After Obama’s inauguration, Cheney will be out in the cold


The winter my wife and I packed our family and moved from my hometown in Casper, Wyo., to take a newspaper job in the relatively balmy climes of Illinois had been a tough son of a gun.

For starters, in January of that year, 1984, the temperature hadn’t risen higher than 15 below zero for over a month. That’s 15 below zero before you factor in the wind chill factor the weather people are so fond of factoring on the East Coast.

But since the wind blows constantly out there, 20 to 30 mph most days — all day — the wind chill factor makes it colder in Casper than most places in Siberia.

In order to survive, you adapt. You never go outside without a scarf or muffler, for example, because the cold can freeze your lungs in a couple of minutes. If you get stuck in back country, you know the best way to avoid becoming an unhappy Popsicle is to stay with your vehicle. You also know which parts of the vehicle to burn first in order to keep warm and send a smoke signal about your location.

If you’re a true hiveranno, you know better than to wear blue jeans if you’re going to be outdoors for long. When it comes to retaining heat, denim is just about the least effective material there is.

At night when you come home from work, you remember to plug in your car’s block heater. That keeps the engine from freezing overnight, but it makes for some funny scenes when people forget to unhook the extension cords before driving off in the morning. They look ridiculous cruising down the street with a hundred feet of orange, snaky extension cord flopping along behind them.

“There goes Old Marge, dragging her extension cord again,” we’d say to each other. “That’s about the fifth time this month. She’s spending so much on extension cords, she’d be better off just springing for a heated garage.”

Winter in Wyoming ain’t for the faint of heart, but after we moved away we tended to romanticize it a bit and always thought we’d move back there one day.

That was until we had to go back in January a few years ago for my mother’s funeral. And the morning of the funeral, as we were standing in front of the Holiday Inn, we realized we’d turned into weather weenies.

My full-length wool topcoat was having such trouble keeping out the wind it felt like I was wearing fishnet stockings over my whole body. And my tastefully thin leather and cashmere gloves might as well have been fashioned from chunks of ice harvested from the nearby Platte River.

I looked at my wife, dressed in a skirt and hose, and realized her lips were turning blue.

“No way,” she said to me through chattering teeth, and I knew exactly what she was talking about (there was an unladylike expletive in there between no and way, but I can’t print it in a family newspaper). There was no way we were ever, ever, spending another winter in Wyoming. When we visit these days, we go in the warm weather months or in the fall, like the rest of the tourists.

I bring all this up because in this morning’s New York Times, I read that after the inauguration of Barack Obama, Lord Voldemort Cheney (Dick to his friends, Mister Dick to his enemies) is moving back to our old hometown of Casper. He’s apparently doing this in February, the coldest month of the year.

It gives me almost indescribable pleasure to think that soon, very soon, this awful man will be out in the cold, figuratively and literally.

People in Casper will no doubt welcome him back (it might be the only place in the continentalUnited States where he is welcome) because they’re loyal and they respect a hometown boy who made good (the “making good” part is up for debate).

But while he’ll probably have a driver, the weather in Wyoming in winter is the great equalizer. Once he gets bundled up in enough down to heat a whole flock of geese, he’ll look even more portly, even more like former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, from whom I suspect Mister Dick was separated at birth. And the thought of him trailing a hundred feet of extension cord behind his Lincoln Town Car has kept me chuckling all morning (he could spring for a heated garage, but I know for a fact that he’s a cheapskate, so he probably won’t).

Then, of course, there’s the fact that living in Wyoming is going to be a challenge for the Secret Service guys and gals who protect him.

For starters, there are no restrictive gun laws in Wyoming, and it’s legal to carry a gun almost anywhere, except a bank or a courthouse. Lots and lots of people own and carry firearms out there, and if a well-armed society is a polite society, as Confederate Gen. George Pickett reportedly opined, Wyoming is among the most polite societies on Earth.

One time, the Queen of England came to visit the small town in Wyoming where they raise her polo ponies, and she came in October at the height of deer season.

“There won’t be any armed people around here, will there?” one of her security people was said to have asked.

“Buddy,” a local cop is said to have told him, “everybody will be armed.”

The scene during the queen’s visit was fairly amusing, with security people armed with sniper rifles on all the rooftops, and hunters with deer rifles on the streets below, each side glaring at the other.

A few years ago when Dick Cheney came to address the Wyoming Legislature, the Secret Service made the state senators and representatives check their weapons at the door before his speech. The politicians grumbled, but they eventually complied.

“You wouldn’t have believed it,” a reporter friend told me. “The Secret Service collected so many guns it looked like our Legislature was getting ready to invade Somalia.”

I don’t think Dick has anything to worry about in our old hometown because, as I said, people sort of like him there. But the thought of all those armed people will make his security team more nervous than cats in a roomful of rocking chairs.

At least if they have to throw him to the ground to protect him, he’ll have enough down padding on to prevent bruising.

Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at