Feb 19, 2016

Heart Mountain featured in Broadway show

A mural of Heart Mountain likely isn’t what you’d expect to see when attending a musical production on Broadway.

But that was one of the backdrops used in the theatrical production of “Allegiance,” attended by a group of 34 people from Northwest College in New York last month.

Based on the family history of George Takei — who played Mr. Sulu in the orignal “Star Trek” series — “Allegiance” is a story of a Japanese American family relocated to the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp during World War II. It is based on Takei’s family, though his family members actually were imprisoned in another camp.

Heart Mountain made it into the set of the Broadway production. Courtesy photo
For Ruth Pfaff, it was like seeing home away from home. Pfaff grew up on a homestead in the shadow of Heart Mountain, has written about the relocation camp and actually lived within the walls of the then-vacated camp for two and a half months while her father waited for barracks to be moved to his homestead after World War II.

“Go to New York and you see Heart Mountain? Wow. I was a bit emotional,” Pfaff said in a recent interview.

“Allegiance,” which ended its Broadway run on Sunday, is a musical based on the experiences of the Kimura family and set at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp during World War II, according to BroadwayWorld.com.

“Even younger Japanese-Americans don’t know about it, because those that experienced the internment — the pain, the suffering, the sense of loss and degradation and humiliation, didn’t want to inflict that pain on their children,” Takei told BroadwayWorld.com.

According to the playbill, “‘Allegiance’ was inspired by Takei, a moving story of love, war and heroism, set in a Japanese internment camp.”

In the musical, the Kimura family had to resettle at the Heart Mountain camp, Pfaff said.

“It’s about how they had to leave their homes with only what they could carry,” she said.

“An epic story told with great intimacy, ‘Allegiance’ explores the ties that bind us, the struggle to persevere, and the overwhelming power of forgiveness and, most especially, love,” the BroadwayWorld.com story concluded.

“It’s about how they had to leave their homes with only what they could carry,” said Pfaff, who took in the show with a group from NWC last month.

Takei was one of the actors in the show.

Pfaff said the show was great. But she enjoyed a back-stage visit the group had with with actor Telly Leung, who played Sammy Kimura, even more.

“He was a very dynamic speaker, and I enjoyed his talk,” Pfaff said.

Leung, of Chinese descent, told his story about becoming an actor, contrary to his parents’ wish that he become a doctor or lawyer.

“But that wasn’t his thing,” she said.

Members of the group told him they lived close to Heart Mountain, and he asked how close.

When they told him they lived just 15 miles from the mountain portrayed in the backdrop, he was surprised, she said. Although he knows its history, he’s never been anywhere near the mountain or the center.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to invite him to Heart Mountain?’” Pfaff said.

Warm and dry trend likely to linger through February

Temperate winter temperatures with trace precipitation may very well be the bellwether of spring.

Chuck Baker, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Riverton, said early spring is showing a dry, warm pattern.

“We could see a drought raising its ugly head as we go into spring,” Baker said.

Generally, there has been a high pressure ridge over the West pushing a major trough through the Midwest region. The result has been abnormally cold temperatures in the eastern United States and abnormally warm temperatures in western U.S., Baker said. Northwest winds from Alaska and the Yukon are funneling cold into the upper Midwest, northern Plains and Great Lakes. Downslope winds from the Alberta, Canada, and the Rocky Mountains are creating warm winds in northern Wyoming.

Sheep enjoy the warmer temperatures outside of Powell last week. Cody News Co. photo by Toby Bonner
“It’s typically called the February thaw,” Baker said.

January 2016 saw zilch precipitation over in Powell; the average is 0.22 inches.

No measurable precipitation has been reported thus far in February, but some areas have seen some small amounts of precipitation in the Big Horn Basin. The February average is 0.13 inches.

There is a chance of showers Thursday, but more than likely it will be confined to the Big Horn and Absaroka mountains, Baker said.

In the meantime, keep the sunblock handy while catching some rays.

“The mild temperatures look to be continuing until at least the end of the month,” Baker said.

