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Columns

SPORTS GUY: Well, G-whiz

Almost a year ago, I devoted this space to a discussion of how growing up around sports was impacting the development of my daughter, Sierra. Given recent events, it seems a good time to provide an update.

Now that Daddy's Little Girl has moved into the terrible two's, we're at that delightful stage of life where learning is taking place almost daily and communication is gradually becoming easier as her vocabulary develops. Of course, one of the most important building blocks to instill in a young mind is the ABC's.

As parents, we've tried a variety of methodologies to help her learn her letters. There's the tried and true singing. The equally tried and true alphabet blocks and kitchen refrigerator magnets. We've entrusted her little eyes and brain to Sesame Street, as well as some videos we happened to stumble across on, of all places, YouTube that she seemed to catch on to.

So I took it with great pride and a sense of achievement when she stood in the living room over a recent weekend, announcing to the world the letter G. This continued on and off throughout the day, puzzling both mom and dad regarding her fascination with the seventh letter of the alphabet.

Don't get me wrong. We were happy, but we were also confused as to why she was skipping over the first six letters, as well as bypassing some that, quite frankly, would seem to be a lot easier for a two-year-old brain to identify. I mean, let's face it, G looks a whole lot like C and Q. Certainly it isn't as unique as, say, the letters I or X or W.

As usual, it was mom's observation powers that finally cracked the mystery. Dad's first clue came when Sports Gal laughed and pointed to the Gatorade commercial playing on the television. Sure enough, further observation throughout the weekend showed that the wee one's lovefest with the letter G did, in fact, coincide with product breaks for the popular sports beverage.

Score one for a marketing executive somewhere.

This isn't the first time product placement has scored a point in the toddler's life. Pepsi's trademark blue and red logo became the “Pepsi ball” long before any other circular-shaped object — including a globe of the Earth —was anything more than just a ball.

As a 2-year old, Daddy's Little Girl has also reached an interactive stage. For some, this might mean waving and saying hello.

For the sports editor's kid, this means that she now feels the need to fist-bump and high-five everyone in sight. Call it a hunch, but I think watching starting lineups at Northwest College athletic events might have something to do with that one.

When she was younger, it used to be fun to lay on my back and bench press Daddy's Little Girl into the air while counting. After a while, she took over the counting process and it became a sort of educational opportunity for her. What could possibly be wrong with that?

I failed to project the dangers of this behavior into the future. She now weighs in the neighborhood of 30 pounds. She can also count to 20. Suddenly, daddy-daughter workouts are featuring a lot more repetitions with a lot more weight on the bar. Dad and mom aren't having as much fun as they once did.

Naturally, Sierra has decided that its her favorite game to play. I believe this proves, once and for all, that the “physical trainer” gene begins to exert dominance at age 2. Just another discovered danger of raising a child around a sports environment.

Once again my thoughts are in knots with lots of plots. They're a disjointed bunch but shouldn't be wasted, so without any further au jus, I offer more brain-droppings:

• For the life of me, I can't fathom why anyone would choose a plain Hershey's bar over Hershey's with Almonds. Why just have chocolate when one can have chocolate and nuts? Sure, conventional wisdom says “Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't,” but I always feel like a nut. By the same token, it's hard to imagine choosing Mounds over Almond Joy, since Almond Joy's got nuts; Peter Paul's Mounds don't!

• Many of life's small annoyances anger me, but two in particular. No. 1: Cold water on my skin or my teeth when rinsing. I would caution any potential suitor, “Never, ever spray me with a hose, no matter how breezy and romantic it might seem at the time.”

No. 2: Forgetting my sunglasses, then having to drive west in the late afternoon with my dog-smudged truck windshield compounding the blinding glare. I know God made the sun and all, but I find its brightness quite annoying.

• Speaking of driving, I feel superior to no one, nor any sense of entitlement. Yet, I'm often irked that others are out driving the same time as me. “Why does this idiot behind me keep turning when I turn? Is he following me or what?” “Why would this moron be entering a drive-thru just seconds before I do? Who orders fast food in the middle of the afternoon, anyway?”

And someone deciding to turn left off Main Street just as I'm trying to enter left from a side street? Infuriating! I mutter, “Why aren't you losers at home or at work doing something productive instead of holding me up from something important? I missed Judge Judy yesterday, and now because of you, today's episode is in jeopardy.”

