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       During the tenure of Terry Cleveland, past Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming’s farms and ranches were recognized for their contributions to improved wildlife habitat. Those in agriculture welcomed that recognition knowing it was long overdue. Until just recently, it was solely farmer and rancher dollars that footed the bill. These days, Wyoming wildlife is better paying its way, something that’s welcome news for many in the state.
    Five or six years ago the Wyoming Legislature approved a wildlife damage bill. Then newly-elected Governor Dave Freudenthal vetoed the measure citing a desire for those funds to instead go to the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund he hoped to see established. Agriculture was skeptical of the Trust proposal. We didn’t know what the “critter” would look like or its purpose as it related to agriculture. When Bob Budd was hired to manage it, a reputable board appointed to guide it and projects proven credible, things began to look up. It was an idea that had to get some history behind it before a lot of us believed in it and supported it. Now it does have a track record and I am among those who really support it.
    Under the Board and Bob’s guiding hands, with oversight from the Governor and the Legislature, the Trust Fund is really working. From filing the application through administration of an approved project, it is a fair and workable process. Sure, there are hoops to jump through, but remember it is state money. Nothing comes free these days.
    I’ve heard in the last year that there has never been so much wildlife money available to landowners for water, habitat, studies and other improvements to their lands. As no surprise, this comes at a time when the sage grouse issue is staring us in the face.
    One of the best results of all of this funding is the partnerships forming out there in the hills. It is possible for a single project, for example, to receive the support of the landowner, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Trust Fund, sage grouse dollars and non-profit groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or Trout Unlimited. Dollars for good projects are there for the asking and access is not a stipulation of the agreement.
    If one doesn’t like wildlife, livestock, tourists or energy development in Wyoming, you’re out of luck. That’s what the state is all about. The one sore point with me, and many others, is irresponsible hunters. There aren’t as many “slob hunters” as there used to be and there are more management tools available today. Many have found the best way to manage them is to lease their land to an outfitter or set up their own outfitting business.
    We always thought life was great if your family was doing great, you had good horses, the pickup was running and we had some rain. Add a good outfitter to that list.
Dennis
       It is no secret that over the last 30 years Wyoming’s sheep industry has declined. Now we may be quietly seeing an increase in sheep numbers.
         That comeback is most likely due to the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative and its value-added marketing exposure. The effort seems to have had a bolstering and solidifying effect on the market.
     Predators, despite recent headway in that arena, may be why the movement isn’t more rapid or visible. While creation of the Animal Damage Management Board and funding of local predator boards has helped, work remains to be done.
    I’ve heard some producers who’ve switched to cattle are considering a return to sheep ranching. Maybe all those sheep dog trials are helping build interest. Whatever the cause, we’re hearing more about Wyoming’s sheep industry, the lambs and the wool, than we have in many years.
    Bryce Reece, Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, says interest is high for the upcoming Sept. 9 ram sale in Douglas. No doubt that’s a strong indicator for one of Wyoming’s most historic businesses.
    I also believe people across America are enjoying lamb more often. We all remember those, my late father-in-law included, who claimed they would never touch mutton or lamb again after eating it during World War II. But they enjoyed a good lamb chop when they ate out. I barbecue lamb shoulder steaks a lot and receive compliments from those who never eat lamb. They are amazed how easy they are to cook, just like a hamburger, and they’re an economical item at the meat counter.
    Wyoming was founded on sheep production and if you think about it our range is better suited for sheep than cattle. I grew up eating both beef and lamb, but never was around sheep until we bought some in the ‘80s. Just image, sheep on the Sweetwater, but it worked. The good part was that they made money; the bad part was that it seemed every time we worked the sheep it fell on either the hottest or coldest day of the year.
    We are fortunate Wyoming was founded on sheep. When homesteading land, the sheep producers homesteaded everything to provide for sheep camps. The cattlemen just homesteaded the land close to water and fought over the rest. I think more federal lands or BLM lands resulted from what was then cattle country.
    Early sheep men controlled the coyote populations and, along with the cattlemen, didn’t tolerate wolves. When the sheep numbers were the highest, so were sage grouse numbers.  Was it because predators were better managed? I think so. Maybe the government needs to pay us to raise more sheep. They certainly help control weeds. In Canada and other places they pay to have sheep graze some mountain areas.
    Sheep, like cattle, can be a great tool to manage our ranges. We also know that a good sheepdog is the best tool in managing sheep when labor is scarce, just as it is in raising cattle. Even my grandfather, a dyed-in-the-wool cattleman, only wore wool pants and shirts. My other grandfather, a sheep man, most likely made more money and worked less raising sheep. Although their differences were great, what they held in common was greater. They both helped to form a Wyoming we are all proud of.
- Dennis
There’s an empty saddle in the old corral
A good cowpony’s head hanging low.
The cold wind moans through the cottonwoods
There’s nothing there to soften the blow.
