A Downside to a Small School District

Fremont County, Wyoming, has eight active school districts, twice as many as in any other Wyoming county. What’s more, it used to have, um, quite a few more than eight.

In Wyoming, the official name of a school district is “____ County School District #x,” even where the county has only one district, as some do. One of Fremont County’s districts has the official name, “Fremont County School District #38.” Obviously, at least 30 former school districts there no longer exist, having been absorbed by one or another of the eight that remain.

Since Fremont contains only about 10% of the state’s population, some of the districts have very small enrollment, which can become problematic in surprising ways.

(Ethete, Wyo.) – It was a numbers decision. In last Friday afternoon’s conference game against county rival Wind River, the Wyoming Indian Chiefs only suited up 14 players. One of those players was injured the game and didn’t return. With two games left in the schedule, the Chiefs simply ran out of players. Several of the team members were unavailable this week for this week’s game against Shoshoni, and the school decided to forfeit their last two games of the season, Friday night against Shoshoni and a week from Friday against Rocky Mountain.

Wyoming Indian High School serves Fremont County School District #14, based in the mostly Arapaho community of Ethete, north of Lander. It’s one of three school districts that mostly serve Wyoming’s only Indian reservation (which, contra TV’s “Longmire” and the books it’s loosely based on, is home to bands of Shoshone and Arapaho, not Cheyenne) and was until recently the only one of those three with an established conventional high school; students in the other districts could transfer to an adjacent district or attend a charter school if available.

I suppose some of WIHS’s previous success in at least fielding interscholastic sports teams may have been due to attendance from one or more adjacent districts that now have high schools of their own. The large number of districts in Fremont County has led to talk — almost none of it in Fremont County — of consolidating some of them.

One of the reasons why there are so many districts is that Fremont’s population is so widely scattered and so diverse, even on the reservation. The nearest other school district to Ethete is majority-Shoshone; the other majority-Arapaho district is far more remote. It’s a big reservation, otherwise the two tribes wouldn’t coexist as well as they do, and even then it’s not all incense and peppermints.

It’s sad to see these kids having to give up the rest of their season, and it’s possible maybe there will be more recruits next fall. But if not, I’m not sure what can be done to rescue the program unless the two majority-Arapaho districts, at least, join forces.

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The Intarweb Has a Sad

Because “Airporty McAirportface” didn’t even get nominated.

The Riverton Airport Board is thinking about a name change for Riverton Regional Airport to more accurately reflect the region served by the county’s only commercial airport.

The name that has been proposed is Wind River Regional Airport. The change was suggested by Airport Board and Fremont Air Service Team (FAST) member Mick Pryor. “The proposed name would encapsulate the marketing effort tourism agencies have been using and the entire region that we serve,” Pryor said.

It’s rigged. Rigged, I say!

Fall Color in Alaska

It’s probably more accurately categorized as “The High Latitude Life” though.

I’m not 100% sure exactly where this “Chena River” webcam is located, but judging from the paved paths it’s a good bet it’s in Fairbanks. The river only flows 100 miles, according to Wikipedia, and feeds the even wilder Tanana (doesn’t rhyme with ‘banana’) River just a few miles downstream from downtown Fairbanks.

(My suspicion is that it’s across the river from the Carlson Center, not far from the Ice Alaska grounds.) (Nope, it’s here, between the Cushman and Old Steese bridges. Or see it like this on Google Maps.)

I did tweak the color saturation just a bit to make the fall color stand out a bit more.

That one week in September each year is one of a great many things I miss about Fairbanks. By the time we get much in the way of color hereabouts, interior Alaska’s trees should be bare and its ground covered with the first inch or so of the winter’s snowpack.

Update, Saturday: And also winter color in the Wyoming mountains! It snowed in the Bighorns, Tetons, Absarokas, and Wind Rivers. It even snowed — a little — on Elk Mountain between Rawlins and Laramie. Oddly enough, the evidence of snow I saw in Yellowstone, on the Old Faithful webcam, consisted solely of a remnant dusting on the tops of signs and benches.