A moderate El NiƱo could effect the winter/spring transition, making Wyoming warmer and drier on the east side of the Continental Divide, he said.

Still, he added that the area could very well experience a cold spell the end of this month and into March.

According to the Water Resources Data System from the University of Wyoming, Shoshone Basin’s snow water equivalent was 87 percent of average on Monday, with the Big Horn Basin at 70 percent.

Things are dry in the Big Horn Basin, although the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts spring inflow to Buffalo Bill Reservoir will be greater than its neighboring reservoirs to the north and south.

• April through July inflow for Buffalo Bill Reservoir from the Shoshone River is forecast at 570,000 acre-feet. That's 83 percent of the 30-year average of 686,300 acre-feet. As of Feb. 1, Buffalo Bill had 426,588 acre-feet of water in storage, making it 66 percent full.

• April through July inflow for Big Horn Lake from the Big Horn River was forecast at 596,200 acre-feet. That's a little more than half of the 30-year average of 1.11 million acre-feet. As of Feb. 1, Big Horn Lake had 870,379 acre-feet in storage, making it 85 percent full.
 • April through July inflow for Boysen Reservoir from the Wind River was forecast at 350,000 acre-feet, which is 64 percent of the 30-year average of 548,300 acre-feet. Boysen had 585,743 acre-feet of water at the start of the month, the Bureau of Reclamation says, making it 79 percent full.

‘Wild’ wind wreaks havoc with mats at landfill

High winds recently made
a mess of some reclamation work at the Powell landfill.

On Feb. 6, gusts of up to 50 miles per hour ripped up sheets of erosional matting from the ground and rolled them up into massive, tightly-wound tubes — some measuring around five feet high and hundreds of yards long.

“It’s wild the way it did it,” Park County Landfill Manager Tim Waddell said of the wind’s handiwork, adding later, “Once you see it and think about how heavy that crap had to be, you would think it would have just picked it up in big sheets and and blew it away.”

Recent high winds somehow pulled up and rolled up acres of erosional mats at the Powell landfill, leaving bare soil behind them. The roll was about five feet tall in some places. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker

“The wind must have just caught it just perfectly right for it to happen the way it did,” added landfill office manger Sandie Morris. “Mother Nature is amazing.”

Landfill staffers working that Saturday did not see the mats getting rolled up, so “it either went extremely quickly or very slowly,” Morris theorized.

The matting was used to cover some reclaimed piles of old trash, a final touch on a $1.44 million reclamation project at the landfill east of Powell. The product is designed to hold in a seed mixture and moisture and — Waddell added with a rueful laugh — is supposed to keep wind from blowing away the soil it’s covering.

The matting — which was fastened to the ground with eight-inch metal staples — worked well in the reclamation of the Meeteetse landfill, Waddell said, and he thought it would work well in Powell, too.

“We probably haven’t had a 50-mile-an-hour wind event in three or four years, and, of course, as soon as you do, something like this (happens),” he said.

Replacing the erosional mats could cost upwards of $100,000, he said. The county is investigating what exactly went wrong and is submitting a claim to its insurer.

Waddell said that if insurance won’t pay for replacing the mats, the county may opt to go without them and simply re-seed the soil.

Feb 16, 2016

Cave outside Lovell holds remains of many extinct species

“Let’s jump into the cave,” said Gretchen Hurley, geologist with the Bureau of Land Management Cody field office.

Hurley received a hardy laugh from the packed house at Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Draper Museum of Natural History during the December Lunchtime Expedition.

“Not literally,” Hurley clarified.

BLM geologist Lisa Marks holds a replica of a short-faced bear skull. Short-faced bears roamed the state 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago and dwarfed today's biggest grizzlies, weighing up to 3,500 pounds. Cody News Co. photos by Gib Mathers
She was referring to the Natural Trap Cave in the Big Horn Mountains northeast of Lovell. There, wildlife as far back as 100,000 years ago unwittingly fell to their death, thereby creating a record of the types of Ice Age creatures — some, long extinct — that lived and died in Wyoming.

