Sep 11, 2015

Locals bought a lot of WyoLotto tickets, didn't hit big jackpots in games' first year

Park County retailers sold nearly $600,000 worth of tickets during the Wyoming Lottery’s first year.

They were part of what Wyoming Lottery Corporation CEO Jon Clontz described as a “solid” inaugural year, from August 2014 to August 2015.

Across the state, retailers sold roughly $21.1 million of tickets and they resulted in around $5.2 million worth of winnings for the players who bought them, according to WyoLotto data.

At first, WyoLotto only offered tickets for the nationwide Powerball and Mega Millions games. However, officials launched a Wyoming-only game, Cowboy Draw, in March to give players better odds of winning a jackpot. Since then, four Wyoming players have hit jackpots ranging from $277,988 to $628,630.

Most of the 577,000-some winning tickets sold in Wyoming in the lottery’s first year brought much smaller payouts.

A list of WyoLotto winners indicates that the biggest payout in Park County was a $2,000 ticket sold in Powell in July; three other people won $500 from tickets purchased in Cody.

A total of $598,107 worth of tickets were sold in Park County over the 12 months. That breaks down to an average of about $25 worth of tickets per adult resident (though presumably some were bought by people passing through the area).

The Wyoming Lottery's first year of ticket sales, broken down by county. Data from WyoLotto

Uinta County had the most sales ($3.36 million) among the state's counties, apparently bolstered by lottery-deprived Utah residents who ventured across the border.

There are more than 440 lottery retailers in Wyoming and they earned around $1 million in commissions in the lottery’s first year, WyoLotto officials said.

The Wyoming Legislature approved the creation of the lottery in 2013 — requiring that profits go to counties, municipalities and the state school system — but didn’t give it any funding; the Wyoming Lottery Corporation took out a loan to get started.

Lottery CEO Clontz said in an August news release that ticket sales have been steady, helping pay off the lottery's loan, and that it should start paying money to the state by sometime next year.

“I’m very proud of what the staff, board, and our partners have accomplished so far without state funding and look forward to an even stronger second year,” Clontz said in the release.

Record number of people - more than 3.1 million - have gone into Yellowstone this year

People have been flocking to Yellowstone National Park in record numbers this year.

Yellowstone has already had more than 3.1 million visits in 2015 — up more than 15 percent from year ago and the most ever for the first eight months of the year, park officials say.

“We have been surprised by the size of the increase this year,” Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a Thursday statement. “We will be looking at what this means for the future and what we can do to improve visitor experiences while still protecting park resources.”

A record number of people, like this boater on Yellowstone Lake, are enjoying the park this year. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
The park service recorded some 854,400 people entering Yellowstone in August alone. For comparison, that’s like every single Wyoming resident traveling to the park — and about half of them coming back for a second visit — in one month.

While many factors influence how many people travel to the park each year, Yellowstone managers cited the National Park Service’s “Find Your Park” public awareness campaign, lower gas prices and tourism promotions by the states of Montana and Wyoming as possible reasons for the record popularity.

Yellowstone statistics show visitors’ favorite way to get into the park — far and away — is through the west entrance, where managers have recorded some 1,327,600 visits through August.

As for Yellowstone’s east gate, which is west of Cody, around 410,500 people have entered from that direction. That’s up by around 44,500 people (more than 11 percent) from the same point in 2014.

Sep 10, 2015

Another small wildfire starts in Yellowstone

Lightning has started a small wildfire in Yellowstone National Park; it's the second one now burning in the park.

The Spruce Fire is "smoldering and creeping through" a wooded area about 10 miles west of Fishing Bridge and two miles south of Hayden Valley, the National Park Service said in a Thursday news release.

Park managers say the Spruce Fire is "smoldering and creeping through a mixed conifer forest." Photo courtesy National Park Service

As of Thursday, it was estimated to be about a tenth-of-an-acre in size. The Spruce Fire "is not threatening any structures or roads and will be monitored by park fire crews and allowed to play its natural role in the ecosystem," the park service said.

The park service said the fire was likely started by storms that passed through the area at least five days ago. Yellowstone personnel discovered it Wednesday as they flew over the area in a helicopter.