• Speaking of TV, I caught the end of a segment about a woman's dog that sniffed out her breast cancer in time to save her life.

Anyone who still doesn't get that dogs are heaven-sent, and animal abusers hell-bound, just hasn't been paying attention.

• Speaking of dogs, remember my little Trina that a carpenter backed over on 9/11 and broke her foot and coccyx? I twice canceled appointments to end her misery, once at the last second in tears. I'm giddy to report Trina is on the mend and happier than heck to be alive. Even though it was believed she'd always be incontinent, I left her out of the truck the other day and she sprinted into a grassy area, squatted down and squeezed one out just like old times. I was so dang proud, I just wanted to scoop it up to show all my friends.

• I fear that a middle-aged man's maturity level is in direct correlation to the value he puts on his hair. Sadly, I should probably be throwing water balloons from a roof with Justin Bieber.

Speaking of my hair, it has almost all grown back from that grotesque, “free” haircut I foolishly entrusted to my friend Phoebe, a photographer — NOT a barber. Once again, my hair is shaggy, unkempt and in my face. And I'm loving every minute of it.

• Sans helmet, Green Bay QB Aaron Rogers looks like Aaron Rogers. With a helmet, I'd swear it was Jerry Seinfeld behind the center. Against the Cowboys, I even thought I saw Kramer lined up at tight end.

Speaking of quarterbacks, listen up, Brett Favre: For the love of God and Vince Lombardi, stop acting injured after every unsuccessful play and whining about it all week. We get it: you're a tough, resilient legend who plays through pain. You're also sounding like the Quarterback Who Cried Wolf.

• I think “greatest thing since sliced bread” is an erroneous tribute. Heck, I think I could go on living even if I had to slice my own bread. I buy cheese in blocks and don't feel overly put-upon slicing it for a sandwich. Now, “greatest thing since instant replay” I could get behind. No matter how you slice it, many football games would be unjustly lost if not for instant replay. Pro refs make so many glaring errors that the replay breaks make for a long game, but still, it's brought a sense of fairness back to illegal sports wagering.

• The prediction of the world ending at the close of 2012 because of some Mayan calendar snafu brings me an odd comfort. Since I've been end-phobic for decades, it makes me think, “Whew; it's great to hear we've got two more good years left!”

Speaking of the end, that was it.

SPORTS GUY: Final fall thoughts

The Sports Guy saw the first few hints of snowflakes fluttering down around him earlier this week. Right on cue, another fall sports season has come to a close and the winter seasons are starting to ramp up.

Before we turn the page completely though, I'm cleaning out my closet to make room for those holiday presents with a few final fall thoughts.

• Calling all middle school girls —the Powell High School girls' cross country teams have brought home five consecutive state trophies, including three nice shiny state champion awards in that stretch. Potentially, the team could have as many as four former all-state runners lining up in the starting chute when the season opens next fall.

Granted, I might be displaying a little hometown bias, but in my book, that qualifies you for frontrunner status in the discussion for 2011 state champion.

What the team needs, however, is a little more depth.

The Panthers brought home the hardware this fall by avoiding the injury bug. In a sport that requires five healthy bodies to reach the finish line, there were times during the year that PHS could only line up that many. That's one sprained ankle away from disaster.

So, while there are several sports options for girls in the fall, here's hoping at least a few of this year's eighth grade class will find their way to cross country next fall to help the team keep its run going.

And for those who don't want to run for fun, I hear head coach Troy Hildebrand might not mind an additional golfer or two in order for the Panthers to vie for team awards in 2011.

• Sophomore season —Here's a tip of the ol' ballcap for Northwest College head coach Rob Hill on earning coach of the year honors in Region IX this season. Taking a program from the conceptual stage to the regional championship game in its first season is impressive any way you slice it. The fact that Hill was able to do it despite getting a late jump on the recruiting process was even more noteworthy.

Now comes the fun.

With a full recruiting cycle ahead and eight all-region selections coming back on the men's and women's sides combined, the Trappers have a good foundation for the future. Add to it an anticipated move to a new field closer to campus, which should help attract larger crowds on those great sunny days, and there's no reason not to be looking forward to seeing what Hill and the Trappers trot out onto the field next fall.

