Cheyenne Frontier Days life phases

Cheyenne Frontier Days changes, but stays the same.

There is now an extra parade since Cheyenne Frontier Days expanded to add the additional weekend. Still huge crowds and still kids selling ice cold soft drinks along the route. Two CFD mainstays, the Hitching Post Inn was out of business for many years before it was torched and the Mayflower burned, came back and then went out for good. It’s now a sushi place of all things.

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Bob Larue and yours truly filming Rose Garden at the CFD parade in front of Marv’s Pawnshop.

The Daddy of ’em All comes to town on Thursday night with bull riding. Friday is the first CFD night show, and another huge crowd, as usual, will descend on the Magic City. All businesses either make or break their year based on CFD trade.The night show entertainment is taking over as the big draw these days. CFD numbers are up, not because of the rodeo, but because of the party atmosphere promoted during CFD. The standing room seats are the primo tickets and a prty zone for young people.

Back in the good old days, the popular shows were family acts like Doc and Festus from “Gunsmoke” and the chuck wagon races. They don’t do those anymore either due to liability issues.

Being a Cheyenne native, some people are surprised to learn that my family and I were city people and didn’t get much into the rodeo part of Frontier Days.

Despite that, I figure I’ve been through four, going on five phases in my CFD lifespan, not counting my very early years I chased pieces of candy in the street at the parade. That’s not allowed now. Who picked up those plastic ducks from the water raceway at the carnival?

Parade Pop Sales – When I was in the fifth and sixth grades, one of my golfing pals,  Pat Higgins, my sister Lori and cousin Matthew from Salt Lake City sold ice cold pop along the parade routes.

cfd alan lori

My sister and I getting ready to ride the hay wagon in the CFD parade.

Two months ahead of time was spent hoarding all the cheap off-brand sodas like Shurfine and Cragmont to sell at each of the three parades that wound through downtown Cheyenne.Although my dad worked for Coca Cola, we opted for a higher profit margin. Besides, thirsty parade goers weren’t interested in brands, they just wanted something wet and cold. This was well before bottled water. I think it was before flip tops and we had to open them using a can opener.

The first year, we ran out of pop and wasted at least a half an hour running over to Brannen’s Market on Carey Ave. which is now a Wyoming state government office.

During subsequent years, three red wagons were dispatched and cars with additional supply strategically parked along the parade route. My cousin saved the bag of loose change from his first take as a reminder of his first entrepreneurial project. I wonder if he still has it?

These days, kids have to get a permit and be accompanied by an adult. Plus there is no selling in the street in front of potential customers, only on the sidewalk behind them.

Sheesh – talk about over regulation.

Learning Human Nature at an Early Age – The Hitching Post Inn was the most popular CFD party spot. When I was in junior high school my first job was working as a bus boy there during the summers of 1966 to 1968. It gave me an early education about human nature – I hadn’t run into as many jerks and a**holes as I did during those days and nights at the Hitch.

hitchingpost

The Hitching Post was one of the CFD hot spots. It was my best job.

My favorite shifts during CFD were 7pm to 3am and 11pm to 7am. There was always plenty of action for a 14 year old kid – running booze and glasses to the smoke filled Coach Rooms for the Son’s of the Pioneers Show, shooting the breeze with fun-seeking cowboys and their girlfriends at the counter in the coffee shop.I was in Phoenix Books and Music the other day and noticed a record by Jody Miller. She used to play in the Hitching Post lounge. I delivered room service to her. The only other famous person I met was Victor Jory, who sat at the coffee shop counter in a tan safari jacket smoking cigarettes.

Just before sunrise one morning another busboy named Mark Samansky – God rest his soul – and I went into the Coach Rooms and played the drum solo from Iron Butterfly’s “Inna Gadda Da Vida”. I don’t think the boss – Kenny Ahlm – ever figured out who was making all the racket. I kept in touch with Mark until he graduated high school. He was a few years older than me and we lost contact. He, not surprisingly, went into radio broadcasting as a well known DJ. He died a few years ago.

High School Parade Rides – I’d ridden in the parade before as an elementary school aged kid. My mom was in a singing group called the Dearies through her women’s club. All the members had kids – Murrays, St. Clairs, Nichols, Lummises –  and we all hung together during the summer. Many of us still keep in touch through facebook.

cheyenne frye

In high school, I rode in the CFD parade with Ed Frye in the ambulance.

I can’t remember who had the pull, but all of us kids from the neighborhood rode on the hay wagons during the CFD parade. That was sort of an initiation for kids to get involved with CFD – turns out it was for me since I’m still involved.The mom of one of my high school classmates, Janice Benton, was a volunteer on the CFD Parade Committee and for three summers through high school we rode in the horse drawn field ambulance wagon.