The snow won’t stay around long; the ground is still warm and the dry wind can suck the moisture out of snow even when the temperature stays below freezing. But it’s snow! It hasn’t even snowed yet in Fairbanks!

‘Nother update, Monday: (Actually, this was posted last Friday.)

I’d Prefer That to This

“This” being days like yesterday. “That” being, well, that in Wyoming (text at link may change if much time has passed):

… Major change to colder and wet conditions Thursday night through Saturday…
… Significant mountain snow possible Friday into Saturday…

A cold storm system over the Gulf of Alaska will drop southeast into the Great Basin later Thursday into Friday and swing east across the area Friday night and Saturday. Widespread showers and some thunderstorms are expected ahead of this system Thursday into Thursday night. Only the highest peaks will see snow from the first part of this storm. However, as a strong cold front moves in Friday, much colder air will be ushered in along with falling snow levels. Widespread rain will continue across the lower elevations while snow levels fall from above 10,000 feet Thursday night lowering to between 6000 and 7000 feet Friday night and Saturday morning. Significant snow is expected over Bighorn Mountains later Friday through Saturday as much colder air moves in and snow levels lower. It’s quite possible that the Big Horn Mountains see 4 to 8 inches of snow with over a foot above 10,000 feet during this period. The lower elevations will see periods of rain during this period, possibly mixing with or changing to snow above 6,000 to 7000 feet late Friday night or early Saturday.

Campers, hunters and other outdoor interests should keep abreast of the latest developments on this first cold, wet, and white, storm system of the pre-fall season. Some of the higher trails in the Big Horn Mountains could be covered by a significant amount of snow later Friday into Saturday. Pay attention to the latest forecast and plan accordingly.

Freezing temperatures are also possible in the low lying areas Sunday morning behind this system.

Stay tuned for further statements from your National Weather Service office in Riverton.

I remember the Gulf of Alaska. It didn’t much affect us in Fairbanks but we heard a lot about it anyway. Kind of like how, if you watch The Weather Channel it doesn’t matter where you live — you’ll still hear way too much about Atlanta.

I Can Remember When They Were Extinct

Mind you, the fact they turned out not to be doesn’t mean extinctions don’t occur, nor that declared extinctions aren’t nearly always true. Black-footed ferrets and coelacanths are indeed the exception.

Anyway…

The black-footed ferret population near Meeteetse, Wyo. is getting a boost. Last July, 35 black-footed ferrets were released on the Lazy BV and Pitchfork ranches. Now biologists have found wild born kits at the site…

“We believe the initial ferret release at Meeteetse was extremely successful. Now with the discovery of wild-born ferrets, we are extremely excited and appreciative of the landowners and other groups who support these incredible animals,” said Zack Walker, Game and Fish statewide nongame bird and mammal program supervisor.

Game and Fish biologists were having to release captive-born ferrets to bolster the numbers of the wild population, but ferrets kinda know how to make more ferrets on their own, so it was only a matter of time before they stopped needing the fold-out couch in dad’s basement.

To date, three wild-born kits have been discovered, and biologists suspect there are at least three litters identified. Surveys will continue until mid-September.

Here’s hoping they stay out in prairie-dog country and don’t take to raiding anyone’s henhouses.

It’s a Western Thang

Yesterday on The Weather Channel’s coverage of Harvey’s aftermath in Texas, I watched Jim Cantore interviewing evacuees — who seemed to be reassuring him more than he could them.

One of my rotating sidebar quotes is, “Westerners don’t complain about bad weather; we brag about it.” I’m also on record against gratuitous drama.

Of course, I wouldn’t live on the Gulf Coast for anything. When there’s a choice, living in what the weather geeks call a “brown ocean” is gratuitous drama.

It Ain’t Petticoat Junction

I’m pretty sure the one time I ever rode behind a bona fide steam locomotive was at Knott’s Berry Farm back in the early 1970s. There may have been one or two miniature steamers here and there but I don’t remember any other full-size ones.

