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2021 Through our Lens

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William Bruckner sits on a bench with his daughter Kenzlee and son Kayden

William Bruckner sits on a bench with his daughter Kenzlee, 5, while son Kayden, 8, sprawls on the ground as they take a break between runs on Jan. 2 at Meadowlark Ski Lodge. Kenzlee was skiing and her dad and brother were both snowboarding.

The year began with hope: hope for a new vaccine, hope for the end of a pandemic, hope for a return to normal. And for the most part, normal did return. Events from the past happened once again, smiles emerged in school hallways as mask requirements were adjusted and summer returned with several days of record-setting heat. Enjoy some of me favorite images, moments and stories from the last 12 months and thank you for sharing your stories with me and the rest of our county. 

Steve Forsmann rests his American flag on his shoulder

Steve Forsmann rests his American flag on his shoulder while listening to a presentation by Mark Russell on Jan. 6 in Buffalo. Forsmann attended the Buffalo "Stop the Steal" event because he said it was his opportunity to join people across the country talking about the election. Local conversations focused on how to get involved in local and state politics. After Buffalo's event ended, the day earned headlines across the country as the capitol was stormed by protestors in Washington, D.C. 

Jason Humble mops the seats of the bleachers

Kaycee boys basketball varsity head coach Jason Humble mops the seats of the bleachers between the girls and boys games against Upton on Jan. 23. Several attendees left their coats or bags on the seats to save their spot as they were asked to exit the gym for cleaning because of COVID-19. The bleachers were fully sanitized and mopped between games as fans left the gym to allow for quicker cleaning. 

Cassidy Bessler stretches her head around to watch the ball

Buffalo High School freshman Cassidy Bessler stretches her head around to watch the basketball on the other side of the court while laying behind the bench after halftime on Jan. 16. One of the assistant coaches was helping to work out cramps in Bessler’s calves for the second night in a row.

Jalissa and Josh Olsen welcomed triplets into the world

Jalissa and Josh Olsen welcomed triplets into the world in November of 2020, spending the remainder of the year in hospitals across Wyoming, Montana and Colorado helping to treat and protect the babies. They finally settled back home in Buffalo just after the New Year with all three babies healthy and home with the now family of seven.

Kari Mechura, Donnie Terzich and Nora Mullen join the choir in singing the national anthem

From left, first graders Kari Mechura, Donnie Terzich and Nora Mullen join the choir in singing the national anthem for an audio recording on Jan. 19. All of the first grade classes at Meadowlark Elementary School joined together to practice and record their rendition of the song. Normally, the first grade class attends a high school basketball game in person to perform but had to make an audio recording to play over the intercom this year due to COVID-19 precautions. 

Brothers Hugh and Raymond Turk run a third-generation beef and sheep ranch

Brothers Hugh and Raymond Turk run a third-generation beef and sheep ranch just outside of Kaycee. Ranching in the winter presents unique challenges ranging from frigid temperatures to high expenses to emotional isolation. Every rancher has to face these challenges to reach the summer months, and every rancher takes it on in their own way. Here, Raymond spreads some grain on the ground for the bucks before laying out their daily hay while feeding in the morning with Hugh.

Heidi Gustafson pushes her horse Sid forward as they pull teammate Amelia Rothleutner

Heidi Gustafson pushes her horse Sid forward as they pull teammate Amelia Rothleutner across the finish line at Buffalo's skijoring event on Feb. 27. Gustafson pulled two different skiers and won the event with her second rider, finishing with a time of 16.78 sec. This marked Buffalo's first skijoring event and drew riders, skiers and snow boarders from around the region. 

Juan Luna balances a ewe against his leg as he shears

Juan Luna balances a ewe against his leg as he shears off the belly wool before removing the rest of the fleece. It takes a trained shearer about two minutes to shear each animal, with each sheep producing about 10 pounds of raw wool. Luna was working as a member of the Foley shearing crew based out of Kaycee. 

