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Know the West

A conservative takes Bundy to task, treasure hunters get trapped and a fool meets a rattlesnake.

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


Trust former Wyoming Republican Sen. Al Simpson — a man who never minces words — to boldly lecture his party about finally abandoning some of its more conservative stances. When wyofile.com asked him about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to push a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision allowing gay marriage, Simpson appeared exasperated. “Merry Christmas!” he exclaimed. “Thirty-seven states already approved it, and to get a constitutional amendment he has to have two-thirds of the vote in the legislatures in three-fourths of the states. I can’t think Custer would have been in a worse position on that one.” As for the argument that allowing homosexuals to marry somehow threatens the “sanctity of marriage,” Simpson said straight couples were perfectly able to ruin their relationships without help: “As a practicing attorney, I did 1,500 divorces in Park County, Wyoming (and) these were heterosexuals. … Marriage got destroyed a long time ago.” Always delighted to tell people that he’s been married to the same woman for 61 years, Simpson concluded, “What’s wrong with people being happy? It doesn’t matter what that is.”

Both scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government got a tongue-lashing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently. The critic wasn’t the environmental activist you might expect; it was David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national nonprofit that stands for “putting the conserve back into conservative.” Bundy, said Jenkins, was nothing more than a “bully” for defying the government when it fined him more than $1 million for illegally grazing his cattle on public land. Unfortunately, though, the bullying worked because the Bureau of Land Management failed to enforce the law; when Bundy and his armed supporters threatened violence if the federal agency tried to collect, it backed away, though this act of appeasement “served only to embolden Bundy and encourage further lawlessness and intimidation.” Jenkins said it was long past time for the BLM to get tough, to shed its timidity and show that “nobody is above the law — not the president and certainly not Cliven Bundy.”

Never, ever, underestimate a rattlesnake, especially a big one with nine impressive rattles. The snake was just sunning itself happily when Scott Adler’s daughter happened to notice it as she was walking her 4-H sheep back to its pen. The rancher decided to shoot the somnolent snake, but an unidentified friend said he had a better idea. Explaining that he was “experienced in handling rattlers and would remove it,” reports the Missoulian, the friend reached down and grabbed the snake, which promptly “bit him in the arm as he held it” — nailing him three times altogether. In a matter of seconds, Adler said, he saw his friend’s arm turn black and his face begin to swell, and “the next thing we knew, he was getting Life-Flighted out of there.” In defense of rattlers, it is said that they are rarely a problem — provided you leave them alone.

Congratulations to the Southern Utes on their beautiful new 48,000-square-foot headquarters, based in Ignacio, Colorado. The three-story modern glass-and-steel building will house 140 employees who oversee what has become a multibillion-dollar, tribally owned conglomerate of oil and gas companies, a nearby gambling casino and diverse real estate, reports the Durango Herald. “We look at this building as really a piece of who we are today,” said Mike Olguin, treasurer of the tribal council. Starting in the 1980s, the Southern Utes decided to back away from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which manages natural resources for many tribes, and take control of their own economy by starting a tribal Growth Fund. Now, “80 percent of the Growth Fund’s revenue comes from outside investments.” They include a deep-sea oilrig off the coast of Mexico and 22 blocks of commercial space in the Denver suburb of Lakewood.

For the second time in three years, a dauntless treasure-hunting couple from Lynchburg, Virginia, had to get hauled out of the backcountry near Cody, Wyoming. In 2013, the unprepared duo tried to hike out to a legendary mine, supposedly laden with fabulous riches. Instead of a leisurely day hike, they spent three nights out “with nothing more than the clothes on their backs,” reports ktvq.com. This summer, Park County search and rescue folks got yet another distress call: Still hunting that elusive treasure, Madilina L. Taylor, 41, had broken her ankle, and her companion, Frank Eugene Rose Jr., 40, badly blistered his feet, not to mention losing his wallet and cellphone after falling in a swollen river. It took searchers several hours to locate the lost couple and airlift Taylor out. The couple was sternly warned not to return for a third treasure hunt until they had mastered a few basic survival skills.