world knows it’s coming.

Places in the path of this celestial-yet-man-caused disaster have been planning for months, if not years, to deal with the once-in-a-lifetime influx of crowds, expecting to find themselves up to their armpits in people who think a flying visit to Wyoming should be no more challenging than a drive to the playground.

It’s a mercy that this eclipse will be visible across the entire width of the country; I’d hate to imagine the trouble if it were only happening in Wyoming. While I do find myself wishing we were already living there so we could see the show from our front porch, lately I’m kind of relieved we don’t. Trying to stock up ahead of the invasion would be like shopping here in the South when there’s snow in the forecast.

Furthermore, if we had land of any amount we’d need to worry about trespassers — or set up at the gates and take people’s money. If we didn’t already have a landline, we’d better get one. As it is, my idea of observing the eclipse online from here by looking in on webcams? Might not work.

Update, August 19: It’s just occurred to me that, as rough as it’s going to be for residents in many of these small towns — not only in Wyoming but across the country — it could be worse. It could be an annual event lasting a week and a half

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can’t Do?

(Apologies to Betteridge.)

And here we thought the climate-change scam was merely an attempt by mega-statists to stampede people into agreeing to a global authoritarian state. It apparently has less apocalyptic — though equally nefarious — uses.

By allowing development in areas where fires are known to regularly occur, it is inevitable that damage will occur, Simon argues. In “Flame and Fortune in the American West,” the author says that the way we often discuss dangerous wildfires — as unstoppable natural events, rather than the result of building homes and businesses in unwise places — contributes to this view and he proposes a new model of viewing the interaction between fires and development. Simon also takes issue with how climate change has been used to explain the increase in fires, arguing that global warming is often used as an easy explanation to cover up poor decision making by planners and developers.

Which suggests that while those bloggers who have popularized the snarky question in the title of this post have done so ironically, the typical irony-challenged bureaucrat has taken the concept to heart.

I left my shocked face around here somewhere but I can’t seem to find it.

Good Ride, Cousin

Just found out about this on tonight’s Western Sports Weekly, a (ahem) round-up of the week’s rodeo news on RFD-TV every Wednesday night. In this case, it’s the College National Finals Rodeo.

A Sam Houston State University freshman from Victoria, Texas, Lane McGehee dominated the bareback riding. He won two of the three preliminary rounds and scored 79.5 points on Harry Vold Rodeo’s Spicy Chicken to place second in the championship round, a point behind Sheridan College’s Hunter Carlson. McGehee’s overall win was by an almost unheard-of 16 points.

Never met him, but I think I noticed his name on a past season’s report on the National High School Finals Rodeo. Can’t wait to see him in some PRCA events, but I gather that’ll be a while.

A Few Minutes Ago at Yellowstone

After several minutes of teasing its audience with a series of spurts and gurgles, Old Faithful finally went off with a photogenic display while I was watching on the live webcam.

The live action was even better looking than this; the static webcam’s shutter speed isn’t as good as the video webcam’s frame rate, and the former’s captures aren’t uploaded quickly enough even during the prediction’s time window.

I wish park personnel would update the eruption forecasts more frequently. The geyser erupts several times a day but the prediction on the livecam web page only seems to be updated a couple of times each day.

New Background Image

Last week a perfect storm of webcam quality, subject matter, weather conditions and light quality conspired to create the image currently serving as this site’s background image.

This view is looking southward along Interstate 25 in southern Platte County, Wyoming, a couple of miles north of the town of Chugwater. If you click that link you’ll learn of Chugwater’s role in the history of Wyoming’s instantly recognizable bucking bronc emblem (featured here) that has appeared on the state’s license plates since 1935.

Chugwater has been without an operating gas station since 2012, when a vehicle crash resulted in a fire at Horton’s Corner, the only gas station along I-25 between Cheyenne (nearest gas, 41 miles) and Wheatland (25 miles). In the past year there has been an effort to build and open a new gas station on the same site, but the projected opening date has come and gone and its Google Plus profile hasn’t been updated since last fall.
(By the way, notice how much that page looks like Facebook? Did Google do that?)