• Ready for some football —Falling by three in the first round of the playoffs was a painful way for the season to end, but for the underclassmen on the Powell High School football team, it should also provide motivation.

If 2010 was a question mark season for the Panthers, then 2011 should be an exclamation point sort of year. The team graduates nine seniors this spring, but brings back a host of returning starters and skilled reserve players that should have every fan salivating.

Barring the mother of all defensive performances in this weekend's 3A championship game between Douglas and Buffalo, sophomore Vince Sleep should finish as the state's top defender. The Panthers will have two players back who ranked among the state's leaders in all-purpose yardage at various points this season, offensive and defensive lines that will return virtually intact and a ballhawking secondary that produced a double-digit interception count this season.

That's a nice framework any way you look at it.

If the off-season dedication to the weight room equals the potential displayed on paper, Panther football 2011 should get a lot of people excited. Even for that possible new road trip to Green River.

There's probably more that could be said, faithful reader, but we're out of space here. So let's throw a couple more marshmallows into the hot chocolate mug, sit back and wait to see what the winter has in store.

AMEND CORNER: The rest of the story

There are times when, try as he might, a columnist just can't come up with a good idea for filling the 20 to 25 inches he is expected to produce for the next edition.

For this columnist, this is one of those times. The Muses just haven't visited my computer this week, and my imagination is sort of stuck in neutral.

This is a bit disconcerting, since it's late at night and I have to have this written by Wednesday morning, but it's not actually panic time. In fact, some of my personal favorite columns have been produced in just such a situation.

One time, for example, a flock of geese flew over my house as I was puzzling over what to write, and it inspired a column that I really felt good about. I don't know if anybody else liked it, but I did.

A few weeks ago, I was in a similar situation. It was the political season, but I wasn't in a political mood. I received no help from Canadian waterfowl, or anybody else, for that matter. As a result, I was forced to fall back on something I can always talk about, my family.

Thus was born the column about my grandchildren, Halloween, and my wife's determination to outfit the former for the latter, a project that kept her at her ancient Singer for hours on end.

Now, I have to admit, I was sort of lukewarm about the column when I filed it with the editor. My fellow staff members, who had to read it to make sure I hadn't made any dumb spelling or grammatical errors, said they liked it, but then they usually speak kindly of my work, and I'm sure they are sincere, although they may just be humoring the old coot they have to work with so he won't get too cranky.

I had additional concerns about the column because my real boss, the one who shares living quarters with me, played such a prominent role in the column. I have referred to her, and even featured her, in my column many times over the past 10 years, and she's never gotten upset by it, but, being a bit more reserved than I am, there's always the possibility she won't appreciate the attention this column sometimes draws.

And this one certainly drew attention, and Karen received all of it. A bunch of people have inquired about the work on the costumes and how they were received on the other end.

Surprisingly, she doesn't seem to mind the questions at all. In fact, I think she's gotten a kick out of it. I can tell because she's still fixing my breakfast every morning.

Anyway, it occurred to me that there might be people out there who are haven't had a chance to talk to my wife and are curious about the outcome of the costume caper. For those people, here's the final word.

All four costumes — two owls, one princess and one knight in shining armor — were completed and arrived at their destinations on time. I am happy to report that they all fit, with a bit of adjustment in some cases, and were a big hit with the grandkids. We haven't seen all the pictures as yet, but apparently the princess was beautiful, the owls looked appropriately wise, and the knight in shining armor was dashing, or at least as dashing as you can be when you're only 14 months old and don't even know what a knight in shining armor is. He wouldn't wear the helmet, but since there was no jousting required, that was probably OK.

In short, Grandma's long-distance tailoring project was a complete success, and she is quite happy to talk about it. She has expressed reservations about next year, but I'm betting that, next October, she will again be cranking up the old Singer for another round of grandma work.

Next year, though, I'll try to write about something else. Maybe those geese will show up again.

Until next time...

If it was a Hollywood movie, this would be the point where perseverance and persistance pay off. A season filled with difficulty would be dogpiled under teammates celebrating at center court amid tears of joy.

In a perfect world, that's how this week would go.

