colorado

My grandniece, Katy Herr has been living the dream lately…well, for the past several years really. Katy’s life did a complete 180° turn in 2019, when she met her future husband, Dylan Herr. Dylan was different than anyone else Katy had ever known. Dylan was her soulmate. Before Dylan, Katy really felt like life was passing her by. She wanted to be a wife and mother, and none of that was working out.

Today, Katy is married to Dylan, and they have a beautiful little boy named Max, who is almost two years old. Together, Katy’s men have made her life as close to perfect as it gets. To make life even better, Katy and Dylan recently bought a new house…their first together, and they just couldn’t be happier. They had moved from Brighton, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming to open a new store, Dylan and his family own and operate a number of Red Wing Shoe Stores. They will be stationed here, but Dylan will likely have to travel to the other stores periodically. That said, since they can, Katy and Max will probably go along, so they can all visit with Dylan’s family. Katy and Dylan are also enjoying their roles as community representatives. They are very active in fund raisers and other ways to make our community a better place to live. They rather love the dressing up for date night aspect of all that being community representative entails.

Katy is very much enjoying being a stay-at-home wife and mom, and Max keeps her very busy, as any two-year-old child will do. She also has a beautiful home that she is working on making their own. They also enjoy going to the lake. Katy pretty much grew up around Alcova Lake, because her grandparents, Chip and Trish Burgess had a cabin at the lake. I’m sure that Max will be as much a “fish” as Katy and her brother, Keifer were. Katy and Dylan also love to tour area gardens and parks. Max loves to be outside and to play in the grass and on the swings. The whole family enjoys their time together and with other family members. These days, things are going great for Katy, and I’m sure it will only get better. She has so much life to look forward too. Today is Katy’s birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Toni Chase has had a wonderful year with her family. She and her husband, Dave went to Florida in May. By going early in the summer, they dodged the major tourist season, and were able to enjoy a nice, peaceful getaway. It’s probably good that they had that quiet getaway, because when they got back to Casper, they were very busy helping with her son, James Renville and his wife, Manuela’s wedding…which was beautiful, by the way.

Toni’s life has taken a wonderful turn, with the addition of her beautiful daughter-in-law, and watching her son be so very happy. James and Manuela are happy, and for a mom, there is nothing better than knowing that. James and Manuela are beginning their new life together, but they still find time to spend with the family. Whenever they are around, the family dogs, Cricket and Biscuit are on cloud nine. In fact, Cricket loves playing “third wheel” with the kids. It’s like they are triplets, and Cricket thinks the kids are the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Planning a wedding is a lot of work. Having planned two myself…plus my own, I know. The parents need a vacation as much as the happy couple does. After the wedding, Toni and Dave took a trip to Colorado for a concert at Red Rocks. They also went to Aspen at the beginning of fall. Toni and Dave love to travel and spend quality time together. They have such a great marriage, and it’s so sweet to see them together. They lead quiet peaceful lives, hiking, traveling, working, and enjoying their family. Life just doesn’t get any better than that. Today is Toni’s birthday. Happy birthday Toni!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Maybe they were just wanting to be home for Christmas, and not knowing exactly how long it would take…while hiding out from the law, that is…the Texas Seven decided to get a jump start on the journey. No, probably not. It wasn’t Christmas with loved ones that was on their minds…it was freedom. On December 13, 2000, seven prisoners dubbed the “Texas Seven” by the media, broke out of maximum-security prison in South Texas, setting off a massive six-week manhunt. The prisoners were Joseph Christopher Garcia, Randy Ethan Halprin, Larry James Harper, Patrick Henry Murphy Jr, Donald Keith Newbury, George Angel Rivas Jr, and Michael Anthony Rodriguez. The escapees overpowered civilian employees and prison guards in the maintenance shop where they worked and stole clothing, guns, and a vehicle. The men left a note saying: “You haven’t heard the last of us yet,” and they were right. These men were convicted of crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. They were set to be executed soon, so they had nothing to lose.