Kollen Milmine has made himself a job of his own

Buffalo High School senior Kollen Milmine made himself a job of his own, using Instagram to resell shoes and Supreme products he purchases online. He has roughly 75 pairs of shoes at home right now, including a few of his own pairs that he keeps in closed, standing containers. He held his favorite personal pair, San Antonio floral print Gucci sneakers, for this portrait, while surrounded by the remaining pairs he has to sell.

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church held their annual Ash Wednesday

St. John the Baptist Catholic Church held their annual Ash Wednesday services during lunch on Feb. 17, with a slightly different look than normal. Instead of the traditional ash cross on the forehead, a small spoonful of ashes were dropped on top of attendees heads before the conclusion of the service. Inspired by COVID-19, the change in ashes was one of several adjustments to services that included blocked off seating and required online registration to attend in-person.

Kenneth Grant has been playing the violin for 13 years

Kenneth Grant has been playing the violin for 13 years and came down from Sheridan to play a memorized part from Carnival of Venice alone in front of an empty Crazy Woman Square on Feb. 2. Grant said he was in town and decided to pull out the instrument and play for a while - a perk of the warm afternoon weather.

The Johnson County Spelling Bee winner Jayson Whipple pauses

The Johnson County Spelling Bee winner, Jayson Whipple, pauses, working out the spelling of his next word on March 2, in the final rounds against Ayva Duarte. Whipple won the bee with the word 'abyss.'

Butch Buff receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

Butch Buff receives his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine during Johnson County Public Health’s weekly drive through clinic on March 12, in front of Cloud Peak Elementary School. Buff said he hopes that the vaccines will help get us back to normal. Drive through clinics became a regular occurrence throughout the summer and fall, encouraging more people to get vaccinated with as much convenience as possible.  

Kadon Boyce ducks out of the way

Buffalo High School freshman Kadon Boyce ducks out of the way as Powell junior Garrett Morris lifts his cleat into the air to trap the ball on March 20 in Buffalo. Morris recovered the ball.

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Left: Gus Mader, left, pushes his friend Heston Geis away from the ball so he can rebound it on March 9 at the Johnson County Family YMCA. The two kept a small basketball with them and raced to the court to shoot during every break in the game.

Right: Buffalo High School senior Hunter Stone fights to recover the rebound through a foul by Lander Valley’s Jonas Calvert during the second half of the third place game in the state tournament on March 11 at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. Stone went six-for-six on free throws and scored 16 points, making him the highest scorer for the Bison.

Kristin Amicarelle, a CSU-Pueblo graduate student, releases a mature bald eagle

Kristin Amicarelle, a CSU-Pueblo graduate student, releases a mature bald eagle on a hilltop on April 23 near the Campbell and Johnson county line. The bird is placed in a crate after being caught. The crate is covered with towels to keep it dark and Kristen likes to play soothing music to also help keep the bird calm. While moving this eagle, the song choice was “Bluebird” by The Head and The Heart. The catch and release were part of a larger attempt to relocate birds away from sheep ranches in the southeast corner of the county. 

Gladys Gunderman closes her eyes and raises her hands

Gladys Gunderman closes her eyes and raises her hands the moment the sun peeks over the horizon during the sunrise service put on by Big Horn Baptist church on Easter Sunday, April 4, in Buffalo. Gunderman has been attending the church since before it started in it’s current location, she said. With certain precautions still in place, the Easter churchgoers were able to return mostly to in-person services around town after last year's remote celebrations. 

Buffalo High School couples and friends joined together on the floor

Buffalo High School couples and friends joined together on the floor for the first slow dance of the night during Prom on April 24. With tables on one side of the gym and games, snacks and photos on the other, the dance floor ran straight up the middle of the basketball court. Prom returned in person this year as COVID-19 numbers remained low throughout the county.

The second group of kids aged 4-6 sprint

The second group of kids aged 4 to 6 sprint under the caution tape and into the field of eggs as their egg hunt time starts on April 4 in the train park. Each egg was filled with candies or snacks and a few special eggs marked the bigger prizes like bikes. This year saw the return of the regular easter egg hunt after a year off due to COVID-19 precautions. 

