NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Former Gillette man sentenced on game violations dating to 2003

GILLETTE (WNE) — A former Gillette resident must serve two months in jail and pay more than $50,000 in fines and restitution for big game violations dating back to 2003.

Robert Underwood, 76, pleaded no contest to seven gaming violations in Circuit Court on Friday morning. He had been charged with 35.

Underwood, who now lives in Jones, Oklahoma, was sentenced to 60 days in jail and had his hunting and fishing privileges suspended for life. He also must pay $52,540 in fines and restitution and serve six years of unsupervised probation.

Underwood pleaded no contest four counts of killing a game animal without a license or during a closed season, one count of acting as an accessory to illegally killing a game animal, one count of taking more than the limit of big game animals, and one count of violating a commission order by killing a bobcat during a closed season and without a license.

Underwood is one of three people charged in the four-year investigation that involved not only local Game and Fish wardens, but investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who obtained federal search warrants and conducted searches on homes in Alabama, Oklahoma and South Dakota, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

Dustin Kirsch, an investigator with Wyoming Game and Fish and the former game warden for south Gillette, said Underwood and co-defendant Russell Vick “wantonly destroyed Wyoming wildlife” with no respect for laws or regulations.


Crowd limit of almost 3,000 approved for Stampede

CODY (WNE) — The Cody Stampede Rodeo on July 1-4 has been approved to seat nearly 3,000 people – 45% of capacity in each seating area – a huge boost from the current limit of 600 people, as Cody Nite Rodeo is allowed initially.

Stampede president Mike Darby said the board’s exemption request to seat 2,835 people was approved Friday by state public health officer Alexia Harrist.

“I am supportive of this event occurring as stated in the plan,” she wrote in her note approving the request. “As much as face coverings can be encouraged for all attending the event, that would be appreciated. Good luck with the rodeo and I hope that it is a success.”

The rodeo grounds seat more than 5,000 people so the new occupancy limit still allows for much more spacing. There are also hand sanitizer and masks available. 

“We feel that we can hold an event that is safe and that will not contribute to the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” the board wrote in its request.

It also noted that, unlike the Nite Rodeo that regularly attracts many summer tourists, Stampede attendance is roughly 97% local.

“Our community fully supports this event, and allowing more of our locals to attend as they are accustomed to doing, is vitally important to help boost moral and demonstrate our economy is on its way to recovery in these challenging times,” the board wrote. “Holding our Stampede Rodeo and allowing our community to safely gather is a sign of hope, a reflection of our freedoms and a chance to rebuild unity, promote community spirit and our western lifestyle.”


State historic site sees increase in visitors

SHERIDAN (WNE) — Record numbers of visitors flocked to Wyoming State Parks in April and May, and one Sheridan-area state historic site is now beginning to see an uptick in visitors after opening nearly two months later than usual.

Despite not opening until May 29, Trail End State Historic Site has already had 1,905 visitors as of June 17, according to Superintendent Sharie Shada.

“This includes not only inside the museum but those who use our grounds (daily walks, picnics, YMCA camp activities, small birthday parties), as well as those who were here for the Bots Sots remount horse sale,” Shada said.

During the month of June 2019, Shada said Trail End had 2,730 total visitors, or an average of 91 per day. So far in June 2020, that average is up to 112 per day.

The increased numbers are occurring, even with strict social distancing measures in place at the site. Currently, groups of 10 people or fewer who come to the museum together are being admitted in 15-minute increments. If two groups arrive at the same time, one has to wait outside.

There is also a designated route inside the museum, so groups don’t run into each other on their tour.

Shada said the historic site’s grounds stayed open and were heavily used throughout the pandemic, and only the museum was closed for a period of time.


Old jeans bring $8,470 in auction

POWELL (WNE) — Vintage jeans can be a hot item. 

How about hot as in $700 a pair? That’s the price that a lot of 12 pair of vintage jeans averaged in an online auction sale from the Forest Wichern Homestead on the South Fork, which closed June 18. The total paid for the 12 pair was $8,470. 

Travis Swenson of Swenson’s Auctions of Powell managed the sale of items at the Wichern homestead at 390 Lower Southfork Road. He said the purchaser of the jeans was a reseller for an overseas market. 

“I had movie prop producers from New York to Texas to Oregon bidding,” Swenson said. 

The makers of the jeans included Levi, Wrangler and Lee. The vintage jeans were from the 1950s and 1960s, “maybe even the 40s,” Swenson said. “They were very worn.” 

The uniqueness that made the old jeans so valuable “had to do with the rivets on the Levis, the Blue Bell emblem on the tag inside the pants on the Wranglers and the type of zipper on the Lees,” he said. 

There’s a lesson to be learned, Swenson advised: “Don’t throw your stuff away.” Then he added with a chuckle: “Call Swenson’s Auctions.”