Two girls dressed up as Civil War nurses and two guys moaned in pain with bandaged limbs hanging out of the windows. For my shift, it was Jan, Eddie Frye and Tad Leeper.

We had messy jugs of red colored water and let it run out of the corners of our mouths – pretty graphic for CFD – but the crowd loved it.

We also had this “bed pan” schtick, but I don’t need to go into any of the details about that!

Old Enough to Drink in Public – As far as I’m concerned, Frontier Days started to go downhill when the Mayflower Bar on 17th Street went rock and roll. It was nutty back in the late 70s and early 80s. I was living in Gillette at the time and one year, we packed way too many people in a room at the Atlas Motel.

Brammar Neg 4036, Mayflower Cafe dance hall interior, Cheyenne Frontier Days, nd

The second Mayflower went out of business the year I made my Kerouac movie. This is the original Mayflower interior.

The police would block off 17th Street between Capitol and Central Avenues and walk down the sidewalk wielding night sticks banging beer cans out of the hands of pseudo-cowboys wearing huge gold and silver fake trophy buckles.

The obligatory circuit was flowing along with the mass humanity from the Mayflower then to the Elks Club then back to the Mayflower where I would bump into Cheyenne friends I hadn’t seen for years. The Pioneer Hotel was taken over by bikers.

The Cheyenne Club opened on Capitol and was the big cowboy hangout for a few years until it went out. It’s been through several iterations and now empty when the Drunken Skunk went out.

All the CFD gathering points are now out of town at the Cadillac in east Cheyenne. and the Outlaw in south Cheyenne. When the parade ends, downtown turns into a ghost town with tourists and locals heading to the rodeo and the carnival Midway in Frontier Park.

cfd jill bill

CFD parade watch 50th birthday July 19, 2003 with Judy Gilmore, Susan Keenan, Jill Jensen, Steve Gilmore, Jeff Tish, Bill Keenan.

The Plains Hotel has had an identity crisis over the past few years. One of things I’d wanted yo do is watch the parade from a corner suite there. In 2003, Bob Jensen, Al Wiederspahn – God rest his soul – and Mick McMurry rennivated the Plains into a show piece. It wasn’t ready to open, but for my 50th birthday, I rented the room and invited 100 of my closest friends over for Bloody Mary’s and the parade.

Downtown Cheyenne has been unstable since JC Penney moved out to the mall 40 years ago. The Plains changed hands again. The restaurant is separate from the hotel.

Under the previous management, the Wigwam 2 – an homage to the original Wigwam Bar sort of worked.. It was kind of small but fun. I don’t know what will be in there this year, but it’s a great place to eatch the parade. I imagine the bar hopping circuit will be the much smaller: Albany – Crown  – Elks.

Movies – I’m now in my fifth CFD life. I’d generally get media credentials when I was in the newspaper business. I remember doing a pretty good story about Indian Relay Races. CFD doesn’t have those any more.I’ve made a couple short movies in Cheyenne using CFD as a back drop – “On the Trail: Jack Kerouac in Cheyenne” which is about the night Sal Paradise spent in Cheyenne during CFD on his way to Denver; “Rose Garden” which happens at the parade and in Frontier Park. I’m working on a documentary about the wild horse race, but I’m having a little trouble coming up with a story.

I also did work for the CFD Old West Museum and make the CFD Volunteer Crisis Fund annual tribute video.

CFD 2016 begins on Friday. I’ll be over at the media trailer picking up credentials and talking to people I see once a year there.

Incidentally, my CFD handle is “Bud” which is one of my best kept secrets.

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Cheyenne Frontier Days and the weekend I was a ‘Carny’

carny cfd

Carny Anise was my mentor many years ago when I worked at the Bill Hame’s Show during Cheyenne Frontier Days.Cheyenne Frontier Days is again upon us. It happens the last full week in July, and an extra weekend. I’ve been away from Cheyenne for many years, but still manage to make to CFD for at least a few days each July.

Cheyenne Frontier Days happens again next week. I don’t know if I’ve missed one. I’ll be coming back from a job near Thermopolis and will be getting some men and women on the street interviews with CFD volunteers for the Volunteer Crisis Fund tribute I produce each year.

I like to be a part of the action.

There are a bunch of locals who could care less about CFD and leave town during the busiest time of the year.

My mom was big into CFD. She used to sing in a group called the Dearies organized through her women’s club. They sang old time songs and rode in the parade, as did my sister and i. Later, we sold pop at the parade, which I’ll write about later.

Back when I was a newspaper columnist in Lander, I wondered what it was like to work in a carnival and decided to give it a go. I had a pretty good experience and can see how people get addicted to that vagabond lifestyle. Turns out that the TV and movie business is a lot like the carny life. This is my account of that weekend.