Joe Brock stands dead center in the middle of the goal

Joe Brock stands in the dead center of the goal while he waits for his teammate to try to score on him on April 21 at Kaycee School. Brock volunteered to be the goalie first and then reminded everyone that the only time they could touch the ball with their hands was if they were the goalie.

Joe Burtenshaw, Sebastian Henry, Triston Peter and Cory Langevin grab teacher Mike Hanson

New West High School graduates from left, Joe Burtenshaw, Sebastian Henry, Triston Peter and Cory Langevin grab teacher Mike Hanson and paraprofessional Eric Anson for photos in the hallway after graduation on May 21 in the Buffalo High School Auditorium. This was New West's inaugural graduation and included 17 students who were individually recognized before receiving their diplomas.

Mary Rhoads works with Trayben Tobiasson, 3,

Mary Rhoads works with Trayben Tobiasson, 3, as he describes how to do an experiment that they learned at the end of story hour on May 13. Rhoads, the former assistant director and a children’s librarian, retired at the end of May after 32 years with the Buffalo library and another five years in Kaycee.

The rainbow circle tent is thrown up in the air by students

A rainbow circle tent is thrown up in the air by students at Cloud Peak Elementary School before the next color, red is called, sending students sprinting from their spot under the tent to another open spot on May 27. The tent activity was one of several set up outside as part of Healthy Me Day at Cloud Peak.

Jayden Ironeyes, the rider for Redman Relay’s youth team representing

Jayden Ironeyes, the rider for Redman Relay’s youth team representing the Northern Arapaho, leans his horse forward as the trio of riders in the youth consolation relay leave the starting line on Sunday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds. Ironeyes finished in a narrow second place, crossing immediately behind the champion, Cliff Kemmer Jr., who rode for the Blackfoot team Little Buffalo Runners.

Jennie Gordon, First Lady of Wyoming, left, shovels dirt

Jennie Gordon, First Lady of Wyoming, left, shovels dirt around one of the first trees to be planted in the new community orchard alongside school board trustee Lynette Fox, center, and Scott Musselman, Boys and Girls Club Director of Operations, on June 1. The trees were planted in the corner lot between the school administration building and the Boys and Girls Club along the edge of the golf course.

Adam Stoltenburg, 3, reaches up to grab ahold of an air hole

Adam Stoltenburg, 3, reaches up to grab ahold of an air hole as he climbs his way back up the ramp in a livestock trailer on June 18. Stoltenburg was one of the many kids who attended the 4-H carnival and fundraiser held to kick off the summer at the fairgrounds. The trailer was brought for kids to walk in and learn about how livestock are hauled in the multilayer space.

The Robinson Canyon fire kicked off Johnson County's fire season

The Robinson Canyon fire kicked off Johnson County's fire season early, and required the help of regional fire teams to support local crews on the large and difficult fire. Similar to a larger camp set up in Buffalo, the forward operating base set up closer to the Robinson fire and consisted largely of tents for the crew working on the fire. The FOBs are set up far from the fire to protect the camp and resources in it and hopefully avoid having to move the camp.

Caiden Flynn races between two pick-up riders

Caiden Flynn races between two pick-up riders after his horse turned back toward him and the gate during the bareback riding competition on June 18 during Chris LeDoux Days weekend. Flynn was one of six riders in the bareback contest, kicking up billows of dusts as the sun set behind the stands.

Jacob Frausto, 3, slides down the blow up water slide

Jacob Frausto, 3, slides down a blow-up water slide as twins Jalen and Johnny, 9, right, and sister Ezmy, 8, watch and climb up the stairs on June 5. The kids were cooling off in the cold water and taking breaks occasionally to warm up in the sun. Kids around town were turning to hoses, creeks and any source of water they could find to cool off in the record setting heat that settled over town.

Jaimie swapped horses midday

Jaimie Curuchet made sure each horse got time to graze after helping move sheep through Kaycee in early June. When the Curuchet’s moved their sheep through town, they only moved in the morning, but once they made it through town, they planned to move both in the morning and the evening when temperatures were low.