Apples in Wyoming

And I don’t mean the road kind.
John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was a nurseryman who introduced apple trees to many parts of the country in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. He’s known for spreading apple seeds wherever he traveled. The history of Johnny Appleseed will soon spread its roots at Central Wyoming College’s Sinks Canyon apple orchard.
Dave Morneau with the Popo Agie Conservation District explained that during the Garden Expo a few weeks ago in Lander, one of the guest speakers, Scott Skogerboe with the Fort Collins Whole Sale Nursery, brought a surprise tree to be donated to the CWC orchard. This special tree had been propagated from one of the last known remaining Johnny Appleseed trees.
One thing I miss since moving from California is the annual Apple Hill festivities in Camino, a straggling community in the upper foothills of the Sierra Nevada east of Placerville. There wasn’t much apple growing going on in Interior Alaska that I ever heard about, and the nearest apple harvest center hereabouts is up in the north Georgia mountains, through which we only go on our way to East Tennessee where Mrs. McG’s father lives.
I kind of doubt there would ever be much in the way of apple sales (or bake shops with hot cider) in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming, but at least there are trees there. And now, one more.

Did You Know…?

The National Park Service maintains a live video feed of Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. The viewing wasn’t fantastic just now during the latest eruption, but since the people standing in the cold and (what looked like) snow paid good money for it while I sat in my easy chair in my comfy home watching it on my laptop, I have no complaints.
As I post this, a twenty-minute predicted viewing window has just closed, according to the feed page; I look in occasionally at a static webcam of the geyser and saw people standing watching, so I knew it was getting close to time.

That Would Make a Good Opening Line to a Country Song

I am, as promised, reading the new C.J. Box novel, Vicious Circle, and in it April — adopted middle daughter of Joe and Marybeth Pickett — says, “I might have had my fill of rodeo cowboys.”
In the days when country music still went by “country and western,” there would have been dozens of female singers who could have sung that line and a whole song flowing naturally from it.
Maybe there are now, but who today could get away with writing it just like that? In a song destined for radio, I mean.
In a way it’s good, I guess, that music has so many more ways to find an audience than a big-label recording contract. I just wish I knew where to find new music in the classic, mid-20th-century country-and-western style.
Now that I have room on my phone for actual new music…
Anyway, back to my reading.

Update: Also as promised, I finished the book before sundown. Now I have to wait until next March 21 for the next book

‘Nother update: Now that I have room on my phone for actual new music, I’m no longer using my phone to stream music over Bluetooth in my car.

Okay, that’s a lie. I actually quit ‘Toothing music in my car long ago. It requires using the music app on my phone, which I have to wear my reading glasses to work with — whenever I get into my car, and again when I get out, but not in between because I can’t drive with them on. And since I will not ‘Tooth music on my phone on battery power, and since the charge cable for this phone isn’t compatible with the USB port in the car…

You see where that’s going.

So for fun I tried copying my music library — 1,300-plus tracks — onto an 8GB thumb drive and plugging it into said USB port. I had to select it as the media source, but then it was off to the concert.

I’ve since reformatted a thumb drive containing a 128GB microSD card (the sound system’s OS is by Microsoft, so it needs FAT32 rather than NTFS or whatever) and successfully played the music off that. And this means I can collect more music to play in my car than my phone could hold.

Which at the moment means amassing about 120GB of additional music.

Betcha I could. I probably won’t, but betcha I could.

Maybe They Should Call It ‘Tallybook’

For the last few years I’ve relied on an outfit called Pitchengine, based in Lander, Wyoming, for news about goings-on out in the Cowboy State (in addition to a local newspaper out there to which I have an online subscription). Until now I’ve considered it sort of a community news aggregator, but yesterday they went social-media, almost just in time for my latest departure from Twitter.
So far I’m only following channels long since established for the news items, based in Lander, Jackson Hole, and Thermopolis, but as members can post items too, in the manner of Facebook and Twitter, there’s a distinct danger I may get to using it for socializing of a sort, with people either in or, like me, away from but interested in Wyoming.
A tally book, by the way, is a cowboy’s notepad used for keeping track of livestock and his activities during the workday. If someone ever starts up a general-purpose social network for cowboys and wannabes, Tallybook would be a good name for it — until Zuckerberg threatens to sue.

Also on the subject of Wyoming, the new Joe Pickett book releases one week from today on Google Books. I will probably have finished reading it before sundown that day.