But these are the cold, hard streets of reality. Adversity doesn't back down for a fuzzy feel-good tale. Here, the truth is that, barring something exceptional, volleyball season for the defending Region IX North champion Northwest College Trappers will probably come to an end. Quite possibly, the Trappers may have served their final volleyball of the year Wednesday night while the ink was drying on this page.

That was not the script that Trapper head coach Flavia Siqueira saw when she gazed upon Northwest's 2010 season back in early August. Fresh off a national tournament appearance, the Trappers were ranked No. 25 in the NJCAA preseason poll. Siqueira was convinced the ranking was too low and, truth be told, it probably was.

Unfortunately, we'll never know.

The record book will show that the 2010 Trappers finished with a regular season mark of 21-16. In reality, the 2010 Trappers never took the court.

Before Northwest could even step onto the floor to begin its year against Snow College — one of 20 NWC opponents to spend time in the NJCAA rankings this season —injuries started to take their toll. They never stopped.

At the Wyo-braska tournament in mid-September, an opposing coach confided in Siqueira that he wished her team were healthy so he could play her on even terms. She replied that he still could — simply remove three starters from his lineup. Presumably, he declined the offer. After a top-10 program paid a visit to Powell, in a post-match moment of levity, the Mustangs' coach was overheard telling Siqueira her team scared the heck out of him if it ever got healthy.

They could see the difference between what was and what could have been.

At least one of the Trappers' players has been unable to participate much in team practices for more than two months outside of riding an exercise bike and observing. Her use in games has been on an as-needed and an as-you-feel-up-to-it basis. In all, three members of the Trappers' roster are scheduled to undergo knee surgery following the season's end.

That figure happens to equal the number of players on the school's 13-member roster who remained healthy enough to appear in each of the Trappers' 37 regular-season matches. Yes, it really has been that sort of year in these parts — the spirit has been willing, but the body hasn't always cooperated.

That's why, when pairings for this week's Region IX North tournament were announced and fate delivered the final coup de grace by matching the Trappers against Laramie County Community College, a program stripped of 20 wins but still loaded with the bulk of the talent that earned it a top-10 national ranking for most of the season, they simply took the news in stride. To prepare for the game, Siqueira spent the past week practicing six different possible rotations with the Trappers.

Why six? Because, as of Monday evening, she still wasn't certain which players would actually be available when the tournament opened in Glendive, Mont., last night (Wednesday).

That's hardly new. NWC has employed about as many different linueps this season as Rubik's Cube has permutations. Players recruited as setters have learned the finer points of hitting. Players accustomed to primarily living life on the back row have learned a thing or two about blocking and blockers have been pressed into duty as outside hitters.

Some programs preach to kids to learn their job and do it well. This fall, Northwest has pleaded for players to learn each others' jobs out of sheer necessity. Say what you want about the past two seasons, but this arguably may have been Siqueira's best coaching job to date due to the sheer level of creativity required to keep the Trappers winning during this season of attrition.

That fact, most likely, will go unnoticed. Recognition, after all, tends to go to coaches whose teams hold trophies at season's end, not those whose players are seemingly held together with duct tape and baling wire.

As I said, in a perfect world, this would be the weekend where the planets align and a season of hardships would be cast away in a do-you-believe-in-miracles sort of moment. Unfortunately, this isn't a perfect world and we're left to wonder what may have been.

Just when I thought I'd seen all the addicting TV shows, I stumbled onto GEO Channel's “Taboo” on Halloween night. Just when I try to get out, they pull me back in, and this time I almost OD'd on a four-hour-marathon of episodes. I'd say pound-for-pound, “Taboo” is even better than Spike's “1,000 Ways to Die,” or ID Channel's, “Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry.”

Watching such Taboo segments as “Weird Love” and “Misfits” left me feeling downright normal and functional — things I haven't felt in years. Watching these true accounts in the wee hours from my couch in my underwear with two cats purring on my lap as I devoured an entire bag of Cheetos, I said aloud, “Wow; some of these odd ducks are crazier than a pet coon!” I heard my dog Trinity whisper, “You got that right, Dude!”

An hour segment titled “Weird Love” profiled “Doll husbands” — men in serious relationships with latex dolls and mannequins. Some refer to their life-sized girlfriends as “organic partner,” but hey: a rose by any other name smells just as rubbery.