These were not the kind of people that anyone wanted to have running around the state…or anywhere outside of prison walls. Soon after escaping from the Connally Unit lockup in Kenedy, Texas, the fugitives picked up another getaway vehicle. This one provided by the father of one of the men. They robbed a Radio Shack store in Pearland, Texas, coming out with cash and police scanners. On Christmas Eve, the escapees struck a sporting-goods store in Irving, Texas, where they stole a large amount of cash and weapons. In the process, the men killed police officer Aubrey Hawkins, shooting him multiple times with multiple weapons and running him over. Now they really had nothing to lose. Now, they were cop killers on top of everything else. It looked like it was time to get out of Dodge…or in this case, Texas.

The Texas Seven headed to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home and told people they were Christian missionaries. They rented a spot at a trailer park near Woodland Park, Colorado. They were there about a month before things started to fall apart. On January 22, 2001, after seeing the “Texas Seven” profiled on the TV program America’s Most Wanted, someone tipped off the police to the group of seven “missionaries” near Woodland Park. During the raid, ringleader George Rivas was captured along with three of the other men. Larry James Harper decided that he was not going back to prison, so he committed suicide after being surrounded by police. Two days later, law enforcement officials closed in on the two remaining escapees at a hotel in Colorado Springs. A standoff ensued, during which the fugitives conducted phone interviews with a TV news station and claimed their escape was a protest against Texas’ criminal justice system. Someone always has to add a bit of drama to justify their new crimes. There was no evidence indicating their claim was justified. The men then surrendered to authorities. Their crime spree was over. Of the six remaining, four have since been executed. Randy Ethan Halprin and Patrick Henry Murphy Jr are currently back at Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas on Death Row awaiting execution.

My grandniece, Katy Balcerzak has spent the last year, and a little bit more, becoming or being mommy to a sweet little boy named Max Robert Herr. That is no easy transition, although it is one of the most wonderful transitions ever, as any mother can tell you. For any “exercise enthusiast,” it means the sacrifice of that their body was, to working toward bring it back to what it was, but in reality, it doesn’t matter, because the reward is the most wonderful reward one could ever receive. A child, sweet and perfect. Boy or girl…it does not matter, because a mother’s love knows no gender. It is the transition into a slower way of life…maybe not always being on time everywhere you go, because babies can’t tell time, and so their cooperation is definitely random. Somehow that doesn’t matter either, because there is nothing more important than that sweet, smiling face. A mother might have good intentions of being on time, but then her son smiles and giggles and she takes a few more minutes playing and coaxing one more precious smile out of her precious boy. Before she knows it, time has slipped away, and she is trying…unsuccessfully, to play catch-up. Oh well, it somehow just doesn’t matter.

Katy has wanted to be a mommy for as long as she was grown up, and the past year was like a dream-come-true. Her life went from mediocre to exceptional so quickly, that it stunned many of us…myself included. She moved to Colorado from Wyoming, and the next thing I knew, she was happily engaged and pregnant with her first child. Her face absolutely glowed. Her beautiful smile was always there…no sad pictures, no lonely pictures, no pictures with empty arms. Katy was transformed in an instant.

This year also, Katy and Dylan made the move to purchase their first home…another milestone in their lives, and one more thing to cross off her “bucket list” of goals and dreams. Now, they are settling in, Katy’s life is in perfect balance. She has the man of her dreams, and a sweet baby boy to complete her happiness. And now, the house to wrap things up nicely and tie them in a pretty bow. I can’t think of any better way to have spent the last year. Today is Katy’s birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For some reason, when I think of Prisoner of War (POW) camps, I think of a place far away in a war zone, and there were some there, but as they filled up, the prisoners had to be moved to other areas. In addition to that, we needed men to work in the United States because our men were overseas fighting. The prisoners could be put to work in the fields to help grow needed foods for the country, as well as the troops. That idea was a bit foreign to me, especially when I heard that there was just such a camp that was practically in my backyard…even if I wasn’t born at the time. It’s just odd when history collides with your own neighborhood.

During World War II, the Greeley, Colorado POW camp had prisoners from Germany and Austria. The camp was built in 1943, and the first prisoners came in 1944. The camp was a self-contained town in itself. It had a fire station, hospital, theater, library, and classrooms. It also had electricity, water, and sewers. The prisoners who were held in the POW camps in the United States were treated well. This country wasn’t into the torture methods that the Axis of Evil nations were.