Meanwhile, the 5L4 fire continues to burn slowly on the Promontory Peninsula at the south end of Yellowstone Lake. Reported Aug. 24, it has burned across 16 acres, the park service said. Backcountry campsites 5L3, 5L4, and 6A1 continue to be closed because of the 5L4 fire.

The Spruce Fire has not caused any closures.

Yellowstone National Park's fire danger is currently “High.”

Some 43 large fires or complexes of fires are burning in six states across the west, the park service said.

For up-to-date information on fires burning across the country, visit www.inciweb.nwcg.gov. To learn more about fire management in Yellowstone, visit www.nps.gov/yell/learn/management/firemanagement.htm.

'By Western Hands' furniture show in Cody Sept. 23-26

Continuing a long legacy of pioneer craftsmanship in Western furniture design, Cody is once again hosting a furniture show.

By Western Hands will showcase 26 of the West's most talented artisans and craftsmen during a Sept. 23-26 exhibition, event organizers say.

With the support of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, the furniture show is being organized by a dedicated core group of private benefactors and volunteers. Bryant Hall of Cody is the show's director.

By Western Hands takes place Sept. 23-26 in Cody. Image courtesy Bryant Hall
Though there will be significant representation from Cody and northwest Wyoming, participants will also be coming from Montana, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin. This year's show will shift from previous formats and will be presented as a respective exhibition rather than a sale.


It will be held on the museum grounds, south of the main building and adjacent to the art show tent. It opens Wednesday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

On the opening day, By Western Hands will also host Chase Reynolds Ewald who will give a presentation on Cody's history in Western design. Ewald’s presentation, "Cody Style: A Century of Western Design," will begin at 3 p.m. at the Coe Library inside the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

The exhibit will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26.

Wyoming Samurai: Cody man's book documents military service of Heart Mountain internees

At first, the U.S. government took them from their West Coast homes, confined them in an camp on Heart Mountain and said they didn’t want them in the military. But in the middle of fighting World War II, government brass reversed course, deciding they actually did want the Japanese Americans to serve — and that those who refused would be imprisoned.

That and other contradictions surrounding Japanese American’s military service, amid their forced relocation, proved too much to ignore for local author Mike Mackey.

“You’ve got a group of people that are supposed to be the enemy — just because they look like somebody else. Their service is originally not wanted, and then when it is wanted they go above and beyond ... and then they aren’t rewarded for that,” Mackey said in a recent interview. “And while they’re serving and dying, their parents are still locked up in camp.”

Mackey, a Powell native and Cody resident, hadn’t planned on writing another book about the Heart Mountain internment camp. (He’d already written four.) However, a planned chapter on the internees and the military swelled into his latest book, “Wyoming Samurai: The World War II Warriors of Heart Mountain.”

With diaries, interviews, newspaper accounts and other documents, “Wyoming Samurai” recounts the war through the lives of some of the Japanese Americans who served in combat and their families detained at Heart Mountain.

In protest of their incarceration and treatment by the U.S. government, more than 80 young men refused to participate in the draft. Meanwhile, more than 800 draftees and volunteers at the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center served in the military. Fifteen were killed in action and more than 60 were wounded, Mackey wrote. They amassed a large number of bronze and silver stars and — eventually — two Congressional Medals of Honor.

Mackey wrote in the introduction that, “in spite of the many contradictions, Japanese American men and women would use military service as a way to demonstrate their loyalty to the government which imprisoned them. In the process, their service became legendary.”

They generally were assigned to the army’s now-famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up almost entirely of Japanese Americans.

One elder internee at Heart Mountain asked a military official at the time why those of Japanese descent weren’t being allowed to serve in other divisions, like the Navy or Air or Marine corps, Mackey recounted. The official explained that serving in a single unit would bring better publicity and “rehabilitate” Japanese Americans’ image as the enemy.

“Well,” the elder internee replied. “We didn’t have the image as the enemy until you stuck us here.”

Mackey said the Japanese Americans’ sacrifices during the war did end up bringing them greater acceptance in U.S. society.

“While they (Japanese Americans) are serving and dying, their parents are still locked up in camp,” said author Mike Mackey.