Pink Floyd’s “Money” filled the clear, still evening surrounding the double ferris wheel across from the balloon dart game booth at the Frontier Park carnival where I worked for the Bill Hames Show.

Running off to join the carnival was something I’d always wanted to try and there’s no better time than the present. Getting a stranger to hand you their money with the chance nothing will be given in return is entrepreneurship in its purist form.

It’s now 7:30 pm on a busy Saturday night during CFD and I met Wes who had traveled with the show for many years. He finished his supper and escorted me across the Midway where I was introduced to Dozier Simmons.

He and his wife, Angelyn, manage a half dozen games for Kelley’s Concessions out of Alabama and one of several companies affiliated with the Hames Company.

“Here’s a shirt and badge. This is Anice. Just do what she does,” Dozier said as I pulled the blue knit polo shirt over my head.

“The object of the game is to buy a dart for a dollar, bust a balloon for your choice of a small mirror. Five wins for a large mirror,” Anice explained.

“Mirror” is a misnomer since the prizes are non-reflective square pieces of glass with pictures silk-screened on the back.

“I’m just part time – a couple nights a week. I live in Englewood and work at a print shop in Denver. I share a motel room in Cheyenne with one of the other women and her boy friend. I used to work full time, but the guy I was with beat me up and I left the show a couple years ago. Dozier asked if I’d work for him again,” she said while tying a knot in one of the spare balloons.

The game is really rough on the fingers.

Each of the mirrors slips into a cardboard sleeve to protect the paint and prevent patron injuries.

No matter how careful, I still managed to slice little cuts where I never thought had any useful purpose like on the index finger cuticle which gets irritated each time a balloon stem gets tied off.

My hands bled the entire weekend.

Tonight there’s another woman working with us named Amber. “I’m trained as a nurse and working here until something opens up in town,” she said.

Amber was tenderly limping around the area in obvious pain. “It’s not my foot, it’s my back. I was shot in the abdomen and it hit a disc on the way out,” she pulled up her shirt and showed the scars. “I ruptured another disc moving a box of these mirrors and have to have surgery again.”

After I arrived, the counter was divided up into thirds, “Amber takes the first third, I’ll take the middle and you take the other end,” Anice said with authority, since it’s her joint. I was the newbie and was at the end of the lineup.

There’s an infinitely long imaginary line separating each of the sections, sort of like the invisible cylinder above a basketball hoop used to determine goal tending.

Common courtesy is to avoid cross-hawking. Taking a fellow carny’s business is counter productive. Anice advices me, “If you pull that stunt on one of the guys who’s traveling with the show, he’ll knock the hell out of you. I’m just telling this to you for your own good, if you decide to do this again.”

The dart game marks are pretty easy to spot: biker types wearing all black and mirror shades – “Hey buddy, I’ve got an Ozzy mirror that would go great with the Ozzy T-shirt you’re wearing;” pre-adolescent boys minus parents with their fists gripped around several one dollar bills – “Do you play Little League? Then this game is a cinch. Bust one and win a Bon Jovi mirror;” young touchy- feely couples – “Hey pal, why don’t you be a gentleman and win her another one of these cute panda bear mirrors;” grandparents escorting grandchildren too short to see over the counter – “Tell you what, I’ll let him stand on the edge here so he can  be equal to the taller kids.”

The Simmonses stop by to pick our money on their regular rounds. This time, Dozier has a swelled up eye and skinned up elbows. “Some college kid from Colorado punched him out over there. The police took him away,” Angelyn said in a scornful southern drawl.

The carnival business is tough. I didn’t run into any trouble.

Of course the dart game is pretty easy to win, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who miss.

Losers are bad for business.

As soon as someone misses, the crowd disperses as if in mass thinking, “Yes, this game is somehow rigged.”

The hours on your feet are long and the mental intensity high.

At midnight, there’s only one more hour to go and even Anice’s bark is complacent. The smiles become forced.

When you get busy, you have to keep up the endless personal chatter with everyone waiting in line while you’re locating the right mirror or putting up more balloons so they don’t leave. Everyone who plays is a potential return customer.

It’s closing time.

Dozier calls my name, “See you at 10 in the morning. We’re each paid a percentage of our individual take. I inflated 150 balloons today and my jaw aches.

Angelyn hands me $31.00.

It’s now Sunday, the last day of CFD and the crowd is much smaller. When the rodeo lets out, there’s a brief surge. No night show tonight, either. Tomorrow  is a work day for the locals and many of the tourists are either gone or out of money.

Amber called in sick this morning and arrived late in the afternoon. I noticed she’s working another joint across the way and worry that I encroached on her balloon dart game turf.