Psychologists call this so-called “abnormal” practice a form of Asperger Syndrome and “Pygmalionism.” “These kind of latex relationships are likely to stunt a man's social development,” one said. Yeah, right! I think that's quite a stretch. Label it what you will … Pygmalianism, Fignewtonism, whatever. To each his own, I say.

My friend Jen Debates affectionately calls me “Asexual Freak Show,” just because I've not dated in five years, but if my cable is ever disconnected, I'd probably get back in action. Unlike these Doll husbands though, I need at least a little live interaction in my romances. If I don't hear something like, “I said ‘stop touching me'!” it just doesn't work for me.

It does work for Howard though, a 37-year-old telemarketer who's legally married to a life-size rubber mannequin he named Shandoray. It was kind of sweet watching him dress her up and taking her out to cuddle on a park bench. Howie carries a picture of Shandoray in his wallet and says he's been with her monogamously for over six years. That's long after she lost that intoxicating “new rubber wife smell,” I'm sure.

An English chap named Everard is a little less morally traditional, as he has nine doll wives. He's seen cooing to his latest conquest, Caroline, “The others can't wait to meet you.” Everard admits he “has trouble with social interaction,” but he sure does some excellent hair and makeup work on his latex harem. When they showed all nine of them together, except for the no-moving/breathing thing, they looked truly alive. I felt guilty admitting to myself that a few of those gals actually bordered on hot!

You know what though? Jen can call me Asexual Freak Show if she wants, but all pet names aside, I'm perfectly happy for now. Sure, I could go out and find some latex tramp any night of the week; I just prefer not to. Sometimes being in an unhappy relationship with the wrong rubber woman can be far more lonely than being all alone.

The episode titled “Misfits” profiled societal rejects who scratch out humiliating, meager livings like “Rat-catchers” in India. But even rat catchers probably look down their noses at Arthur Bort, a British bloke who lives solely on a diet of roadkill. “His supermarket is the highway and his butcher is the car,” the narrator explained. Arthur isn't poor; he just “hates to see protein go to waste and is opposed to livestock grazing.”

Art proudly talks up his roadkill diet, although he does occasionally have to eat crow. But not always, as he was shown scraping up a freshly-flattened Red-Legged Partridge with tire tracks that I guessed was left by an older model Buick. Friends of Arthur's, a normal-looking married couple, were filmed at his table enjoying some of his “Badger Casserole.” Nothing goes to waste in Arthur's kitchen — not even the badger's head, of which Arthur painstakingly nibbled every scant trace of meat.

Watching that feast didn't make me hungry or anything, but let's face it: what we typically eat is just a matter of tradition and conditioning. In some cultures, they eat dog, skunk, and even cauliflower. And lest we forget, they eat horses, don't they?

Observing these Taboo fruitcakes really made me appreciate what I have. Giddy from my Cheetos and Mountain Dew high, I surveyed my two dogs and five cats and said, “I'm glad you guys are real and not made of rubber!”

AN OPEN BOOK: Bonners welcome new hen home

Things are hopping at the Bonner Family Chicken Land. Henrietta, Pearl, Ginger and Waterhead are all laying eggs (more or less regularly and in the correct place).

We recently brought home a new pullet to replace the dearly departed Black Bart. Clarence Anderson, our chicken man in Lovell, called one day, out of the blue, to ask if we were ever going to come get our pullet.

I was surprised to hear from him, but pleased. When we realized several months ago that Gertrude actually should have been named Gerard, the first person I called was Clarence to see if he wanted to swap a rooster for a hen. He told me that three of the five Brahma chicks he bought turned out to be roosters, so, no, he didn't want Gertrude/Gerard back.

I subsequently called another chicken person and arranged to swap our rooster for Ginger. End of story, I thought, though I still really wanted a Brahma hen. Apparently, Clarence and I had some crossed wires somewhere, and I was supposed to have made the trip to Lovell to pick up Gertrude/Gerard's replacement.

When I told Bliss that our weekend plans involved going to pick up a new chicken, she was thrilled.

“Mommy,” she said, “I'm going to name our new chicken Cucumber.”