(For reference, many scientists believe the first people arrived on this continent around 11,000 years ago.)

The cave, with a 15-foot wide opening is 90 feet deep with a 90-foot wide chamber. It formed about 12.5 million years ago and continues to grow as water slowly decays the cave’s ceiling.

“It’s a perfect natural trap,” Hurley said.

Why would the animals fall into the cave to their certain death?

It is possible that a prey animal, such as a pronghorn being chased by an American cheetah (remains of both have been found in the cave) would not see the cave entrance while sprinting over the landscape until it was too late, Hurley said.

Other animals, such as wolves, might have been drawn to the scent of carcasses in the cave, sniffed around the opening and accidentally slipped and fell in.

Assorted varieties of horses have been found in the cave sediments, as well as mammoth, bighorn sheep, the American pronghorn, extinct bison and dire and gray wolves, Hurley said.

No saber tooth tigers have been found, but they were native to ancient Wyoming, Hurley said. Two other species missing are elk and deer.

Additionally, no human remains have been discovered in the cave thus far. However, a pack rat's stash did reveal part of an atlatl shaft, Hurley said. (An atlatl allowed a spear bearer to throw with greater accuracy and velocity.) No date has been provided, but the shaft is probably less than 1,000 years old.

Lawrence Loendorf was the first to officially explore the cave and its long-deceased occupants from 1970-76. From 1974-85, the universities of Missouri and of Kansas conducted paleontological excavations in the cave. Between 1970-1985, about 40,000 bones were collected by the two universities, Hurley said. “And then the cave was quiet about 30 years.”

Gretchen Hurley
Exploration of the cave was renewed in 2014. Dr. Julie Meachen, Des Moines University, Des Moines, Iowa, and Dr. Alan Cooper, Australian Center for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, are now leading the project, Hurley said.

During the 2014-15 seasons, species of now-extinct horses were found in the sediments of the soft cave floor, which require little more than a trowel and brush to unearth, Hurley said. Most of an American cheetah's skull was also found last year.

Bighorn sheep, camels, dire and gray wolves and a short-faced bear’s remains have been unearthed. These bears, about twice the size of a grizzly bear, had longer legs and were taller and faster than today’s grizzly bear, Hurley said. An illustration shows the short-face bear as tall as a man while on all fours.

A dire wolf skull replica on the stage made a nearby coyote skull look like the skull of a squirrel by comparison.

Bones of an American lion have also been found. It was similar to lions in present day Africa, Hurley said. It came from Beringia, across the now submerged Bering land bridge, which was intact during the Pleistocene epoch (from 1.64 million to about 10,000 years ago).

It is believed by many scientists that America’s first humans crossed the miles-wide bridge, along with animal and plant species.

Portions of a Columbian mammoth — extinct 11,000 years — were discovered in the 1980s.

Sediments in the cave may be as old as 600,000 years, which corresponds to the last time the Yellowstone volcanic center erupted, Hurley said. 

The scientists will begin publishing papers about their findings in 2016.

Replicas of ancient animal skulls
“This is an international project taking place on your public lands,” Hurley said. “It’s world class.”

Scientists are examining isotopes and DNA from the cave’s fossils in an effort to determine what caused species’ extinctions about 11,000 years ago, Hurley said.

They are also sampling pollen, which allows scientists to determine the vegetation types in the area during the Pleistocene epoch, Hurley said.

The Natural Trap Cave formed in beds of compressed limestone that were squeezed structurally in a monocline (a bend in rock strata), Hurley said. Water dissolves limestone, forming carbonic acid, which further dissolves the limestone, forming caverns.

The bones in cave have been very well preserved, in “a natural refrigerator for all these years,” Hurley said.

Perhaps the spirits of the wildlife that came to a sudden and violent end still haunt the ancient sepulcher.

“You go down there and it feels like you stepped back into the Pleistocene (epoch),” Hurley said. “This kind of project comes along a once in a lifetime, and it’s a real privilege to work on this.”