Anice and I spend the morning chatting between marks. It being Sunday, religion dominates the discussion. Anice is a born again Christian and feels carnival witnessing is part of her calling. There’s a Shroud of Turin mirror which is very popular today – both sizes.

A young drifter asks me if it’s okay to stow his bag under the counter. He’s looking for Dozier to ask him for a job. The next big stop is the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. We hit it off, probably because I didn’t rifle through his stuff.

He turned out to be real hard worker.

The food isn’t very appetizing and I chose to go without, which proved to be a mistake.

By nightfall the marks are getting tired and not as eager to play. Women and kids just ask to buy a mirror.

“No they’re not for sale. There’s more personal satisfaction in throwing the dart.”

Men try to get better terms and ask “How about three darts for a dollar, or two wins for the large mirror?”

At 10:00 pm the place comes to a screeching halt.

The air is finally quiet.

The neon lights stop flashing.

“Let’s get this place cleaned up. I want it to look like we were never here!”, Juanita screams to three kids in charge of sweeping the asphalt parking lot.

Juanita runs the joint across from ours in which softballs are tossed into a milk can to win a Spuds McKenzie stuffed toy.

The women who operate each of the joints are the informal lead workers supervising the “slough” which is the carnival dismantling process.

There are a dozen of us sloughing. All the prize stock is bagged and locked in the water race trailer.

The dart game trailer is hitched to the panel truck and hauled out.

The parking lot is empty.

It’s now 2:15 am.

Dozier hands me $50 and says, “We’ll see you next year.”

I earned enough to make a deal with another CFD vendor and ended up buying a pool cue from him.

Carnival inner circles are tough to break into and I felt like I gained a little respect among my fellow carnies by paying my initiation dues all the way through the slough.

Next time I do this, I’ll remember a pair of gloves – and eat more often!

Father’s Day memories – 2016

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This is a picture of my dad and me in front of our first house on 10th Street in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

My father died in 2003 and my two grandfathers passed on many years before that. I haven’t mused about them, really.

All three were sports fans, but none followed professional basketball. The NBA championship series ends on Fathers’ Day Sunday with the Warriors hosting the Cavaliers in Oakland. It’s been a weird series with a lot of blow-outs and down to game seven. I was too short for the organized game but could hold my own in pick up games. I’ve played enough to know the rules.

My paternal Grandfather Ohashi was named Toichi but known as George. I don’t know exactly when he emigrated from Japan, but it was in the later part of the 19th century. He and apparently one or more of his siblings initially ended up in Alaska.

There’s a photograph of him hustling pool someplace in Alaska, which I will dig out. When I was on a trip with the Presbyterian Church to Sitka, Alaska we took a ferry boat ride up and down the panhandle.

While in Ketchikan, my pal Sam Allen from Cody and I came upon a sign that said OHASHI Candy and Tobacco. Turns out it was owned by my Great Uncle, my grandfather’s brother who’s name escapes me. I was later at a conference in Seattle a few years ago and ran into an Ohashi who was a niece and a distant cousin of mine.

alan grandpa ohashi

This picture of my Grandfather Ohashi and me must have been taken on Fathers’ Day in front of his house.

His game of choice was billiards. I’m pretty sure he was a nine ball hustler. He owned a billiard hall on 17th Street in downtown Cheyenne. I inherited one of the pool tables when the pool hall closed and had it set up for many years, but when I moved to Colorado, I donated it to the Ethete Senior Citizen Center. I kept an old 9 ball from the rack. He was going blind, but could still hit a few trick bank shots.

My cousin Matthew from Salt Lake and his dad got me started collecting and scrounging up old stuff. He had an old Phillip Morris poster in there that I wanted, but couldn’t get freed up. I’ve wondered what happened to that item.

My Grandfather Ohashi in his downtown Cheyenne pool hall.

He developed diabetes later in life and couldn’t see very well. His spectator sport of choise was boxing. Back in the 1960s, there were only black and white TV sets. My dad and I would visit him and watch the Friday night fights. Boxers wore white or black trunks and it was easy for him to follow. He got pretty sick and moved into our house on 10th Street for a period of time. I was young but had to give up my room to my grandfather. I can’t remember how long he stayed, but he let me give him his insulin injections in his thigh. That was back in the day of those huge needles

He and my grandmother owned the Highway Cafe on the south Greeley Highway. He originally was a truck farmer from Brush, Colorado. He drove around an old panel truck and picked up produce from the farmers and sold them from a fruit and vegetable stand next to the cafe. It was nestled against a bluff where Interstate 80 would eventually pass and they moved a few blocks north. The Building still stands today, but is now a tobacco store.

