Heroes and victims.
Sometimes an off-hand remark can become amazingly prescient.
During a news meeting on Dec. 21, we were talking about how to cover the big storm headed toward the state. I casually mentioned that we need to watch out for “heroes and victims.”
Little did I know that within 36 hours, three wonderful Wyoming men would become both heroes and victims.
The people of Wyoming need to give thanks to first responder Tyeler Harris, 29, of Saratoga and to Safety Officer Bruce Lang, 68, of Pine Haven, who lost their lives trying to save others. We also mourn the loss of Jason Otto, 48, who accompanied Lang on the rescue mission and lost his life, too.
An EMT, Tyeler was killed when struck by a semi at 4 a.m. on Interstate 80 while helping a stranded motorist. Lang and Otto drowned while trying to rescue someone from Keyhole Reservoir in the far northeast part of Wyoming.
These two events occurred on opposite ends of the state some 322 miles apart. And yet, since we are of such a small population, we feel the agony of losing our finest. We literally feel the pain of this loss.
So, folks, please pause to thank these men for their service and thank all those other folks out there giving of themselves so selflessly during such a busy and bitter cold time.
At the top of my list are the Highway Patrolmen who are out patrolling our roads.
On Dec. 21, these brave men and women dealt with 787 calls, 196 motorist assists and 104 crashes. Lt. Kyle McKay said it was like no other time he has experienced in a 20-year career. It was chaos.
And Dec. 22 looked every bit as bad. These poor folks were exhausted when they finally got to celebrate their holiday.
I am also thankful to the tow truck drivers and EMTs out there picking up the pieces of these accidents in absolutely blinding conditions. Plus, there was record cold.
Our hospitals and clinics are full right now because of COVID-19, flu, RSV, and broken bones suffered in falls on the ice. It is super busy. These folks want to spend time with their families, too, but duty calls. Thank God for their dedication.
A column this time of year was originally intended to be light-hearted and a gentle reminder to readers to be careful and to remember the real reason to celebrate this great holiday.
So, let’s switch gears and let me share some old Wyoming stories involving the Worland family and the Schmidt family, both with long-time history in the state.
Author John Davis who lives in the town of Worland and also lives in the house owned by the Worlands, for whom the town was named, wrote the following:
“In my book Sadie and Charlie, I wrote about a Christmas story involving Sadie and Charlie Worland. The Worlands and their social crowd were preparing a big Christmas feast, with Sadie Worland cooking a whole pig in her oven (which didn’t quite fit). Her friend Helen Howell cooked several pies.
“Just before the big dinner, Howell called Sadie Worland and told her that the Howell dog had eaten all the pies. Sadie replied: ‘Helen, think nothing of it, the damn pig blew up.’”
Davis concludes: “Whether because of the inability to close the oven door or the way it was being cooked, the pig exploded. We don’t know how all this was finally worked out or what the celebrants ended up eating that evening.”
Meanwhile down in Cheyenne:
A famous cartoon concerning folks named Schmidt is often circulated around the Internet these days.
My old pal Pat Schmidt, former publisher in Thermopolis and Lovell, has some observations about this story. Here is how he describes how members of his family have dealt with this situation:
“Now in the height of the Communications Age, humorous cartoons from back in the 1950s and 60s are still generating mirth and merriment on the Internet! Or is that regenerating?
“Take the case of our family and one particular cartoon. Over decades, reactions from family members have ranged from my father’s outrage to my grandchildren’s extreme merriment.
“You’ve seen the cartoon. Santa Claus is parked atop an old outhouse, angrily berating his lead reindeer, ‘Damn it, Rudolph, I said, The Schmidt-house!’
2022 has been exhausting. Let’s hope and pray that 2023 will be a great time for all of us.