Fee or free? County revising its ‘subjective’ rental rates at fairgrounds

County commissioners are trying to figure out who can use the Park County Fairgrounds for free and who has to pay.

Over two recent meetings, commissioners waived $2,830 worth of rental fees for nine upcoming events at the fairgrounds’ new exhibit hall.

There wasn’t a consistent pattern to the commissioners’ decisions: they waived all the fees for a nonprofit group of off-road vehicle enthusiasts, but required a $160 payment from another nonprofit that takes local youth camping, hiking, shooting and hunting; they also gave a discount to a farm equipment supplier to host a clinic on new products while declining to give one to a Home and Garden Expo put on by a Powell resident.

The Powell Medical Foundation's 2016 Mardi Gras fundraiser was one of the events for which commissioners waived the rental fees. Cody News Co. photo by Ilene Olson
As commissioners worked through nine recent requests, Commissioner Joe Tilden said the county needs to create a uniform policy on who qualifies for discounts, saying the process has been “subjective and not objective.”

“This is all new to us and we will get a set policy,” Commission Chairman Tim French pledged at the Feb. 2 meeting.

The county revised and generally raised its rental rates in September. That set the fee for the new exhibit hall and kitchen at $415 a day for a personal or non-profit event ($500 for commercial uses). Fees go up or down if more or less of the building is used.

When the daily rates were established, Events Coordinator Echo Renner said they were intended to help the county break even on its costs.

Commissioners granted several fee waivers since setting the rates — including blood drives, Powell school testing, the community Thanksgiving dinner, a clogging recital and a dance for people with disabilities — and gave a significant discount for the Heart Mountain Wreck on Wheels roller derby team’s practices.

But the increased number of requests over the past month gave them pause.

For one thing, “are we going to charge a minimum fee, period, or not?” French asked at the commission’s Jan. 19 meeting, noting the county has fixed costs, like utilities.

“The community’s argument is, ‘our tax dollars paid for it’ — which is a good point,” he added.

A summary of the discounts given by commissioners.
Commissioner Loren Grosskopf wondered if perhaps some buildings, such as the nearby Bicentennial Hall, should be available to nonprofits for free, while other buildings have a charge.

“If it’s a community function like the Easter egg hunt (put on by Powell Elks), waive the fee. If it’s something where they can pass that on to the consumer ... like the price of their banquet ticket, then I say don’t waive the fee,” Tilden suggested, adding later that “the whole thing’s very difficult.”

The Powell Medical Foundation’s annual Mardi Gras fundraising banquet was one of four nonprofit events for which commissioners Tilden, Grosskopf and Lee Livingston voted to waive fees on Jan. 19. The others were a remote controlled car race being put on by the nonprofit Wyoming Sagebrush Hoppers, the Northwest Wyoming Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance’s annual meeting/fundraiser and the Elks Club’s annual community Easter egg hunt.

Tilden had offered to recuse himself on the Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance’s meeting since he (along with Grosskopf) are members, but French said abstaining was unnecessary since “you told everybody you’re a member of it.”

Commissioner Bucky Hall voted no on all four waivers the board considered last month. He had suggested a 50 percent discount.

“(O)ur goal is to get a policy that you (Renner) make the call on them unless it’s out of the norm ... so we aren’t going through this exercise,” said Commission Chairman Tim French.

At the Feb. 2 meeting, commissioners waived the fees for another race being put on by the Sagebrush Hoppers and gave them a discount for their annual meeting and gear swap (only charging the $160 fee for the kitchen); commissioners similarly voted to charge only for the kitchen on a fundraising banquet being put on by Polestar Outdoors, a group that takes youth into the outdoors.

The commission also gave a 50 percent ($300) discount to Heart Mountain Farm Supply. The business is putting on an educational clinic about (and selling) new precision farming tools that can improve producers’ efficiency.

Tilden opposed giving most of those breaks.

Later, Hall and Livingston agreed with him and rejected a discount for the 12th annual Home and Garden Expo.