Many of the prisoners worked in the fields and paid money, for their labor, to take home with them. They were also given the chance to have fun. They had soccer teams. They dyed their t-shirts different colors using homemade dyes from vegetables. They had classes in English, German, and Mathematics. Some men were in the camp orchestra and others sang in choir. In many ways, the lives these men lived in the POW camps was better than the lives they lived at home…or at least during the war.

The Greeley POW Camp 202, was almost like a coveted assignment. It was the place the prisoners wanted to be sent. When new prisoners came to the camp, they would try to find men from their hometowns…hoping others had been as blessed as they felt to be there. The story is told that, “The old prisoners would toss out gum or paper with their names and address. One day a father and son found each other from the tossed notes.” These reunions were such a blessing for the prisoners. The guards were well liked. In fact, when one of the guards got married, the prisoners cooked their wedding night dinner for them. These good guards found favor with the prisoners.

I like to think that POW camps in and run by the United States were and are more civilized than those camps owned and run by other countries, but I don’t suppose all of them were run as compassionately as the Greeley POW Camp. We hear nightmare stories of Guantanamo Bay, and I’m sure there are others that weren’t so great. Still, I suppose things depend on the prisoners to a great degree. It is harder to show kindness to a prisoner who orchestrates a terrorist attack against our nation, killing thousands of innocent people, that it is to be compassionate to a soldier who is simply following orders, but is otherwise a kind and gentle person.

My grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak is a computer programmer for the State of Wyoming. He loves his job, and is a great bread-winner for his family, but it isn’t his job that has made him the man he is today. I have not seen many men who have become a parent, and then had to immediately be the “rock” for his little family. Keifer and his wife, Katie, became the parents to Reece, a 2 months premature little girl, born in December 2017. That was a scary time for Keifer and Katie, and they had to be strong for their baby girl…and for each other. I can’t say for certain that Katie felt like falling apart, but I think most women probably would have felt like falling apart, and would need their strong husbands to hold them up in the face of such a serious situation. Keifer did that for Katie, as she recovered from giving birth, and dealt with the day to day concerns for Reece’s well-being. Her home-coming was a wonderful day for both of them, and in victory, they went home from Denver, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming to start their life. Their lives had changed much more than the normal amount that goes with having a baby. Staying positive was of the utmost importance.

With Reece’s blossoming health, following her rocky start, Keifer and Katie have been able to get back to their normal lives…at least as much as a global pandemic would allow. Keifer was able to play a little softball this summer, and really enjoyed that…at least until someone hit him with the ball, leaving him pretty bruised. Still, being the tough-guy player he is, Keifer toughed it out, and while we know that bruises hurt, Keifer had determined to get himself into better shape, and he was not going to let this or anything else sideline him. Keifer has been in this quest to get into better shape since March of 2019, and has had great success. He wants to be his best self. He feels better, and as any of us who have worked to get in shape know, he looks better…in fact, he looks great. I know his girls are very happy to have a more energetic husband and daddy in their lives too. We are all very proud of Keifer’s success.

The future is bright for Keifer and his family. With their health struggles behind them, and lots of activity and fresh air in front of them, the Balcerzak family is happier than ever, and we are all happy for them. Having your health is a huge part of living a happy life. And now, they are all embarking on a healthy future. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My future grand nephew, Dylan Herr comes from great stock in the business world. His family has been in the shoe business for three generations. His dad, Rob and mom, Dee Dee own nine Red Wing Shoe Stores in Colorado, and Dylan owns three, including the newest one in Brighton, Colorado. They have been in business since 1970, beginning with his grandpa, Bob Herr. They stores were recently featured by the BBB and their Featured Business of the Week. In that article, they revealed that as of 2020, they are the largest Red Wing dealer in the world. Now, that’s an amazing feat…if you’ll pardon the necessary pun, an amazing feat for the feet. I suspect that my silly pun has quite likely been heard by the Herr family many times before

Dylan joined our family when he and my grand niece Katy Balcerzak became engaged recently. The were also blessed on June 14, 2020 with their first child, a son named Max Robert Herr, and he is just such a cutie!! While Dylan can’t say that his life was ever in the dumps exactly, because he has worked hard to be a success in his dad and grandpa’s footsteps…another almost pun (there seem to be a number of them in this story), having becoming engaged and having a son have to rate very high in the annals of his life history. It’s pretty hard to beat the rush of pride one feels when becoming a parent.