One medic, James Okubo, braved enemy gunfire to reach and save the lives of 25 men over two days in October 1944. A few days later, he’d run 75 yards through machine gun fire to treat and save a seriously injured man inside a burning tank.

Okuba’s parents, meanwhile, were prohibited from returning home to Washington, though the go
vernment ultimately allowed them to leave Heart Mountain and move to Detroit, Mackey writes.

When any internee soldier visited their parents at the Heart Mountain camp, their parents would only be allowed to venture outside the center’s gates for an hour — even after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for some incarcerees to return home, Mackey said.

“Even after they say people can go home ... they still have to go through this crap at the front gate. And if they’re late, then they get hauled in by the (military police) to talk to the director, and it goes on and on,” Mackey said. “It's amazing.”

“Wyoming Samurai,” which checks in at 181 pages, is available through local bookstores and on Amazon.

~By CJ Baker, cj@codynewscompany.com

Sep 9, 2015

Nearly $60 million to be poured into sage grouse conservation efforts in Wyoming

The federal government expects to commit nearly $60 million to protect sage grouse habitat in Wyoming over the next four years.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last month that the Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 will invest approximately $211 million between now and 2018 to benefit greater sage-grouse in the West.

Flanked by (from left to right) Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Executive Secretary Larry Kruckenberg, Pheasants Forever President and CEO Howard Vincent and Oregon rancher John O'Keeffe, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA's new sage grouse strategy on Aug. 27 in Portland, Oregon. Photo courtesy Tracy Robillard, USDA

Brian Jensen, state wildlife biologist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Casper, said nearly $60 million was requested for Wyoming and it's been tentatively approved.

That amount roughly breaks down as:

• $40 million for conservation easements

• $8 millon for grazing management improvements

• $6 million for invasive species control

• $5 million for treating invasive plants and wet meadow restoration

Under conservation easements, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) offers financial and technical assistance to landowners primarily to prevent the development of subdivisions and thus protect sage grouse habitat, Jensen said.

Improving grazing management means more cover for sage grouse and more forage for livestock, Jensen said.

Sage grouse benefit from taller grass because it protects nests from predators, Jensen said in a spring 2012 article for Wyoming Livestock Roundup, “Sage Grouse: Why the Focus on Nesting Habitat?”

“The primary tool used under the Sage Grouse Initiative is prescribed grazing, tailored to needs of the individual ranch, to meet rangeland health goals and increase residual grass heights,” Jensen wrote.

Studies have determined that simply increasing residual grass height by a few inches could improve nest success by 10-15 percent, which could be significant to the long-term viability of the bird. Residual grass is the remaining grass following the grazing season, Jensen said in his article.

A sage grouse flies at the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Sweetwater County. File photo courtesy Tom Koerner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Under the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) 2.0 strategy, NRCS will focus on reducing the threat of wildfire and spread of invasive grasses after fires to restore wildlife habitat and quality livestock forage. Invasive plant species and fire reduce the amount of forage and cause erosion, Jensen said.

The strategy will also focus on removing encroaching conifers, protecting rangeland from suburb development and cultivation, protecting wet meadows and reducing fence collisions, according to the USDA.

Encroaching conifers are a threat to sage grouse because they colonize areas where sagebrush and grass grow, thus stealing both cover and food. Sage grouse have been documented to gain weight in the winter, depending on sagebrush leaves exclusively for food, Jensen said. 

Since its launch in 2010, public and private partners engaged in the SGI have conserved 4.4 million acres, according to the USDA.

In Wyoming, Jensen said that is:

• 993,100 acres in grazing system improvements

• 181,418 acres in conservation easements

• 1,280 acres for conifer removal

• 4 acres of reseeding grass, forbs and shrubs

“All conservation efforts are relevant to the FWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) listing decision process,” said Tom Christensen, sage grouse coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Fish and Wildlife must decide whether the bird warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act by Sept. 30. The decision will be to determine if it is warranted as a candidate for listing or not warranted. If it is a warranted decision, another year will pass while Fish and Wildlife decide whether it is “threatened” or “endangered.”

