Current Edition

current edition

For a few weeks each year we run a hotel for dogs. In addition to our own two, we board “Crackers” and “Pepper” when my parents are out of town. They get the same care as our dogs – all the dog food they can eat, a heated dog bed in the barn at night and free run of the place during the day so long, as they don’t get caught chasing anything, including cows, horses and the UPS man. As a bonus, if they’re not too smelly, they get to lie on the floorboard in the back seat while we feed each morning. Sounds like a nice set-up for your average canine, right?

On occasion, they’re expected to help move cattle. Pepper takes this job a bit too seriously, leaving us on the verge of having to run her dog food through a blender and teach her to suck through a straw.

Chris recently commented that my dog of  choice, a little red Aussie who answers to “Sundance,” is like living with Little Lord Font La Roy. This got me to wondering, what standard of living can canine companions expect in 2013? I sought out a few statistics to answer my question and rebuke Chris’ status on Sundance. I was a little surprised at my findings and if word gets out around here, I’m sure the dogs will wage a protest.

At the rate we’re going, dogs could be running this country in the not-too-distant future. There are 403,760 registered dogs in the United States, the most of any country. Canada follows in second with a mere 23,068. This doesn’t count the more common mutts and mongrels. Labradors are the most popular followed Chihuahuas, German Shepherds and Shih Tzu. Border Collies rank around 15th. Border Collie or Chihuahua, hmmm?

Despite local accusations that our resident dogs, or one dog in particular, get special treatment, here are three statistics that prove otherwise…

People admit to frequently asking their dogs, “How do you like your food?” In a long-held tradition between dogs and people, we just whistle.

According to PetSmart, 24 percent of all pet owners have, although they’re reluctant to admit it, tasted their pet’s food. The only time this is remotely true around here is when we can save a buck by serving table scraps instead of dog food.

One-third of dog owners buy their dogs toothpaste. 

Sixty-three percent of pet owners buy their dog a present at Christmastime. Combined Americans spend $5 billion on their furry friends, including cats, each Christmas. I have been known to purchase chunks of rawhide around the Holidays, so I guess I’m guilty as charged there.

Thirty-six percent of dogs can expect a birthday present this year.

Sixty-four percent of dogs can expect to appear in their family’s Christmas card.

As for that Hotel for Dogs, I don’t think we’ll be advertising those services commercially anytime soon. One, the cows are against it. Two, we’re not willing to throw in the industry standards of a bath, a private walk, television, clean sheets and a nail job. Plus, Chris said, “Definitely, no.”

Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.

Trekking across a fresh dusting of snow to do this afternoon’s chores, I couldn’t help but think about the numerous little things in life that truly make it enjoyable. I think that’s especially true in agriculture, but I suspect it’s true in all walks of life if you only take the time to stop and see. For me…

It’s the fresh dusting of snow covering the landscape, dotted only by sagebrush and an occasional cow.

It’s the horse peering in the barn door wondering if I’m going to happen by the grain bucket. If he had a mitten or a paw, I’m sure he’d clear his breath from the windowpane.

It’s the little brown dog always at my heels.

It’s watching our growing sons master new skills, knowing they have the willingness to learn, try and make it in the world.

It’s seeing the still-present little boy inside a budding young man reveal himself as he asks, “You’re sure the spider was still under the waterer when we replaced the cover?”

It’s seeing a boy nestled in the hay feeder having a chat with the colts. What starts with a hello and a snort, soon progresses to a chat and the chomping of hay.

It’s watching our youngest wrangle horses on his bicycle, or more recently with a remote control car.

It’s seeing three generations of your family horseback and carrying out long-held traditions.

It’s spending the morning feeding cows with your spouse.

It’s watching your son put his first ride on a new colt.

It’s the first calf of the spring.

It’s a day spent fencing, looking back at a day’s progress and forward to the work ahead.

It’s watching the boys learn lessons grandparents best teach.

It’s working together as a family.

It’s all the little things that combined make the hours, the days, the weeks and the time that passes by so quickly. Come to think of it, maybe they’re the big things.

May your 2013 be brimming with the “little things in life.”

Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers (more commonly known as Mister Rogers)

A colleague of mine shared the above stated quote on Facebook in the wake of the recent and senseless tragedies in Connecticut. While it didn’t alleviate my frustrations with this unfathomable challenge facing our country, it does provide a light and a reminder that the good and the great across our nation still outweigh the negative and the evil. While we can’t change what happened in Connecticut, perhaps our reaction can take our country in a new and better direction. I love the challenge Ann Curry made to Americans, and others, to carry out 26 acts of kindness in memory of those senselessly lost.

A program here in Newcastle devotes a great deal of time and energy to ensuring our young people in need have the items they need and a good Christmas. Operation Santa is a project of Newcastle Elementary School third graders. They launch their project by raising the money to purchase Christmas gifts for less fortunate children. Through a raffle, a school-wide bake sale and donation jars in businesses across the area, funds are gathered. Much of the money raised comes in at less than a dollar at a time, displaying to the third graders that everybody giving a little can equate to a lot.

Once the money is collected, each student is assigned someone for whom to shop. Using the money he earned, Joshua had the opportunity to buy jeans and shirts for a four-year-old little boy, items he said the boy truly needed. It was the talk of our house for two days as he anticipated the outing and wrapping presents with his fellow students. The project helped his young mind get a stronger grip on the true meaning of Christmas and the joy in helping others.