This one would kinda redefine “full size.”

It’s been at the Union Pacific Steam Shop since four years ago and is undergoing restoration to working order — oil-fired, as most working steamers are these days, rather than coal.

And if you happen to be in Cheyenne these next few months, the Steam Shop will once again be open for tours, and apparently the Big Boy will be featured.

Damn, I wish I weren’t still here in Georgia.

And After All That, What If It Rains?

It does rain sometimes in Wyoming. It may rain there on August 21. Or another forest fire could be sending dense smoke across the state (assuming the ones doing it now have even been put out by then).

I can certainly understand why people are going to Wyoming to view the eclipse — totality will pass directly over the part of the state where Mrs. McG and I want to move to when she retires. It’s a high desert and the presumption is that the sun’s always shining in the desert.

Well, not exactly. Even if it isn’t raining, the sky can be obscured by clouds. The anvil of a thunderstorm dumping on a mountain range 40 miles away can put a town in the valley in the shade; in fact, the town may get nothing from that storm but shade, and a spate of gusty wind as it collapses.

And then there’s the remoteness. Gawkers by the tens of thousands seem to be assuming because it’s far from big cities it must be too difficult for other people to get there. Well, you do kind of have to be wanting to go there to wind up there — but a total solar eclipse is a strong motivation, and the whole world knows it’s coming.

Places in the path of this celestial-yet-man-caused disaster have been planning for months, if not years, to deal with the once-in-a-lifetime influx of crowds, expecting to find themselves up to their armpits in people who think a flying visit to Wyoming should be no more challenging than a drive to the playground.

It’s a mercy that this eclipse will be visible across the entire width of the country; I’d hate to imagine the trouble if it were only happening in Wyoming. While I do find myself wishing we were already living there so we could see the show from our front porch, lately I’m kind of relieved we don’t. Trying to stock up ahead of the invasion would be like shopping here in the South when there’s snow in the forecast.

Furthermore, if we had land of any amount we’d need to worry about trespassers — or set up at the gates and take people’s money. If we didn’t already have a landline, we’d better get one. As it is, my idea of observing the eclipse online from here by looking in on webcams? Might not work.

Update, August 19: It’s just occurred to me that, as rough as it’s going to be for residents in many of these small towns — not only in Wyoming but across the country — it could be worse. It could be an annual event lasting a week and a half

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can’t Do?

(Apologies to Betteridge.)

And here we thought the climate-change scam was merely an attempt by mega-statists to stampede people into agreeing to a global authoritarian state. It apparently has less apocalyptic — though equally nefarious — uses.

By allowing development in areas where fires are known to regularly occur, it is inevitable that damage will occur, Simon argues. In “Flame and Fortune in the American West,” the author says that the way we often discuss dangerous wildfires — as unstoppable natural events, rather than the result of building homes and businesses in unwise places — contributes to this view and he proposes a new model of viewing the interaction between fires and development. Simon also takes issue with how climate change has been used to explain the increase in fires, arguing that global warming is often used as an easy explanation to cover up poor decision making by planners and developers.

Which suggests that while those bloggers who have popularized the snarky question in the title of this post have done so ironically, the typical irony-challenged bureaucrat has taken the concept to heart.

I left my shocked face around here somewhere but I can’t seem to find it.

Good Ride, Cousin

Just found out about this on tonight’s Western Sports Weekly, a (ahem) round-up of the week’s rodeo news on RFD-TV every Wednesday night. In this case, it’s the College National Finals Rodeo.

A Sam Houston State University freshman from Victoria, Texas, Lane McGehee dominated the bareback riding. He won two of the three preliminary rounds and scored 79.5 points on Harry Vold Rodeo’s Spicy Chicken to place second in the championship round, a point behind Sheridan College’s Hunter Carlson. McGehee’s overall win was by an almost unheard-of 16 points.

Never met him, but I think I noticed his name on a past season’s report on the National High School Finals Rodeo. Can’t wait to see him in some PRCA events, but I gather that’ll be a while.