Cowboys can't really afford to be stupid.
The nature of the job–and yes, it is still a job in many parts of the west–is such that a single dumb decision can wipe you out for the year, if not for good. It's not enough to be able to throw a lasso and ride a horse (most use pickups or ATV's the majority of the time anyway). A cowboy must be a pragmatic combination of business owner, veterinarian, day-laborer, meteorologist, accountant, EMT, outdoor survivalist and mechanic, among other things.
An even disposition, a working knowledge of Spanish and the ability to communicate effectively with everyone from bankers and lawyers to the guy who shovels shit out in the barn is helpful, too.
The state of Wyoming prides its cowboy heritage. It's right there on their license plates, and at the 50-yard line at the University of Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium. The Frontier Days rodeo in Cheyenne is one of the biggest in the world, and working cattle ranches still cover a good chunk of the state's sprawling and beautiful landscape.
So it's a bit bewildering why a state full of people for whom intelligent, do-it-yourself pragmatism is as much a survival tool as a philosophical outlook have consistently terrible—or just plain weird—candidates for public office.
Some, like GOP gubernatorial candidate Taylor Haynes, a retired rancher and urologist who is looking to open up the state's national parks—including Yellowstone and Grand Teton—up to timber and mining development, and who says he'll jail any federal officials that dare to enforce federal laws in the state of Wyoming for "impersonating a law enforcement officer in Wyoming," have gotten a fair amount of attention for their constitutionally-illiterate brand of lunacy.
But as primary election day approaches, still more problematic candidates are coming out of the woodwork.
Take, for instance, Wyoming House candidate and Tea Party leader Charles M. Cloud, who is steadfastly against the idea of early childhood education, but appears to be all for gratuitous and factually-incorrect Hitler references.
Cloud is challenging GOP Rep. David Northrup for the Wyoming House District 50 seat from the Bighorn Basin, home to the state's most active Tea Party organization (they had none other than conservative guitar hero, legendary pants-shitter and statutory rape-enthusiast Ted Nugent perform at their most recent gathering a few weeks ago). Northrup previously defeated Cloud for the seat in 2012 by less than 100 votes.
According to the Casper Star-Tribune, Cloud called out Northrup in a debate on Wednesday over Northrup's support of a measure that would study (but not implement) pre-kindergarten programs for children ages 0-3.
"First of all, the 0 to 3 thing should scare people because I remember Hitler was the one that said, 'Give me a child until he's 3, and he will be mine forever,'" Cloud said. "And I, sir, want to educate my own child from 0 to 3. I do not want the state."
If this is the case, then Cloud's child may be doomed in terms of his education—because Adolf Hitler never said that. In fact, nobody really ever said that. It's a misreading of a quote incorrectly attributed to Soviet leader Vladmir Lenin that researchers say was actually generated in the 1950's by either longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover or Ezra Taft Benson, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight Eisenhower.
That's right–it's a compound fuck-up of a Cold War-era anti-Communist propaganda message.
Anyway, Cloud also reportedly called Northrup "stupid" and "spineless," but according to the Star-Tribune he did acknowledge that he may have misquoted the leader of the German Third Reich, which is somewhat ironic on many levels–especially given that Hitler's anti-intellectual views on education actually dovetail nicely with the notion that early childhood education is a bad idea.
"I will have no intellectual training," Hitler once wrote. "Knowledge is ruin to my young men."
But as fascinating as Cloud's views on education and Hitler may be, at least it can be said that he is an actual human being who definitively resides in this realm of existence.
That's not necessarily the case for one James "Coaltrain" Gregory, from parts unknown, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Mike Enzi in the August 19 GOP primary.
According the Jackson Hole News and Guide, nobody has ever actually seen, met or even heard about the mysterious "Coaltrain"—including anybody in the Teton County GOP establishment.
"Oftentimes Republicans who are interested in office come to me to talk," county chairman TR Pierce told the News and Guide. "They say, 'I'm James "Coaltrain" Gregory and I'm thinking about running,' and I say, 'Tell me about yourself, why are you running?' But I've never met James Gregory."
State election officials say that Gregory filed to run for office on May 20 using the state's online system, paying the $200 fee with a credit card.
But beyond that and a Jackson Hole post office box, Gregory remains a complete mystery—as attempts to contact him through the phone number and email address provided to the state when he filed to run for office have gone unanswered.
"I think he must be a kook," said one GOP official of the eerily absent Gregory.
In my mind I like to think of Gregory as a troubled spirit trapped between worlds, wandering through the halls of Congress trying desperately to attach a rider to a defense authorization bill that will free him from his eternal purgatory.
But I imagine that most folks in Wyoming probably don't care one way or another. After all, in a state full of tea partiers, national park-hating penis doctors, anti-education Hitler misquoters and road-melting supervolcanos it can be hard to get too worked up over a Republican ghost named "Coaltrain" running for the U.S. Senate.
Cowboys have to be pragmatic about things like that.
Image via AP