Using the slogan of “good for the herd, good for the bird,” wildlife managers say what benefits livestock also benefits sage grouse.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead issued an executive order in July to strengthen protections for the greater sage-grouse as the federal government considers whether to list the bird, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Mead supported the USDA’s plan to help Wyoming and other western states' efforts to protect sage-grouse habitat. SGI 2.0 will contribute to private conservation efforts that improve greater sage grouse habitat, he said.

Improving range land conditions improves livestock grazing and sage grouse habitat. A founding principal of SGI is, “good for the herd, good for the bird,” Jensen said.

Volunteers sought for Saturday clean-up at Sleeping Giant

Volunteers are being asked to come and help tidy up the Sleeping Giant Ski Area on Saturday.

The clean-up effort is set to run from 9 a.m. to noon at Sleeping Giant Day Lodge (348 North Fork Highway).

Organizers say volunteers should bring a water bottle, sun screen, bear spray, work gloves and a rain jacket. Long pants and good shoes (ideally work boots) are suggested and coats could be needed.

Lunch will be provided and volunteers will get a sneak peek at the new zip line now under construction. (You can see a test run of one of the zip lines in the video below.)


More testing on the Zip Line by Casey Hill (aka: Crash Test Dummy) on Zip # 2. This goes across to the side of Bobby's Headwall. These tests are run to check on the stopping distance and line tension. #zipsg #skisg
Posted by Sleeping Giant Ski Area on Sunday, August 30, 2015

Volunteers are also being sought for a second clean-up effort scheduled for Oct. 3.

For more information, call 307-587-3125 or visit the Sleeping Giant Ski Area's Facebook page.

The ski hill, located in the Shoshone National Forest, is run by the Yellowstone Recreations Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to provide affordable and educational winter recreation.

Local sugar beet farmers expecting a strong harvest

This fall’s harvest of sugar beets is coming in sweeter and earlier than usual, thanks to good weather conditions for the spring and summer in the Big Horn Basin.

Digging started Sept. 2 (about five days earlier than last year), and sampling so far indicates that local fields are yielding about 30 tons per acre, said Ric Rodriguez, Western Sugar Cooperative board of directors vice-chairman and Powell farmer.

Ten years ago, an average harvest brought in 22 tons per acre, but advances in bio technology and seed varieties have brought that up to about 28 tons per acre, said Powell farmer Fred Hopkin.

“It is the earliest harvest they have ever had in the Lovell factory,” Hopkin said. “They are predicting the biggest crop that the Lovell factory has ever had.”

Rodriquez wasn’t sure why this year’s sugar beets did so well. There were concerns in the spring when it was cooler than usual, he said.

Shane Smith operates a beet digger on Wyo. highway 295 north of Powell on Thursday. Cody News Co. photo by Carla Wensky

“It is hard to predict,” Rodriguez said. “We had the ideal growth with a wet spring — summer had the right sunshine and moisture.”

The crop was in earlier than normal and got off to an above-average start, Hopkin said. There were few replants due to wind or freezing, and now the stands are good with overall good crop conditions.

Farmers like to see at least 150 beets per 100 feet in a row, and this year’s counts are higher than average, Rodriguez said.

Farmers get paid based on the sugar content of their harvest and this year’s crop is sweeter than normal by about a half to three-quarters of a percent, Rodriguez said.

“It is nice to dig early and have this high of a sugar content,” Rodriguez said.

Not all of the fields are being harvested at once, but many are underway.

“I think the farmers are optimistic about a good crop, and I don’t think people are thrilled to start this early, but that is the down side to a good crop — the harvest will go longer than normal,” Hopkin said.

Beet harvests work differently than most crops. There are actually two harvests and each is treated differently.

Local farmers are currently going through the early harvest: when beets go from the ground and straight to processing with little downtime between since storage can’t be done for more than a few days when it’s too warm outside.

“I think the farmers are optimistic about a good crop, and I don’t think people are thrilled to start this early, but that is the down side to a good crop — the harvest will go longer than normal,” said farmer Fred Hopkin. 

Harvest also starts based on how much processing the local facilities can handle. Because yields are so high, and processing needs to be done by February or March, the harvests are calculated backwards so that every farmer gets their turn for unloading their crops.