Horses graze below Cloud Peak in the Cloud Peak Wilderness

Horses graze below Cloud Peak in the Cloud Peak Wilderness during a summer packtrip for the Freise family. 

Bella Johnson, 17, laughs as her two sparklers

Bella Johnson, 17, laughs as her two sparklers come to life in her driveway on July 4. Bella and her family were outside playing with sparklers, smoke bombs and poppers as the sun quickly faded. Dry conditions came with a ban on large scale fireworks, but small options like smoke bombs and sparklers were popular around town. 

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Ecotourism is a strong industry throughout Johnson County, working to support local economies while educating locals and guests alike on how to best use the outdoor spaces that surround us. 

Left: Steve Packard picks up a couple of saddle pads as he finds the next horse to saddle before a morning ride to take a group of fishermen back down the mountain. The Flatiron Lake Camp is packed in and set up in mid-June — depending on snowpack — and will come out around Labor Day weekend to avoid early snowfall. Packard is one of several Johnson County locals to help Adam Todd and Black Tooth Excursions over the summer. 

Center: Dan Towsley, right, grabs his bag and supplies from the car after fixing up all the guests fly rods during a half day trip in late July on Grouse Mountain. Visiting from out of state, family friends Ed and Mary Clark, left, and Debbie and Chris Baum have been coming to Paradise Guest Ranch for several years to fish.

Right: Arvil Nagpal looks up to the top of the rock he climbed after returning back to the ground in excitement because he made it all the way up. Nagpal had climbed some in a gym but hadn’t done any outdoor climbing, so working with a guide was an exciting way to find the best spots and safely get some experience outside. 

A melted popsicle laid flat on the edge of two sidewalk squares

A melted popsicle lays flat on the edge of two sidewalk squares on Main Street on July 24. This summer had a number of record-setting hot temperature days that had people around the county looking for shade, cold water and cool snacks.

The first performance of the Bluegrass show brought the song

The first performance of the Bluegrass show after the county's annual kids Bluegrass camp featured the song “Will the Circle be Unbroken,” performed by the group calling themselves The Adamites on July 16 on the Occidental's backyard stage. The showcase featured all the new skills the kids learned during the week at the camp, ranging from songwriting to new instruments to singing. The group was announced by Adam Greuel, a member of the teaching staff and a member of multiple bands.

Black Tooth Excursions is one of several outfitting groups

Black Tooth Excursions is one of several outfitting groups that work to pack in fisherman during the summers in the Bighorn National Forest. The horse and mule teams make it possible to carry more gear farther into the mountains faster. 

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Top: Kade Benton walks his steer around the ring as he kicks off the Johnson County Livestock Sale on Aug. 7. Benton raised and showed this year’s Grand Champion Overall winner in market beef, granting him the first spot in the sale ring.

Left: Recent BHS graduate Laurel Rozema scratches the head of one of the ewes while the younger shepherds learn about using the shearers to fit the ewes for show. Laurel was the most senior member of the FFA shepherds program this year, a program that creates opportunities for students to participate in raising livestock for fair. Laurel stood the ewe up on a stand and played with her ears and head to keep her still while the other shepherds learned how to shave the ewe’s stomach and back.

Right: Kelby Escoz, 9, rubs the chest of his red star chicken, Fluffy, during poultry showmanship during fair. Kelby whispered to his chicken throughout the class saying, “You can’t give up on me now!” Escoz was proud to say she didn’t give up on him.

Christian Nelson sits in the rocking chair while his teacher Alicia LaVigne

Christian Nelson sits in a rocking chair while his teacher Alicia LaVigne takes a picture for his backpack hook on Aug. 18 at Meadowlark Elementary School. Kindercamp, an annual school year preview for first year students, returned in-person and without masks this fall as the school year began.

Colton Gonka, Casper, thumbs through a bible from atop the bike

Colton Gonka, Casper, thumbs through a bible from atop the bike during the bible verse race on Aug. 21. The Wyoming Christian Motorcycle Association held their annual weekend meetup in Buffalo this year for the first time in years. The event included rides around the area, games, prayers and planning for the rest of the year. In the game, riders had to race on one of the two small bikes across the parking lot, find the chosen verse in the bible that was handed to them and then race back.