Update, about two weeks later: Now there’s a banner on the Streams page saying they’ve ended support. Not sure exactly what it means but it sure sounds like somebody’s pulled the plug on an experiment.

‘Nother update, April 29: As of now the only account still posting to Pitchengine Streams is a Lander, Wyoming funeral home. I don’t know if their information team set that up automatically along with (probably) other social media outlets and just haven’t removed that line of code, or what.

‘Nother Other Update, May 5: Now Pitchengine Streams is not merely dead, but most sincerely dead. Oh, well.

If the Montana Move Happens…

There are little “casinos” all over the place out there.
To my knowledge they don’t have any big resort casinos, just little places that frequently have gas pumps out front. And it seems almost every place with gas pumps out front has gambling on the premises. It’s like Nevada would be if Bugsy Siegel had never been to Vegas.
Mrs. McG and I have enjoyed a sojourn or two at the slot machines in our day, and we have a system: we decide before we go in what’s the most we’ll play during our visit. In the long past when I lived in Sacramento and work sometimes took me over the mountains to Reno or some such place, I could limit myself to a half-roll of quarters because the time would be limited between finishing the job and having to head for home. It helped that I was satisfied with single-coin plays.
Once in Carson City I was not far into my playable funds (a whole roll of quarters!) when I hit a couple of really good wins. I took enough out of the winnings to replace what I’d initially staked myself, and spent the rest of my time there risking the house’s money instead of my own. And I ended up taking some of it with me.
Obviously the convenience of dropping coin at a Montana “casino” carries some additional risk. You really can’t have fun at it if you only play however many quarters you got in change for your store purchases, but if you run through five extra bucks every time you stop for gas it’s going to add up fast — even if your car gets really good mileage.
It would be an interesting challenge to work out a viable adjustment to my system, though.

Cowboy Christmas

The 2016 National Finals Rodeo went its last go round Saturday night, and the world champions have been crowned.
In my earlier rodeo post I mentioned the Canadian team ropers, one of whom has a full mountain-man beard. Well, they won, along with fellow Canadian Zeke Thurston, saddle bronc rider.
The 2016 world champion barrel racer is 68-year old Mary Burger. to whom I referred in the earlier entry. Clearly this is one area of female competition where dewy eyes and perky … personalities aren’t much of an advantage.
Meanwhile two-time bull riding world champion Sage Kimzey made it three-time. Despite having a merely good run at the finals, his spectacular earnings during the season kept him ahead of his rivals’ better go-rounds in Las Vegas. Kimzey finished third in the NFR averages, but it pays to have a lot in the bank before the big year-end show; he’s the one who got the championship saddle.
I would have gathered the rodeo circuit takes a bit of a break now but I’ve seen references to, for example, the 38th Annual Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in Great Falls in mid-January. Which, if Great Falls had an indoor rodeo arena I could imagine it better. Maybe they’re counting on the Chinook.

Update: Just discovered Great Falls does have an indoor arena they use for rodeos. I guess everything’s up-to-date in Electric City!

We Interrupt This Background…

The Wyoming focus of this site’s background images is going away for an indeterminate period of time.
There are a million things that could throw a monkey wrench into this, but at least this time the worst-case scenario (har!) is that our existing plans to retire to Wyoming in <mumble> years would remain in place. Meanwhile, Mrs. McG is pursuing an opportunity that could see us moving out of Georgia years sooner than planned — to Montana.

The downside to doing this would be that it isn’t Wyoming. And that it would be a place that gets a whole lot colder in the winter (with interruptions thanks to some schnook) (er, Chinook), and has no schools in the Mountain West Conference. Also the flag is boring, one of those state-seal-and-state-name-on-a-blue-background flags I’ve managed to avoid living under in my five-and-almost-a-half decades. And they have a state income tax.

But both UM and MSU are in the Big Sky Conference, as is my alma mater, Sacramento State. So I might get to see the Hornets play on TV sometimes. Wait, am I calling this an upside or a downside?

My mother was born and raised in Montana, and my parents’ firstborn, who died in 1946 at age ten months, is buried in Missoula. I haven’t seen that grave since I was four years old.