Helping hands are easy to spot this time of year. While visiting Cameco Resources in Cheyenne earlier this week I saw a large boardroom circled with tables that were completely covered with toys. The employees were planning a get together to wrap and deliver the toys to Cheyenne youth on Friday. There are giving trees in numerous locations, Toys for Tots drop-offs and food drives taking place. Over the past week I know I’ve taken greater notice of these efforts and the people making it happen.

Whether it’s the adults behind Operation Santa or others helping in our communities, now is a good time to tell them thank you. This Christmas let’s remember to thank our local blessings, the people who devote a great deal of time and energy to making life a little better for those around them. This happens in many ways, and I’m particularly thankful for those who have a positive presence amidst our young people. Whether it’s a teacher, a coach, a special aunt or uncle or someone who brings them new opportunity through some level of giving, they’re making a positive difference. As we embark on 2013 I pray we can celebrate the positive and shine the light on those everyday heroes who matter. I hope the sun shines through the dark cloud hanging over our nation and we come together to celebrate family values, kindness and a more forgiving world.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and all the best 2013 can bring to you and your families!

Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.

As we embark on 2013, talk in the country seems to center on the weather with a fading mention of the fiscal cliff. Some people talk about the weather for lack of another subject. Ag folks talk about the weather since it’s usually top-of-mind on any given day.

While it doesn’t alleviate concerns for the months ahead, one doesn’t have to look far to find reference to Wyoming’s historical entanglements with Mother Nature. While recently looking through some old copies of Bits and Pieces from the late 1960s and early 1970s I found an account worth sharing. I suspect there are some readers out there who will know more detail than I’ve gleaned from my few pages of reading. Storm stories are passed through the generations of ranch families, each adding their own chapter to the book.

I’ve typically considered flooding to be a springtime phenomenon, but I guess Kaycee’s relatively recent flood took place in August. Not too far away in September 1923 when it rained for eight days straight. “Powder River went completely wild,” says Bits and Pieces. “It showed no respect for houses, barns, fences, etc. People were wading waist deep in their barns trying to cut loose horses and to save hogs, sheep and cattle before moving to higher ground. The water came to the roofs of some of the houses, some were completely ruined, several went sailing down the river along with saddles, harnesses and other equipment.” 

Many Wyoming stories begin with the phrase, “During the blizzard of ‘49.” That storm started on Jan. 2. Eastern and southeastern Wyoming reported drifts 20 to 30 feet high. Temperatures, including the wind chill, dipped to 51 below zero. Even the Union Pacific Railroad struggled through the storm, their trains stopped in their tracks by walls of ice and snow. Dynamite was later used to free them.

More recently, many readers in northeast Wyoming will vividly remember the blizzard of April 1984 and the challenges it delivered. A youngster at the time, I appreciated the ample snow and the break from school. I didn’t fully realize the hardship it was creating for our friends and neighbors across the region.

In the coming months I’m sure we’ll all keep our eyes on the clouds and our computers and televisions tuned to the weather reports. For the time being, I’ll be grateful we’re not experiencing one of those history-making storms! I do, however, hope Mother Nature delivers some much-needed moisture to the countryside and snowpack to Wyoming’s mountains in the months to come.

Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.

Over the course of the past month and leading up to the election much attention has been devoted to our country and its future. You don’t have to look far to find frustration with the direction we’re heading, regardless of your political affiliations. I share in many of those frustrations, but think the discussion is best approached from an angle of, “What would you like our country to look like for your children?”
    While it may be an oversimplification of the situation, maybe it’s time we started running Washington, D.C. like many Wyoming families run their ranches and small businesses. A few thoughts come to mind…
If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.
It’s cheaper to take care of it than it is to repair it.
A little innovation goes a long way.
Have a plan.
Move with the times.
Work hard.
Live by the Golden Rule.
    And I’m sure each of you can add to this list.
    As I write this, I can hear my mother saying, “Mind your pennies and your dollars will take care of themselves.” That thought also went through my mind this morning while I was cleaning those little bits of hay from the edges of the Hydrabed, but that’s a different story. Plus, those bits of hay are more synonymous with quarters than pennies this year.
    If we had that type of frugality present in Washington, D.C., a perceived need to increase taxes would be a much easier pill to swallow. For me the first question isn’t a matter of who is paying however much in taxes, but how are we spending the money we already have?
    As I look at the future of our country and what I’d like our children to experience, I envision ample opportunity. I’d like to see as much attention given to one’s potential to start a business as is devoted to the up and down movement of unemployment. I’d like them to experience national leadership that’s moving this country in a forward direction and not bogged down by the bickering that’s consuming our country today. There’s nothing wrong with a good debate, but to what end?
    I remember a few years back, a rancher who lives not too far from where I do today commented on the interactions of families on the ranch. “Most ranch families get along about as well as they make up their minds to.” I find that statement akin to today’s activities in our nation’s capitol. With so much focus on the fight, the “ranch” is floundering and in need of strong leadership. Perhaps it’s time we become devoted to Senator Enzi’s 80/20 rule!
    As we embark on 2013 and the years to come (assuming the Mayans are wrong), I hope we can find the common ground on which to form a vision of the America we want to leave to our kids and grandkids. I hope we can move back toward a nation of doers, leaders, movers and shakers.
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.