Dylan and Katy are such happy people. They are filled with love for each other, and for their new little son. Their family is such a blessing to the rest of their families, and their happiness is a joy to watch. Dylan seems to have moved into fatherhood with ease and grace, and it’s obvious to anyone who looks at them, that daddy and son love each other very much. It makes me so happy to see Katy’s life so filled with love, and I think Dylan will make a wonderful husband for her. It is obvious to me, that when he looks at her, he is very much in love with our Katy. I am very excited for their future together, and very happy for their current lives that are so filled with joy. Today is Dylan’s birthday. Happy birthday Dylan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Life takes many turns and journeys around winding roads sometimes. Sometimes we think that the dreams we had will never come to pass, and then, suddenly, we find ourselves right in the middle of our life’s dream, and we are just a little bit stunned at how we got there. For almost as long as I have known her, my grand niece, Katy Balcerzak has wanted to be a mom. I think that for part of that time, she honestly didn’t think it would ever come to pass, but then, suddenly she found herself and her fiancé, Dylan Herr expecting a child. I can imagine that the sky lit up with rainbows and fireworks at the news. There are few things that truly compare to bringing a child into the world. For so many couples, it is the picture of their love.

Katy’s life had already taken many wonderful turns, when she met Dylan. They are just so happy together. They always look so serene when they are together, but as anyone who has been in love knows, that is the look of love. Now they have that look, not only for each other, but for the new little life that is growing inside Katy. June can’t come soon enough for anyone in this family. Our Katy is absolutely glowing.

Katy has relocated to Brighton, Colorado, where Dylan owns the latest of his three Red Wing Shoe Stores. We miss having her here, but Colorado isn’t so far away that they can’t come for visits sometimes. I know that will be especially important for the parents, step parents, and family members she has here in Casper. Thankfully, in this day of Facebook, texting, cell phones, and ease of travel, I know that Katy and Dylan will be able to keep both sides of their family involved in their baby boy’s life. Life is shaping up nicely for Katy and Dylan, and we are all very happy for them. Today is Katy’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In the early years of Wyoming’s history, there was contention between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers. The cattlemen thought the land was theirs, and they thought the sheepmen were invading their domain, and they weren’t going to allow it. Cattlemen were first to arrive in the Big Horn Basin, trailing in huge herds of cattle in 1879. They insisted their early arrival established a prior claim to the grass on the government land where their herds grazed. But the law said otherwise. The Cattle and Sheep Wars sprung from this dispute in the Western United States, but they were most common in Texas, Arizona, and the border region of Wyoming and Colorado. The cattlemen thought the sheep destroyed the public grazing lands, which they had to share on a first-come, first-served basis.

On April 2, 1909, the range war between the cattlemen and sheepmen in the Ten Sleep, Wyoming area came to a head, when a group of cattlemen decided that they were going to settle this battle once and for all. They headed to Spring Creek seven miles south of Ten Sleep, Wyoming where they knew of a camp. This was to be the last of the sheep raids in the Big Horn Basin. That fateful day, seven cattlemen attacked a sheep camp near Spring Creek, just south of Ten Sleep, in the southern Big Horn Basin. When the raiders attacked, they killed three men, two of whom the burned to death in their sheep wagon. Then shooting the third man, the decided to kidnap two others. Then they killed the sheep dogs and dozens of sheep and destroyed thousands of dollars of personal property. It was the deadliest sheep raid in Wyoming history. I understand killing in war, but this was murder, and it was horrific!!

Wyoming was a territory from July 25, 1868 to July 10, 1890. Early on, there were more cattle ranches than sheep ranches, and the cattlemen felt like they had priority to public lands. Sheep raids began to plague Wyoming since the late 1890s, by which time sheep outnumbered cattle on Wyoming ranges. By 1909, at least six men had been killed, thousands of sheep had been slaughtered, and many thousands of dollars of property destroyed. Nevertheless, there had not been a single conviction for a crime committed during a sheep raid.