“If they have this big of a crop, they want to start the beets earlier,” Rodriguez said. “This year, the samples were heavier than they ever had.”

Long-term piling of sugar beets will start on Oct. 2 for the later harvest. That round of harvesting will go until about the end of October, but most will be done by the middle of October, Rodriguez said.

“It is all scheduled out through October, then it is wide open,” Rodriguez said. “If we waited until October, we couldn’t get them all processed.”

That date is how harvesting has worked at the Lovell plant for more than 50 years, Hopkin said.
Other regions are harvesting earlier than normal too, Rodriguez said. Harvesting sugar beets in Michigan started around the third week of August.

“Just about everyone is starting early, so it is a good crop for everyone this year,” Rodriguez said. “The price is a little weak, but we hope it will pick up.”

Another way that sugar beets differ from other crops is the final price is not known until Sept. 31, he said.

“Let’s just hope for good weather,” Rodriguez said. “Hot is bad and cold is worse.”

Sep 8, 2015

Park County raises rental rates at fairgrounds with new fee schedule

The cost of renting buildings and rooms at the Park County Fairgrounds is going up.

Last week, commissioners approved a new fee schedule that includes mostly higher rates (they're embedded below). It’s intended to better recoup the county’s costs and better match what’s being charged at similar facilities.

Park County Events Coordinator Echo Renner said she came up with the structure after looking at comparable facilities around the Big Horn Basin and at the Laramie County Fairgrounds.
Renner's directive from the commission was to create a plan that lets the county “break even” and commissioners unanimously approved what she came up with.

The new exhibit hall at the Park County Fairgrounds, officially opened in July, can be rented for $625 a day. Cody News Co. file photo by CJ Baker
“The way I look at this is it’s going to be a moving target for quite some time, until we get a better handle on our (actual) costs and that kind of thing,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden. “But it’s a good starting point.”

As an example of the changes, renting the fairgrounds’ Bicentennial Hall will now cost $150 per day for commercial events (up by $25) and $120 for personal or non-profit use (up by $45).

One of the biggest jumps is the cost of renting the trio of horse arenas and round pen: it’s rising from $85 to $200 for commercial ventures and to $160 for personal or non-profit use. After looking at the considerable amount of use they receive — and comparing them to other facilities — “I realized we were seriously undercharging for the horse arenas,” Renner explained.

Other changes aren’t as significant.

For example, renting a RV space with a full hook-up will now cost $30 (up from $25), and discounts are available if campers opt for just an electrical hook-up ($25) or to dry camp ($15).

As for the brand new exhibit hall, renting the whole building will cost $625 a day for commercial use or $500 for a personal or non-profit event; there are cheaper options if only renting one part, like a conference room ($75/$60).

The priciest rental on the fairgrounds remains the grandstands. It's rising to $700 for commercial events and $560 for personal or non-profit functions. That’s up from $500.

Renner said the new rate for the grandstands still may not cover the county’s costs, because cleaning up after the pigeons now roosting there is time-consuming and expensive.

A couple commissioners joked that shooting the birds could solve the problem, but “even if we remove them, it’s a great place for pigeons,” Renner said. “Others will come back.” She plans to work with the buildings and grounds department on a permanent solution, like installing chicken wire.

Commission Chairman Joe Tilden called the new rates “a good starting point.”

The new fee schedule also requires larger deposits (in some cases there had been none, Renner said) to help ensure facilities are cleaned up and that tables and chairs are put away when renters leave. In her short tenure as the events coordinator, Renner said renters have not done those things “more often than not.”

If someone wants to ask for fees to be waived, they'll need to make their case to the commissioners. That decision used to rest with the fair board, but earlier this year, commissioners substantially reduced the board’s role in managing the grounds outside of fair time.

Tilden said it made sense for commissioners to start handling the special requests, “because the charge of the fair board has changed a lot.”

The county also set a rate of $50 for a day's commercial use of the Park County Complex grounds, or $35 for non-commercial or personal events.

~By CJ Baker

New ‘Longmire’ season premieres Thursday with longer episodes, author says

When the next season of “Longmire” premieres on Netflix on Thursday, fans can expect to see more of their favorite characters than before, said author Craig Johnson.