Every once in a while I got the job of writing the new $1.00 specials on the black board. It was stuff like hamburger steak, egg foo yong, liver and onions. There was a Filipino guy named Carl who came in every night and had a half order of the special. The famous Cheyenne fisher Hank Okamoto came in from time to time showing off his string of fish. He was a fishing buddy of my Uncle Rich.

My dad brought my sister and I one at a time and together to the cafe. He cooked there after he finished working and after dinner. I don’t know this for fact, but it seemed to me the state Public Health Department put them out of business. The last straw was when the state required a vestibule to be constructed between the public area and the restroom, of which there was only one and not two.

alan grandpa sakata

Likely the same Fathers’ Day visit around town. This is my Grandfather Sakata and me on the porch of their home on Capitol Avenue.

My maternal Grandfather Sakata’s name was Jusaburo, but he was called Joe. There’s a Cheyenne history book that has the details about his emigration to Wyoming, but off the top of my head he came from Japan, then returned for my grand mother who was 20 years younger. What I mostly remember is he worked for the Burlington Railroad.

Back then it was known as the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and he was the section foreman at a place called Orpha, Wyoming. Orpha still is there and located across the road from the Fetterman Battlefield State Historic Site.

I went to visit a few years ago. Many years before when I was in junior high school, my sister and I spent the summer irrigating on the Shinmori beet farm near there. We took a tour of Orpha which included the one room school, and the house where my mom’s family lived. Only the foundation remained when I last went to look around.

He and my grandmother moved to Cheyenne. The Burlington Northern railroad used to run through Cheyenne so I’m thinking he retired there. My mom, who was the youngest of the three kids ended up in Cheyenne, too. In his retirement, he became a gardener and did yard work for some of the neighbors around their home on Capitol Avenue a couple blocks from the state capitol building. That was one of the resupply depots for soda pop that we sold along the Cheyenne Frontier Days parades.

plains dairy trip

This is a neighborhood field trip to tour the Plains Dairy in Cheyenne. Notice I’m wearing the Yankees cap given to me by my grandfather.

His game of choice was baseball. My aunt lived in Washington DC and he watched the Senators play. He went to New York and brought me back a cap and pennant from Yankee Stadium in 1960. That was the first year I followed baseball. I’ll never be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan having watched Bill Mazeroski homer in game seven to beat the Yankees.

When I graduated from high school, I remember getting his wise words in Japanese – but my grandmother reminded him that I only understood English and got the speech again in English.

Language was a barrier keeping me from knowing my grandparents better. Of course, after World War II, that was a big wake up call for the Japanese American community. Even in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, there wasn’t any Japanese spoken around the house nor were Sansei kids – third generation – expected to learn Japanese nor retain much if anything about the culture, although I still prefer rice with my eggs. The 20th Street Cafe run by a Japanese family serves eggs with rice upon request.

I learned to be self sufficient, but that may have been because I was boy. When I graduated from college, I lived at home for a couple years while in grad school at the University of Wyoming. I think my parents appreciated that.

My father, Frank, worked his entire career at the Coca Cola plant in Cheyenne eventually becoming the manager. When the business was sold to the Ludwig family in Laramie, my dad was a part of the deal. When I was a sophomore in college and away in Hastings at the time, they moved over the hill to Laramie. I remember going to that house on Downey Street for the first time. I didn’t know which drawer the forks were kept.

When I was in high school, I worked summers for him at the Coke plant. That was an eye opener for me seeing him in a capacity other than at home. He managed like it was a basketball team – he was a pretty good basketball player on the Cheyenne High School team. He didn’t ask anyone to do anything he didn’t do himself. That’s one thing that rubbed off on me. I remember him chewing out a guy, who came to work drunk and eventually was fired. It was the first time I’d heard him swear like a sailor.

One time I was caught shoplifting and the condition of my staying out of the system was fessing up to my dad and he calling the store manager. That was by far the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my 63 years. I don’t think he told my mom about it.

He was always supportive of my activities, even later in life. When I played in the Fremont County orchestra, there was a performance in Laramie. Very few people were in the audience, but my dad was there. He pushed me to get my Cub Scout activities completed. I made it up to getting my “Bear” patch before Pack 113 folded. He was asked to take over, but it wasn’t his thing.

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My dad at the first game at Coors Field in 1995

My dad was quite athletic. He was a sports fan and knew the rules to a lot of games. He had good hand eye coordination and was a pretty good bowler, golfer and basketball player with a wicked hook shot. We played softball together in church league and had a good change up which fooled hitters even in slow pitch. As a spectator, he and my mom were avid Wyoming Cowboy fans.