It’s really no surprise, given the rising numbers of sheep on the range in those years, that cattlemen were feeling pressured. By 1894 there were 1.7 million sheep in Wyoming and only 675,000 cattle. By 1909, the state’s peak year for sheep, there were more than six million sheep, and only 675,000 cattle. It makes sense that there were tensions, but that did not excuse the men on either side committing murder. Yes, Wyoming was a part of the wild west, and the lawmen were not always readily available, but that did not mean that these men should be able to kill the competition. We are ultimately, civilized people after all, even if we do live in the wild west. After the arrests for the Spring Creek Raid, the cattlemen we reluctant to raid the sheep camps, and with that, a horrific event of the old west passed into history.

Whenever disaster strikes, the inevitable souvenir hunters seem to come out of the woodwork. It doesn’t matter that someone, or maybe many someones have died in the tragedy. Souvenir hunters think only of themselves, and the stories they can tell, complete with their “precious” souvenir to back up their story. The whole thing makes decent people nauseous.

On November 17, 1910, famous aviator and stunt pilot, Ralph Johnstone was performing in an air show in Denver, Colorado, when tragedy struck. Johnstone knew the risks of his occupation, and I suppose that he knew that one day, his “number” would come up. Still, you never really believe that it will happen to you, do you? Johnstone was the holder of the World Altitude Record, and the crowds were never disappointed with the show he gave them. That day, at Overland Park would be no exception.

Johnstone flew a Wright Biplane, and he was knows for his many spiral glides, which had made the Wright aviators famous. Johnstone had won many prizes, and on two occasions had expressed the belief that he would be the first to do real fancy work in the sky…and become in a word, the aviating gymnast and loop an imaginary loop. In the day’s first flight, when he was in the air with his friends, Walter Brookins and Archibald Hoxsey. Johnstone had gone through his usual program of dips and glides, and the plane had perfect control, with no indication of structural problems.

On his second flight, Johnstone rose again, and after a few circuits of the course to gain height headed toward the foothills. “Still ascending, he swept back in a big circle, and as he reached the north end of the enclosure, he started his spiral glide. He was then at an altitude of about 800 feet. With his plane tilted at an angle of almost 90 degrees, he swooped down in a narrow circle, the airplane seeming to turn almost in its own length. As he started the second circle, the middle spur, which braces the left side of the lower plane, gave way, and the wing tips of both upper and lower planes folded up as though they had been hinged. For a second, Johnstone attempted to right the plane by warping the other wing up. Then the horrified spectators saw the plane swerve like a wounded bird and plunged straight toward the earth.”

Witnesses said that “Johnstone was thrown from his seat as the nose of the plane swung downward. He caught on one of the wire stays between the plane and grasped one of the wooden braces of the upper plane with both hands. Then, working with hands and feet, he fought by main strength to warp the planes so that their surfaces might catch the air and check his descent. For a second it seemed that he might succeed, for the football helmet the wore blew off and fell much more rapidly than the plane.”

With one wing of his machine crumbled like a piece of paper, Ralph Johnstone, dropped like a rock from a height of 500 feet into the enclosure at Overland Park aviation field and was instantly killed…nearly every bone in his body was broken. That was when the spectators turned “souvenir hunters.” Scarcely had Johnstone hit the ground before morbid men and women swarmed over the wreckage, fighting with each other for souvenirs. One of the broken wooden stays had gone almost through Johnstone’s body. Before doctors or police could reach the scene, one man had torn this splinter from the body and run away, carrying his “trophy” with Johnstone’s blood still dripping from it. The crowd tore away the canvas from over the body, and even fought for the gloves that had protected his hands from the cold. The scene was utterly disgusting.

Johnstone had attempted to cheat death once too often, but “he played the game to the end, fighting coolly and grimly to the last second to regain control of his broken machine.” Fresh from his triumphs at Belmont Park, where he had broken the world’s record for altitude with a flight of 9,714 feet, Johnstone attempted to give the thousands of spectators an extra thrill with his most daring feat, the spiral glide, which had made the Wright aviators famous. The spectators got their thrill, but it cost Johnstone his life.

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