“When we were on basic cable, our episodes were only 42 minutes long, because of the commercials and everything,” Johnson said. “I have yet to see an episode (of Season 4) that’s under an hour — every single one of them is picking up at least 25 minutes or more.”

Of course, another benefit of Netflix is that fans won’t have to wait a week before seeing the next episode.

Craig Johnson signed plenty of autographs while in Park County. Cody News Co. photo by Tessa Schweigert
“They’re going to drop all 10 episodes at once, and you guys are going to dutifully watch one episode a week, right?” Johnson said Aug. 12, as a Powell audience laughed. “I’m getting the feeling you’re
not going to do that.”

In August, Johnson visited libraries in Park County, just over the mountain from where fictitious Absaroka County Sheriff Walt Longmire patrols.

When A&E announced it was canceling the popular show based on Johnson’s novels last year, Netflix wasted no time getting in touch with “Longmire” producers.

“What happened was, 12 minutes after we got canceled by A&E, Netflix called and said, ‘We’ll take it. We know what the numbers are and we’ll take it,’” said Johnson, who serves as the executive consultant for the show.

He said A&E canceled “Longmire” because the network wanted to own the show and profit more from it.

Warner Brothers makes the show and licenses it to networks all over the world, Johnson said. When Warner Brothers was unwilling to sell “Longmire,” A&E cancelled it.

A promotional poster for the new season of 'Longmire.'
“It’s kinda funny, because we were the highest rated scripted drama they (A&E) had ever had,” Johnson said.

In the months between the A&E cancellation and Netflix agreement, Johnson said “Longmire” fans created an uproar that continued to build.

“It got to the point where A&E actually called Warner Brothers and said, ‘Call off your dogs,’” Johnson said. “Everyone was angry and clogging up all of their blogging ... Facebook, Twitter and all this kind of stuff. It was actually to the point where I was starting to feel sorry for A&E, for gosh sakes.”

Johnson said faithful fans are to thank for Longmire’s return.

“You guys are the ones that did the heavy lifting on this, and kind of called Hollywood’s hand,” he said. “Generally, a show gets cancelled and that’s it — it’s over. Through the Longmire Posse’s efforts, by golly, we got back on the air, which is pretty exciting.”

An audience member asked Johnson about the death of...

“Whoooooa! Don’t give anything away for people who haven’t read that book yet!” Johnson laughed.

The author did offer that it wouldn’t be fair or honest to “have all the characters survive and have everybody just smoothly glide along.”

“I mean, things are going to happen. And some of them are not going to be nice things,” he said. “I think it’s a little bit more realistic to have those things happen instead of pretending that they don’t.”

He noted Walt Longmire is a sheriff who comes into contact with a lot of people involved with law enforcement.

“Even nowadays, it’s become more apparent that when you put that badge on at the beginning of the day and you go out, you may not come home at night,” Johnson said.

He did pledge to spare one character from an ill fate.

Johnson had a rapt audience at the Cody library. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“The only one that’s safe is Dog,” Johnson said, referring to the sheriff’s canine companion. “I will never kill Dog. If I kill Dog, you guys will kill me.”

As “Longmire” readers know, the TV show differs from the books, including the absence of Dog. Some changes are made to create more dramatic conflict for TV, Johnson said, but others are for less obvious reasons.

For example, the character Branch in the TV series is based on Turk from the first “Longmire” book.

“They changed the name to Branch because when the actors were saying Turk it sounded like they were saying Turd,” Johnson said. “I thought it kind of fit sometimes.”

When asked whether he’s pleased with how Walt Longmire is portrayed, Johnson said, “I’m tickled to death with Robert Taylor.”

Early on in the show’s production, Johnson said one of his first big arguments with TV producers was over Walt’s age. They wanted to make Walt and his friend, Henry Standing Bear, younger than they are in the books.

“My immediate redneck cowboy response was, ‘Now why are we doing that?’” Johnson recalled. “And they said, ‘Well, we’d really like this TV show to run for about 10 years, and we’d rather not have Walt and Henry on walkers by the end.’ I had a hard time arguing with that.”



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