I agreed, of course — who wouldn't think Cucumber was an excellent name for a chicken? — and on Sunday we headed to Lovell.

When we arrived at Clarence's, we learned he had put our pullet in a separate, smaller cage with another hen so he could easily catch her — apparently, Clarence is not busy making pets out of his flock the way the Bonners are.

So, we transferred Cucumber to our transporting pen, loaded her in the car and we headed home.

About 10 miles down the road, Bliss said, “Mom, I think Cucumber needs a last name.”

I murmured that I agreed, expecting the naming to take a little work. No, it seems Bliss had been thinking about it for a while.

“It's Jamboree,” she said, without missing a beat.

It should come as no surprise that Cucumber Jamboree stuck.

I've yet to hear of a better chicken name!

AMEND CORNER: Changing minds

As you probably have heard, today is Election Day.

Well, at least it is if you are reading this on the day you're supposed to, Tuesday, Nov. 2. Actually, I am writing this on Sunday evening, while waiting for trick-or-treaters.

Writing this column early, of course, means I don't have to comment on the election's outcome, since its outcome hasn't come out as I write this.

Still, as a columnist, I have an obligation to my boss, and besides, if that crowd of pundits on Fox and MSNBC can blather on and on about politics, so can I, and I'll do it for a lot less money.

So here it goes.

The first thing that comes to mind about this election is that it illustrates the extremely fickle nature of the American people. That's not a surprise to anyone who has watched recent history. Every president I can remember, even Ronald Reagan, had public approval poll numbers that went up and down fast enough to give an astronaut motion sickness. Just about anything can fuel these roller coaster rides — military success or failure, sexy interns, slips of the tongue — but usually, the economy is the culprit.

Take our last three presidents, for example. George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton, with a little help from Ross Perot, because of a recession. Remember “It's economy, stupid?”

Toward the end of Clinton's term, the so-called dot.com bubble popped, and the economy slowed down, helping George W. Bush to take the presidency. Then, as that Bush was approaching the end of his term, the economy really took a dive, and that dive was a big factor in the election of Barack Obama. Now Obama is in trouble because he hasn't ended the recession in two years, and people want to throw out his party.

As a people, we are fickle in large part because we have unreasonable expectations of our leaders. We not only expect them to solve our problems, but we expect them to solve them quickly. We don't know exactly what should be done, but we expect something should be done and we should see immediate results. And, of course, they are supposed to do all that without really doing anything that might be considered intruding on our freedoms.

If a president doesn't produce those results, he goes from being Superman to scum in short order.

Presidents and other politicians, of course, bring this on themselves with their promises.

George Bush promised us that all those tax cuts and deregulation would keep the economy humming forever, which it didn't.

Barack Obama made the same mistake during his campaign, promising immediate results through stimulus spending, and most people haven't seen those results as yet.

The result is an angry electorate, giving rise to the other big factor in this election, the Tea Party.

There isn't really anything new about this movement. There have been rebellions by “the people” all through our history, and they have showed up in a variety of ways.

The Tea Party is, in fact, reminiscent of the groups protesting the Vietnam War 40 years ago. Like the Tea Party, those people were anti-establishment and angry at both political parties. Their chant of “Power to the People” sounds an awful lot like the Tea Party's complaint that the government isn't listening to the people. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised that some of the 60ish Tea Party members were among the 20-something protesters back in 1969, although most of them have cut their hair since then.

Once the economy recovers, which I suspect it will, regardless of who wins the election, the Tea Party will disappear, just as the Students for a Democratic Society did when the Vietnam War ended. And even if it survives, it will encounter the same tendency that the Republicans and Democrats have to deal with now: the contradictory wishes of “the people,” who don't want government action, except when they do.

It wasn't all that long ago that people were demanding more action from the government in health care, the economy and the environment. Now, they have changed their minds and want less.

Consequently, it's a pretty safe bet that, whatever the voters decide today, they'll change their minds in the future.
It's just a question of when.

BACON BITS: Make Halloween safe and fun

You've dusted off those fabric ghosts and plastic skeletons. I've dusted off my keyboard and my tap-dancing skills.

With one complete redheaded character costume waiting in my closet, there is only one thing left to do — no, say, no — scream!

TRICK OR TREAT!

