By on March 31, 2015

PROPSFistbumpThe cowboy rides away

News of the death of Mason Tibbs is hard to swallow. Tibbs was a true cowboy legend. I had always heard he was a nephew or some distant relative to the famed rodeo cowboy Casey Tibbs. He never talked about it, really.

I rode, worked and drank alongside Tibbs on many occasions. He was a one-of-a-kind waddie with the mustache to prove it. Tibbs rode for the Upper Green River Cattlemen’s Association for a few seasons, looking after cows on the open range and keeping them from the jaws of wolves and grizzlies. He drove heavy machinery for Evans, “caretaked” at Crescent H, and, most recently, worked at the transfer station. He was a talented cowboy poet as well.

I remember the time Mason and I saddled up one spring near Kelly. We crossed the Gros Ventre on frisky mounts with four or five dogs in tow. We failed to recognize we were on Elk Refuge property, or at least were keen to turn a blind eye to the fact. We came upon rack after rack of magnificent elk antler sheds. We made note of where they were to return and gather them. Then we found a dead bald eagle, his feathers scattered about. Mason dismounted and stuck one of the feathers in his hat.

Later, we noticed a group of horseback riders far off in the distance.

“I don’t know where we are,” Mason said. “We might be on the Refuge. Let’s go ask them if they know where we are.”

040115propsmasontibbsWe lit out for that bunch at a full gallop. When we skidded up to the group, their horses shied and jigged, and everyone seemed quite perturbed. Yes, we were on the Refuge and, no, we were not allowed to be there. Not on horses and certainly not with dogs.

“Well then my next question is probably answered,” Mason said. “We were going to ask if we could come back with a four-wheeler and collect the sheds we found near the river. There was too much to carry a-horseback.”

“You two clowns go back and trailer your horses and report to my office,” said the lead rider, his face reddening with composed rage. It was Refuge manager Barry Reiswig, now retired, who was leading a group of sightseers. “I’m trusting you on your honor to show up.”

We reported to the office, tails between our legs, for the undressing we knew was coming. Better to just take our licks, we thought, and throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.

Reiswig let us have it, saying, “we should have known better,” and, “what kind of imbeciles would think it’s alright to ride roughshod all over the Elk Refuge.” He asked for the location of the antlers and exactly where we were. When we explained the area, Reiswig turned another shade of scarlet.

“That area is a highly sensitive eagle nesting zone,” Reiswig blurted. “There is to be no human presence in there whatsoever. We are not even allowed to go in there. We’ve been monitoring one banded eagle in particular that nests in there.”

“Not anymore,” Mason said, slowly removing the feather from his hat and tucking it in his back pocket.

We got off with a warning.

Adios, amigo. Vaya con Dios.

DISSTongueGrave Grove overrun DISS

The budget overrun on the Grove Affordable Housing Project is embarrassing. Building costs are forever on the rise but how the Teton County Housing Authority botched this one is hard to imagine. A reported 36 percent increase in construction costs along with another $1 million jump in site expenses and a $2 million spreadsheet error all sound like sloppy accounting by the housing authority.

Is this why Christine Walker bolted from the authority, leaving Stacy Stoker to mop up the mess? Walker continues to stay involved, saying she wants to see the project through, but she and the rest of the staff at the housing authority need to explain to electeds and the public exactly how they’ve put themselves into this jam.

The cost of steel is often a driving factor in why construction budgets get blown but it’s hard to believe the economy has recovered significantly enough to warrant a 36 percent escalation in fewer than three years. Globally, steel prices have climbed out of the funk the recession put them in. John Anton, manager of IHS Steel Service, told My Purchasing Center that an approximately $500 billion annual spend rate pre-recession fell to about $330 billion, and now it’s up to about $410 billion.

Treasurer Donna Bauer said the authority wasn’t being deceptive with their numbers, just unrealistic. A formula was flawed. It’s not surprising to believe the authority wanted to paint a rosy picture of its biggest project to date but a pipe dream doesn’t house worker bees and neither will the Grove this summer.

“I shouldn’t have to go home and review your math,” commissioner Barb Allen said. The 68 units that could provide homes for 100 people or more are unlikely to be on the ground when they’re needed most.

Tim Rieser, a retired builder has been outspoken in his criticism of the debacle. He’s not alone. Rebidding seems like more trouble than it’s worth. Finishing phases II and III will probably have to be done at any cost. Nobody wins. Combined with the expense of fixing Budge Drive and the recently cancelled Hill Climb, it feels like Jackson Hole has fallen out of favor with the forces that have always helped make this a charmed community.

About Jake Nichols

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