He also was a Yankees fan. One of his Coca Cola plant truck drivers was a guy named Tony Rizzuto, who was related to  former Yankees 2nd baseman Phil Rizzuto. A bunch of guys from work a a guy from the air base all loaded up in my dad’s car and drove down to Denver to watch the Denver Bears play an exhibition game against the Yankees. That was in 1964. It was great seeing Mantle and Maris play. 

Definitely a big life highlight.

Coors Field opened in 1995, the replacement Rockies played the replacement Yankees in the strike-shortened year. I took my dad to watch that game. The Rockies made the playoffs that year too.

What about the name O’Hashi?

Nobody knows for sure, but the O’H is attributed to a school administrator who changed his name when he found out his birthday was March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day. Only my dad and his youngest brother Jake used the anglicized spelling.

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do on Sunday, probably not watch the basketball game since my team, the Celtics, aren’t playing. The only tie I have to the Dubs is back in 1980 when the Warriors traded Robert Parrish and top draft pick Kevin McHale to Boston. The Celtics won the championship in 1981.

How I ended up a Celtics fan is another story, but it dates back to when Wyoming center Leon Clark was drafted by Boston in 1966.

I doubt I’ll watch the game. I did pick up a ball at the Sports Authority liquidation sale and may shoot a few hoops someplace.

Whatever your Fathers’ Day memories are, I hope they are fond ones.

My sport of the day? I’m going fishing if the water isn’t too high.

 

Cheyenne East High school class of ’71 obits updated for download

Click on the above image of the EHS homecoming float being guarded by Tony Ross to download a copy of tge Cheyenne East High School class of ’71 obit book.

I’ve been out of high school for 45 years and have managed to keep in touch with a bunch of classmates mostly because of social media.

The mid-decade class reunion for Cheyenne Central, East and St. Mary’s  is scheduled for August 5 – 6 in Downtown Cheyenne.

So far, there has been scant interest, which means the plug may be pulled at some point soon.

The East High class list of obituaries is now downloadable.

A friend of mine is getting ready for his 60th reunion. He said his class eventually quit keeping track of obits. They started going by who showed up.

I was sorting through a box and came across this picture of the  East class of ’71 homecoming float “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They.” We must have played Sheridan. That’s Tony Ross mugging for the camera. The blue pump behind Tony was liberated during a midnight raid to Veedauwoo.

The festivities start Friday night on the Depot Plaza with the Delta Sonics. We’ve partnered with the United Way of Laramie County and encourage you to buy from one of the food trucks they’ve arranged.

You can sign up for it on eventbrite. The cost is $50 which covers the  Southwestern buffet and music on Saturday night at the Historic Plains Hotel.

I, along with a bunch of other ‘mates helped organize the 40th reunion and intended to come, but was called out of town for a funeral in Boston and ended up going to the class of 1972 reunion later that summer, which was a good time.

Speaking of funerals, EHS alumnus, Ralph Zobell, has edited together a list of our EHS classmates who have passed on and converted it to a pdf file for download. It will be periodically updated.

If there’s anything that’s certain, we’ll all end up on the list at some point!

Shall we have a “last classmate standing” pool?

‘When I’m 64’ birthday book project for 2016 – 2017

A poem that inspired my book project.

Today is the final day of last year’s birthday activities.

A few months ago, a sidewalk poet in Fort Collins typed up a few lines for me that inspired the “When I’m 64” book project that begins tomorrow.

My 63rd year starts uneventfully tomorrow, May 2nd, with well-wishers on facebook and that will be the extent of it, but a yearlong celebration is stacking up to be action-packed. A smattering of events include:

  • a screening of “Aging Gratefully: The Power of Community” at the cohousing conference in Salt Lake May 19th
  • finishing up two documentaries – “New Deal Art in Wyoming” and “Art of the Hunt”
  • starting some new projects – in August “Plein Air in Thin Air” with a trek up the Grand Teton, teaching Arapaho kids movie production, Prince project in Wyoming
  • going fly fishing

When I turned 60 back in 2013, I had big plans to kick off a productive and action-packed decade. 

Instead, it was a big mortality wake up call. I barely made it through 2013 with a big reevaluation of life which is why I continue my tradition of celebrating for the year.

The cohousing community had a talking circle tonight about transitions over the past few months.

Most of the conversation was rather dark about health issues and mortality.

I tried having those conversations a couple years ago with my neighbors which largely fell on deaf ears. Funny how people believe their own observations. It will be interesting to see if their perceptions will match up with reality.

As many of you know by now, May 2013 started out uneventfully – the Bolder Boulder; then the top of the Cyclone roller coaster; then a shingles attack; then too much work – “Mahjong and the West, Governor’s Arts Awards, a wedding; then a week stint in the hospital and then another six weeks in the hospital – that time on my death bed.