Oh yeah, and remind the ghouled folks of Powell to keep an eye on their tricksters and for kiddies to keep an eye on traffic — among other Halloween precautions.

Time and time again, parents are reminded to have visible children — bright costumes, reflective tape on treat bags and flashlights. I have visions of a ghostly-looking fiend with a reflective traffic triangle on his back like a roadside buggy found in Amish country.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers warn against the use of glow sticks because of the irritant dibutyl phthalate, “but rest assured that a taste amount is non-toxic,” said a press release.

Other irritants to be wary of are face paint alternatives that kids will find and think they can use on their faces, such as shoe polish, random paints and other household products.

I ask that parents assist their children if hair styling is on the agenda for the perfect costume. Curling- and flat-iron burns are not fun for anyone, nor is a hairspray shot to the face.

And who could forget sweets and treats?

For fears about bad candy and strange treats, don't trust any apple-toting evil queens. Stay away from fruits, homemade treats and rewrapped candy. OK, you can trust Aunt Betty's famous popcorn ball; it is best if you are well acquainted and trust the maker of special treats.

If you miss the days of simple candies and special treats, think about alternatives, such as zany pencils, wacky erasers or even those hip new awkwardly-shaped bracelets commonly referred to as “Silly Bandz.”

If you chose to keep your kids in a structured candy and fun-seeking environment, there are a few community events. The Powelloween Treat Street takes place Friday afternoon A haunted house is planned at the Park County Fairgrounds Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, Hope Lutheran Church at Avenue H and Cary Street will host “trunk-or-treat.” Local churches will host a Harvest Carnival Sunday at The Commons.

Remember to brush and floss those teeth.

More importantly — have fun.

I'm a registered Republican, and have been all my voting life. While I find myself agreeing with a conservative philosophy (I lean somewhat right of center), I refuse to vote along party lines, especially if I believe a Democratic candidate will do a better job than his or her Republican counterpart.

I'm no fan of partisan politics, and the more polarized our political system gets, the less I like it.

As a state government reporter in Cheyenne for four years (and a general assignment reporter who frequently covered state government issues for three years before that), I grew to admire the majority of lawmakers in the Legislature, most of whom sacrificed a great deal and worked very hard, often for very long hours, to represent their constituents. They truly wanted the best for their constituents, and for the state.

But the experience also served to increase my dislike for partisan politics. Too often, I saw a good idea passed over without consideration because it was proposed by the wrong person, representing the wrong party. On the other hand, there were times when a proposal with fewer merits advanced with little question or challenge because it was proposed by someone noteworthy in the “right” party.

But there were some really exciting moments, too, when I saw lawmakers from both sides of the aisle come together for a good cause.

The best example of that was the passage of the bill that created the Hathaway Scholarship program. It was nothing short of thrilling to see the support for the proposal gather like the proverbial rolling snowball, with Republicans and Democrats alike putting aside politics and mundane matters for a while to envision something that could benefit every qualifying high school student in the state, as well as their families.

While there were disagreements over what the nature of scholarships and their qualifications should be, lawmakers recognized the value of the program as a whole and compromised over their differences to make it come to fruition.

While that kind of cooperation is much more common in our state and local governments than in Washington, D.C., it's still far too rare — and that needs to change.

That change needs to start at the local level, in the mindset of the voters. Instead of voting mindlessly for candidates belonging to one party or another, we need to vote for the person we believe will do the best job — regardless of political affiliation. To do that effectively, we have to do some research and become informed so we know the issues and the candidates, then vote for the person we believe is most qualified and who will perform best in the position.

I am so tired of hearing Republican and Democratic leaders sounding the rallying cry to vote only for members of their parties. That sends a message that all Republicans, or Democrats — regardless of experience, knowledge, skills and personality — are best for the job because they have the right letter behind their name.

That is just wrong. Being a member of a particular party doesn't automatically make a person competent or qualified for a position, and party affiliation isn't always a good indicator of a person's political philosophies. Especially in Wyoming, some Democrats are more conservative than some Republicans.

We need to send a message that we want government to be run efficiently and without regard for party affiliation. We can't do that unless we, as voters, are willing to cross party lines when needed.

Then we need to make it clear that we expect our elected officials to be willing to do the same.

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