Brandi Carder, right, stands with County Commissioner Bill Novotny

Assistant deputy clerk Brandi Carder, right, stands with County Commissioner Bill Novotny to deliver the results of the special election on Aug. 17, in the Commission chambers at the Courthouse. The election featured only one ballot issue, recorded a total voter turnout of 56.9% and the proposed bond issue failed.

Bryce Camino joins 12 other teammates in holding American flags

Buffalo High School sophomore Bryce Camino joins 12 other teammates in holding American flags before the start of the home game on Sept. 10, in honor of 9/11 and to recognize the 13 servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan in late August.

Sorting cattle for the Purdy Ranch

From left, Kenny Fox, Boe Roduner, Gordon Taylor and Traven Taylor help sort cattle for the Purdy Ranch on Sept. 24. A crew of ranch employees, friends and neighbors started the day in Buffalo at 6 a.m. before driving into the Bighorn Mountains and spending the day sorting and loading cattle after a summer grazing on the mountain. 

Craig Johnson points out the inflated Rainier beer

Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series, points out the inflated Rainier Beer bottle on top of his truck to Buffalo residents Stephanie Mundle and Rich Carlson on Sept. 3, before the start of the 5K and mile events. Longmire Days brought some guests to town as a handful of events returned in person, however, the majority of the festivities remained online due to COVID-19 precautions. Mundle and Carlson moved here from Arizona, originally wanting to explore Wyoming because of Johnson’s books.

Brinley Howe watches the older kids play a game

Brinley Howe watches the older kids play a game behind her goal while the kindergarteners stay on the opposite side of the field on Sept. 30, on the fields next to Meadowlark Elementary School. Howe was one of the kindergarten players and one of the first kids to volunteer to play goalie.

Ryan Davis, 11, laughs as he takes a photo with his mom Shanda Wright

Ryan Davis, 11, laughs as he takes a photo with his mom, Shanda Wright, in the Oktoberfest sign on Sept. 11. The photo backdrop was set up right by the front entrance and had the Crazy Woman Square stage as a backdrop to the backdrop. The event started with a recognition for 9/11. 

Bindi Hill and Quinn Taylor walk through the huddle of football players

Kaycee High School senior attendants Bindi Hill and Quinn Taylor walk through the huddle of football players as they are announced as homecoming royalty on Oct. 8. Ten students were recognized at the game for being homecoming royalty and were also recognized during Thursday’s parade.

Maddison Bartlett holds Grace Kaiser

Buffalo High School attendant Maddison Bartlett holds Grace Kaiser, 6, after the parade ended and photos were taken on Oct. 4. Kaiser was enjoying a red sucker she got during the parade while hanging out with Maddison.

Debra Brown pushes her mower

Debra Brown pushes her mower as she tries to mulch up the fallen leaves in her yard on Oct. 2 in Buffalo. Brown said she hopes that by mulching the leaves she will be able to avoid sacking them - something she really doesn’t enjoy. The long fall season and moderate temperatures kept the golden leaves on trees around the county well into October. 

Tom Martin was about an hour into shoveling

Tom Martin was about an hour into shoveling and his beard and eyebrows were already riddled with snow on Oct. 12. Martin didn’t want to wait and let too much snow pile up, so he started shoveling Tuesday morning even though he is just staying home for the day. When asked about the day ahead, Martin said he would shovel more and was “going to watch some TV and read some books, consume too much food and just enjoy the day with my wife.” He wanted to take his French bulldogs for a walk because they love snow but was afraid the snow would be too deep already for them.

Former Police Chief Jason Carder thanks everyone

Former Police Chief Jason Carder thanks everyone for attending and for the years of friendship and work together during his potluck retirement party on Oct. 27. Carder is retiring after roughly 25 years with the department and finished his last day on Friday.

Daphne Lavigne, left, and Keegan Money stand at attention