I snapped out of it and now every day I wake up, I’m grateful. I’ve been culling through my stuff which includes  a bunch of newspaper columns and other muses.

I’m compiling all that into a memoir woven through my health recovery experiences over the past couple years.

I took a couple writing classes to scrape off the rust, but turns out there are a lot of authors with worse cases of writer’s block than me.

The class exercises were helpful fir stricture and tooics, though, hearing about and helping others slog through their writing struggles was the most worthwhile.

I may run some parts of the book for you to check out. I still have a few things on my 2013 list to complete including weightlessness, skipping stones, climbing a tree and writing a book.

We need your ‘like’ of our ‘Plein Air in Thin Air’ trailer!

Click on this image and watch the two minute trailer. Click the ❤️ . You’ll be asked to log in with your facebook or set up an account.

I’m working on a documentary to be shot in Wyoming during August and we’re trying to win the Wyoming Short Film Contest. The theme is “WY am I Here?”

Please watch the trailer and give us a “like!” You’ll be asked to log in with your facebook account if you’re not already a vimeo user.

The Wyoming Film Office gives away $25,000 to the winner that goes toward a Wyoming production. We’ll be making the movie in Grand Teton National Park this August.

The top-10 are decided by popularity contest with no regard to production value. The winner is picked by a panel of judges based on the dogs selected by the production team friends and family – it’s click bait from the Wyoming Film Office. Everyone is having a problem with this, but it cuts down on those who sit at their computers and hit play, over and over.

The main voting criteria has to do with promotion of Wyoming. What a great way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US National Park Service than from the top of the Grand?

Please watch the trailer and give us a “like!” You may have to log in with your facebook if you’re not already a vimeo user.

“WY Am I Here”? What if a 62-year-old grandfather of six decides to climb the spectacular Grand Teton and make never-before drawn pastel views of the expansive landscape?

Laramie artist Joe Arnold has been mountaineering for 50 years. He and his son, Jason, are planning an expedition to Grand Teton National Park for an ascent of the Grand Teton (13,776′) North Ridge route (rated 5.8).

It will be a five-day bonding experience for two generations of climbers with an unusual but creative mission at the summit.

Art 321 in Casper was the location for the CLICK! conference. Watch the Plein Air in Thin Air trailer and ‘like ‘

How did I come across this project?
I went to the Wyoming Arts Council CLICK! conference in Casper a couple weeks ago.

I ran into Joe Arnold. We were each presenting about our art works at the conference.

A couple years ago, Joe won a Wyoming Arts Council fellowship. I did a tribute video about his project which was a trek to Patagonia.

We got to talking. I was looking for a movie to make for the film office contest. I thought about my two works-in-progress, but wasn’t inspired.

Joe has a trailer finished, making it the perfect project.

Take a look and click on the heart in the upper right hand corner of the video player. We want to get into the top-10 of the beauty pageant.

Here’s the rest of the team:

  • Director and Director of Photography: Eric Randall
  • Production Assistants: Jacob Chmielowiec and Tim Hall
  • Music By: Dave Beegle davebeegle.com
  • Produced by: Alan O’Hashi and wyocomedia.com
  • Associate Producer: Jason Arnold
  • Executive Producer: Joe Arnold joearnold.org

Would you invite your future self out for lunch?

I must be around two years old. My maternal grand parents visited on Christmas. My grandfather lived to be 103.

I must be around two years old. My maternal grand parents visited on Christmas. My grandfather lived to be 103.

I subscribe to a blog called the Gero-Punk Project and the query in a recent post was about futurism and asking readers, such as myself, to look forward.

“Would I go out to lunch with my future older self?” There were a bunch of questions, but I narrowed and modified them down to these:

How much older are you than you are now and how far into deep old age are you able to travel in your imagination? When I was laid up in 2013 and couldn’t walk, feed myself or wipe my butt, I thought this is what I would be like when I was ready for hospice care, hoping that would be in my late 80s or 90s. I have a family history of longevity and I don’t envision myself in that bad of shape. If I were to ask my future self out to lunch, I’d likely be in my 7os or 80s. A friend of mine who lives in Tucson in his 80s is quite active, works and contributes to the community. I see myself like him – he’s very computer and tech savvy, is still able to drive and get himself around. I can see myself in that way 20 years from now. Ten years from now is easier to envision. I see people around my neighborhood in their 70s and they are quite vibrant and keeping up with current trends. My mom died at 77 and I can see myself being like her and living actively up until my last breath. She lived long but died short of a massive heart attack in her sleep.