“Someone is making money off this and I don’t think it’s right for the taxpayers of this county to subsidize a money-making event,” Tilden said.

Grosskopf — who dissented from the decision to charge full price — questioned how the expo was different from Heart Mountain Farm Supply’s clinic.

“Well, it’s not,” Tilden said. “That’s why I voted against that one, too.”

Park County Fair Board members used to decide when fees would be waived, but commissioners took over that responsibility when they reshuffled the fairgrounds’ management last year.

French said the commissioners now want to come with a policy and leave the decisions up to Renner, the events coordinator.

“There’s always going to be an exception at some point, but our goal is to get a policy that you (Renner) make the call on them unless it’s out of the norm ... so we aren’t going through this exercise,” French said.

Feb 15, 2016

Man charged with animal cruelty re-arrested in Oregon

A Clark man facing 16 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty was re-arrested in Oregon last week. He now awaits extradition back to Park County.

Michael A. Wood, 39, was arrested by police in Oregon City, Oregon, on Feb. 9. Wood stands accused of failing to properly feed and care for 16 animals at his property on Crossfire Trail. The charges allege Wood's neglect led to the death of seven of his horses and three of his dogs, while six other horses became too thin.

Michael A. Wood
Wood was initially arrested on 13 counts relating to the horses. He pleaded not guilty at a Jan. 18 appearance in Park County's Circuit Court and was released from jail the next day, when his mother posted $7,500 bail.

However, after further investigation, authorities chose to file three more cruelty charges relating to the dead dogs. A warrant was issued for Wood’s arrest on Jan. 22.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office later got information that Wood was in Oregon City, Oregon, and informed police there.

On the morning of Feb. 9, “our patrol went out and they contacted him,” said Oregon City Police Sgt. Matt Paschall. “He was cooperative. He was arrested for his warrant and lodged in the (Clackamas County, Oregon) jail.”

Clackamas County jail records show Wood has agreed to be brought back to Wyoming. The Park County Sheriff’s Office said in a Wednesday night Facebook post that it was making arrangements to go get him.

Wood’s bond conditions allowed him to travel freely, so he was not breaking any court rules by being in Oregon.

Ice climber injured in Sunday fall

An Arizona man fell and was injured while ice climbing in the South Fork area Sunday afternoon.

Fifty-six-year-old Gary Weber of Phoenix had been climbing with a guide during the annual Cody Ice Climbing Festival, the Park County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

At the time of accident, Weber and the guide were reportedly descending from the summit of an ice flow.

“The guide was lowering Weber down the flow when, due to his inattention, he ran out of rope causing Weber to fall,” sheriff’s spokesman Lance Mathess wrote in Monday's release.

Weber reportedly fell about 30 feet before catching himself with his ice axe; the Sheriff’s Office said that stopped him from falling another 50 feet.

Authorities were contacted at 1:30 p.m.

Fellow climbers were able to reach Weber and lower him down the rest of the way.

His companions stabilized Weber — who complained of injuries to his lower left leg — and helped him to a waiting ambulance from West Park Hospital, the release said.

Cody Ice Climbing Festival Organizer Don Foote Jr. said Weber broke his ankle and was released from the hospital after a "short 22 hour stay."

"He is in good spirits, talking about his new boots he won from Garmont and making plans to return" to the ice climbing festival next year, Foote wrote in a Facebook post.

Foote also took to a mountaineering forum to dispute that Weber had been with a guide.

"Two friends, one giving instructional advice, NOT a guide, these two have climbed together in past and yes a human error was made by not tying the safety knot on the end of the rope. A mistake made by many unfortunately," Foote wrote on Mountain Project.

The ice flow in question is on the east side of the Shoshone River, near the Majo Ranch and southeast of the Cabin Creek Trailhead parking area at the end of the South Fork Road.

Editor's note: This version removes a reference to the accident location being the "High on Boulder" ice flow, as identified by the Sheriff's Office. Foote told the Cody Enterprise the incident actually took place on "Moonrise WI5."

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