Montana is bigger than Wyoming, with more people but also more open, empty space. It currently has a Democrat governor, and one of its two U.S. senators is likewise a Democrat — as are all but one of the statewide elected officials. Come to think of it, that’s how Georgia was when we first moved here.

If we do move to Montana, odds are that’s where we’ll stay after retirement, but we can always visit Wyoming from there.

Anyway, given the possibilities, it makes sense to use more generically Western themery on this site, hence the current background.

Afterthought: It’s just occurred to me that Montana doesn’t have a single iconic image everyone associates with it, other than the outline of the state’s shape on a map. Wyoming has the bucking horse and rider logo you see in the previous entry; Colorado has the “C” shape thing from its flag; Utah has the beehive.

You can identify South Dakota from depictions of Mount Rushmore, New Mexico from the Zuni sun symbol on its flag, and Arizona from a saguaro cactus.

Kansas has the sunflower; Nebraska has Chimney Rock. For that matter, Wyoming and Arizona also have iconic flags. What does Montana have? When you think of Montana, what image pops into your mind?

Then again, Idaho’s kind of in the same boat. And you notice I didn’t mention North Dakota at all…

Afterafterthought: My cell carrier, currently, is Google’s Project Fi. There are some awkwardnesses about dealing with Google that would get in the way of continuing to use them if we move to Montana. I’m assuming Fi uses the same pool of phone numbers as Google Voice, which has no local numbers in the town we’d be moving to.

It looks like I’d have to go back on AT&T with Mrs. McG for my cell service.

Update: I’ve done something to short-circuit the suspense: ordered a Montana coffee mug. We will almost certainly know we’re not moving by the time it arrives.

‘Nother Update: Mug has arrived, bad news hasn’t. Don’t know what to think.


CBS Sports is covering all ten daily rounds of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, continuing through next Saturday.
Of course the event I’m most interested in is once again bull riding, but since a key character in my latest attempt at fiction writing is a former steer wrestler, I’m paying attention to that event as well.
Before I started watching these events on TV I couldn’t have explained the differences between bareback and saddle bronc riding (hint, there’s more to it than the presence or absence of a saddle), but I’ve learned enough to recognize that the event depicted in Wyoming’s “Bucking Horse and Rider” logo (you’ll see it on the University of Wyoming’s football helmets as well as on Wyoming license plates) is saddle-bronc riding — because of the rider’s upright posture and the presence of a rope connected to the horse’s bridle.
I have yet to see a saddle-bronc rider in one of these rodeos waving his hat during the ride, even among those who still wear hats instead of helmets.
As a rule, rodeo cowboys have tended not to have facial hair, but I’ve been seeing beards and mustaches on some — and in Thursday’s first round of team roping the heeler on the winning team sports a big mountain-man beard. Well, they’re from Canada. No telling what goes through their minds. They placed a little lower in Round 2 last night though.
Barrel racing, professional rodeo’s only women’s event, has the widest age range in the sport; one contender in the 2016 NFR is 68 years old, nearly three times the age of your typical post-college rookie professional. Of course rodeo has college, high school and even junior high school levels, as well as “Little Britches.” At those levels you’ll also see girls compete in goat roping and breakaway calf roping.
It’s a shame those latter two events don’t afford opportunities at the professional level, since unlike barrel racing a roping event actually showcases a ranch skill that many a working cattlewoman may use on the job.

New background image (may be) coming soon.

Snow is falling on Red Canyon, but the webcam I’ve previously cadged images from is currently blocked with snow or ice hanging across the lens guard. Hopefully that will be gone before the snow on the canyon wall is.

Update, about two and a half hours later: The preferred camera is back up but still mostly obscured. In the partially obscured view on another camera that shows part of the canyon wall it appears the snow was pretty heavy there too.

I think I’ll look around for a good snow pic from the larger vicinity to use until Red Canyon has the balance of cover and uncover that I’ve been hoping for.

Update, Friday afternoon: Got the pic I wanted, thanks to the ice falling off the camera and a bit of the snow on the canyon wall melting away. I may replace it in a few days as more canyon wall shows through. Meanwhile, enjoy.

Update, Sunday afternoon: The melt-off has commenced and the current pic, though still snowy, looks a bit sad to someone who’s seen months of snowpack disappear in mere days in interior Alaska. I won’t inflict it on you. Snowmen, to your safe spaces!