He had just turned 47
When he was called to the Promised Land
Now you folks that didn’t know him
I’ll tell you up front he was a hell of a hand.
To be called a hell of a hand in Wyoming
Is about as good a compliment as a cowboy can get.
He certainly earned that title
You can damn sure bet.
No matter if he was wearing mechanics’ overalls,
Or wearing black hat, boots and chinks
He was giving the job all he had.
He worked through the rough spots and kinks.
From the hearing rooms in our nation’s capitol
As president of the NACD
To punching cows on his beloved ranch
Or doing his auctioneering for free.
He left some mighty big tracks
That none of us will be able to fill
But if we all work together
We just might be able to climb that hill.
There’s a short verse I’d like to pass along
There were words of the late Michael Landon
We find comfort in these words
They were favorites of my son.
“Remember me with smiles and laughter
Cause that’s how I remember you all.
If you remember me with tears and sorrow
Then don’t remember me at all.”
No more broken shoulders or vertebras
You’ll love the relief you so deserve
We know you’re in a better place now
A place God for you did reserve.
I wrote this poem many years ago
And much comfort in it I do find
I want to feel there is a ranch up there
Where a cowboy can find piece of mind.
“Life has been quite a party, friends,
Yes, life has been quite a show.
But I just signed on with the Lord’s big spread
And now it is time to go.
The wagons are all loaded
The cattle are gathered below.
The sky is blue, the breeze is light
For up yonder there is no rain, sleet nor snow
We’ll trail his herd forever
On grass that’s green and sweet
No lightning, thunder or howling winds
To blow you off your feet.
‘Look me up when you get up here, Dad,
And we’ll share a cup of brew
And if the Lord ain’t lookin’
We’ll go head and heel a steer or two.’
Now there is one thing for certain
And this we all know
When you come to the end of your rope
I reckon it is your time to go.”
We all love you and will miss you son,
I just want you to know
You’re not really gone till forgotten
But your passing was a terrible blow.
~ Don L. Sims, December 2007
    Thanks to Steve and Holly Beumee of McFadden for sharing this poem Don Sims wrote for his late son Olin, a man we will all remember as a great friend and a leader in Wyoming’s agricultural community.                Dennis
       State Fair week is fast approaching and everyone at the Roundup is involved in the planning of who takes pictures, who covers what and where everyone should be at a certain time. I should say all except the publisher, who happens to be untrainable but knows the events of State Fair week by heart now.
     As always, State Fair offers something for everyone involved in agriculture. Remember, this event is a state fair and that means it is your fair to enjoy, participate in and learn from. Whether you are involved in or like to watch rodeo, there is plenty of rodeo activities for you. There are two days of the PRCA rodeo, but also a ranch rodeo, PRCA Extreme Bulls and the big event, miniature bull riding and chuck wagon races. I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear the miniature bulls and their riders are quite a sight to see.
    The ranch horse competition and the Wyoming Ropefest are two large events, both in the arena and in the stands. Both are very popular events. Events just to sit back and watch are the Demolition Derby and antique tractor pull and, unless you’re really looking for some action, stay in the stands for the Pigs ‘n’ Mud wrestling.
    As with any large event, there are plenty of meetings to attend. Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom and the Wyoming Beef Council both meet Thursday. The Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom Board has a new Program Coordinator – Brook Gerke from Wheatland. What a talented young lady; that group is very fortunate to have her on board and we wish her well. Also, the Wyoming Livestock Board is having a listening session on Wednesday morning on disease preparedness. And, for those interested, the newly formed Wyoming Horse Council is having a meeting in Douglas on Aug. 9. And don’t forget all of the 4-H and FFA events, too.
    The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is involved in two events that you are all invited to attend on Wednesday. The Roundup and Double S Feeders from Wheatland sponsor the Cattlemen’s Conference at 1 p.m. in McKibben Caferteria. There are some great speakers from the Wyoming Governor’s Office discussing a Wyoming Safe Harbor Program for sage grouse. Representatives from the Washington, D.C. USDA office will discuss COOL and its new rules. Instead of reading the 233-page COOL rules, you can attend and listen to Bruce Knight and ask your questions. Also speaking are the Executive Vice President and a Director of the Paragon Foundation from New Mexico with a great talk.
    Later that evening the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame Picnic, sponsored by the Roundup, Farm Credit Services of America and EnCana Oil and Gas will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Riverside Park just west of the State Fairgrounds. It will be an enjoyable evening honoring the two new Hall of Fame honorees, Jim Magagna and Del Tinsley. Our two U.S. Senators will present the awards to three Wyoming teachers honored by Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom. Susan Thomas, wife of the late Senator Thomas, will honor someone from her foundation. And besides the free meal you will get to meet all of the rodeo queens from around the state who are running for Miss Rodeo Wyoming.
    Again, there is something for everyone. See you there.
Dennis