When you try to imagine your future older self, how do you feel? What sensations do experience in your body? Since resurrecting myself back to relative good health, I’ve become much more aware of my entire body, more so than when I was younger. I notice little things – aches and pains, itches and scratches more so than in the past. I lost quite a bit of weight – 37 pounds – that I want to keep much of it off (I’ve gained back 20) and still getting stronger from when I was bed ridden. The acid test was the Bolder Boulder 10K road race three months after being released from the hospital, which was a success. I had to take a swig of oxygen going up the last Folsom Hill into the Stadium. One of my neighbors in her 90s managed to finish the Bolder Boulder up until the year she died.

When you imagine your future older self, what are your surroundings? I’m thinking I won’t be needing any assisted living 10 years from now and probably still living where I am at Silver Sage. Twenty years from now, I hope to still be living independently. Even though living in “community” can be a big pain in the butt, it is nice to have neighbors around. I suspect the surroundings are going to change since I’m one of the youngest people here and in 10 years and for sure in 20 years, there will likely be some deaths and people moving out to assisted living, nursing homes or in with relatives and new, younger people moving into the ‘hood.

What are some ways in which you can experience enjoyment, freedom, and passion … in your aging body? I don’t want to out-live my peers, which is starting to happen. I’m making an effort to befriend men and women who are now in their 30s and 40s. I’ll live as full as I can. I tried shooting some baskets a couple summers ago with a kid, which was a cue for me to get stronger and get more flexible, which is why I started yoga class at The Little Yoga Studio. There aren’t a lot of men who attend, I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest person. I made a vow to myself not to end up being the old guy in the club. I could use some passion in my life as I get older. Time is getting away!

Who are your co-creatures in later life? With whom do you spend time and enjoy life? Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of acquaintances and able to stay in touch with many of them through social media. I’ve made a point of not befriending many of my cohousing neighbors. In cohousing, other than basic neighborliness,  my main interaction among everyone is conducting business. That will change as households age and there’s more reliance on a property manager, which is a transition that’s happening now. I don’t have any family of my own. I have a domestic partner, but she’s several years older than me and has her own family. It’s hard to say if I’ll still be in that fold if something happens to her. My cousins are scattered all around the place. They all have their own lives elsewhere and I’m not counting on them to pay attention to my well being later in life. I come in and out of a couple friends’ lives who would be a good companions — but life is about timing.

What is the quality of mind — the form of consciousness — that you bring to your aging experience? Cable TV must be the domain of old people. All the ads are for arthritis, diabetes, and Alzheimers. I’m finding that I don’t remember proper names like I did. I still remember faces and details about people but remember a name on the spot? Forget about it, the name will eventually come to me though. I hear that if you play word games that helps keep the mind sharp, but I don’t think that slows down the aging process. Most places I go, I find that I’m the oldest person. I don’t know if others view me like that though, but I notice. I visit a friends and neighbors at the rehab center over in the nearby rehab center. It was one of those “one size fits all” places with basic physical rehab to long term nursing care in the same building. It was eye opening to see how people end up – unaware, wheel chair bound and just waiting it out. I hope I don’t make it that long.

What do you see as your purpose in your later years? When my dad retired many years ago and I was still living in Lander, Wyoming and “commuting” back and forth to Boulder working on a project for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, I learned about a guy named Rabbi Zalman Schachter who wrote a book called “From Aging to Saging.” I gave a copy to my dad when he retired. He was a bit freaked out about what he was going to do with his time. He wasn’t a golfer or recreater. He was thinking about getting into multi-level marketing, traveling. He ended up doing quite a bit with the Presbyterian Church – mostly because my mom was pretty involved. She was a watercolor painter and they were a team. She painted pictures, he matted, framed, hung and took down the shows. He didn’t really do much social change type work, but it was better than sitting around and watching sports on TV. I see myself still working. I’ve slowed down a bit, but I hope to be producing meaningful content for digital media, maybe helping organizations with fund raising.

What new things are your future older self learning and experiencing? I’m trying to keep up with the basic innovations and have always been on the leading edge of things. I used to be an early adopter of technology, but with things changing as rapidly as they are, I’ve been slowing down my consumerism. My dad never learned how to use a computer, although my mom did and was quite proficient at email. She didn’t make it through to social media, but I’m pretty sure she would be facebooking along with the best of us. Within the next 20 years, I’ll still be going strong keeping in touch with people the best I can.

What changes in your thinking and acting do you need to make in your current life in order to have the embodied old age you envisage?  I have to downsize. Get rid of stuff. I have started this and it’s a very tedious task. My sister has squatted on the family property that’s full of three households of junk. There’s no telling when that’s going to be purged. I don’t want to be stuck with the detritus of life. She still is clinging onto our parent’s past lives. It would be nice to get rid of all that property and my sister can get a life of her own.

If you invited your future older self over for lunch, what would you ask him? “Why the hell did you allow yourself to get so old?”