Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Laramie

Updates available here, here and here.

The Administration of the University of Wyoming have decided to close the Geological Museum due to a funding shortfall. Despite continuing to lavish millions upon millions of tax dollars on a lack-luster-to-losing Division 1-A Athletic Program, the Administration has tried to reconcile this shameful misallocation of funding as loss of Bowl and television revenue, loss of tradition and loss of long-standing inter-collegiate rivalries.

Well wah-fucking-wah.

What about the 122-year tradition of excellence at the UW Geological Museum?  What about the thousands upon thousands of primary, secondary and college students who annually come to the museum to have their curiosity nurtured, scholastic experiences enriched and their intellects stimulated?  What about the hundreds and hundreds of families who visit the museum each year who otherwise would not come to Laramie and spend money in the local economy?

In fact, revenues from athletics does not come close to compensating the residents of the State of Wyoming for the millions and millions of tax dollars in real cost these programs suck in–just look at the waste of many millions in the new stadium sky boxes as just a single example.  The details of this bait-and-switch deviousness can be found in the UW budget numbers (see for example here: and here: and the thinly disguised misinformation-as-rationale here (

If we can flush millions away on a robust, if dismally-performing, athletic program, can we not find a couple hundred thousand dollars to keep the successful and popular Museum funded?

Provost Myron Allen proposes his plans for the UW Geological Museum here (  Although a brilliant mathematician and otherwise decent guy, Dr. Allen’s proposal for closing the museum manages to be simultaneously short-sighted, amateurishly incomplete and maddeningly misleading.

In a personal e-mail, Dr. Allen assured me that Christian intolerance, religious superstitions and irrational creationist beliefs played no part in the closing of the Museum.  However, a quick survey shows that such scientific illiteracy and non-reality-based belief systems are rife among many of the the UW Trustees as well as some Members of the Wyoming State Senate and House of Representatives; perhaps this explains the lack of vociferous opposition to this obscene and perverse misallocation of University resources.

The fact that, in this day and age, in this state, so many University Trustees, Senators and Congressmen do not understand the value of a Museum, the fundamentals of science nor even subscribe to any modern notion of science, underlines emphatically and exactly why this University has an absolute ethical responsibility and urgent need to keep this museum open.

Perhaps it is not possible for non-scientists (such as the UW President and Provost) to understand the importance of science museums, but science and technology only grow though fostering early interest in young students–this is done primarily through programs like the UW Geological Museum. Every time Drs. Buchannan or Allen listen to their iPod, check their schedules on their handheld, email their colleagues or microwave popcorn to eat while watching their plasma screen Televisions, perhaps they should stop and consider the enormous debt Americans pay daily to scientists and engineers developing and refining new technology to produce new products.  Scientists and engineers who chose, and excel at, their professions precisely because as children they had access to, and were captivated by, programs such as the UW Geological Museum provides.

Or perhaps it is our job to remind Dr. Buchannan and Allen of their debt and responsibility to the future.  Below are a list of the most essential people for you to contact and express your outrage at an institution that is willing to pour millions and millions and millions of tax dollars, year after year, into losing athletic programs that produce nothing, while letting a successful, brilliant and beloved academic program, such as the UW Geological Museum, die simply to save a couple measly hundred thousand dollars.  It is clear to even the most casual observer that this is not in the best interests of the people of Wyoming, nor in the spirit of academic excellence to which UW claims to aspire, nor even in keeping with the simple recognition that these men are responsible for preserving for the future the best parts of the present at UW.

Drs. Buchannan and Allen, if allowed to carry through with this hideous misallocation of tax money, are failing miserably at all three tasks.

I am reminded of how Winston Churchill is reported to have once characterized a similar caliber decision: “Save us from the maliciously ignorant and the aggressively stupid!”


Sincerely and with hope-

Donald B. MacGowan, PhD

For MORE go here and here.

Important UW email Addresses:
President of the University of Wyoming
Tom Buchannan

Provost of the University of Wyoming
Prof. Myron Allen, Provost

Chairman, Department of Geology and Geophysics
Prof. Art Snoke

State Geologist
Dr. Ronald C. Surdam

Governor of the State of Wyoming
Governor Dave Freudenthal

Letters to the Editor:

University of Wyoming Trustees:
Jim D. Neiman

Warren A. Lauer

Dave Bostrom

Dick Davis

Betty Fear

Taylor Haynes, M.D.

David F.  Palmerlee

Bradford S. Mead

Ann Rochelle

James Trosper

Ex Officio Trustees:
Jim McBride

Kelsey Day

Elected Officials:
Members of the Wyoming House of Representatives
Representative Rodney “Pete” Anderson

Representative George Bagby

Representative Joseph M. Barbuto

Representative Rosie Berger

Representative Stan Blake

Representative Dave Bonner, Jr.

Representative Bob Brechtel

Representative Kermit C. Brown

Representative Edward A. Buchanan

Representative James W. Byrd

Representative Richard L. Cannady

Representative Seth Carson

Representative Pat Childers

Representative Roy Cohee

Representative Cathy Connolly

Representative Bernadine Craft

Representative Kathy Davison

Representative Ross Diercks

Representative Amy L. Edmonds

Representative Ken A. Esquibel

Representative Mike Gilmore

Representative Keith Gingery

Representative W. Patrick Goggles

Representative Mary Hales

Representative Timothy P. Hallinan, M.D.

Representative Debbie Hammons

Representative Steve Harshman

Representative Elaine D. Harvey

Representative Peter S. Illoway

Representative Allen M. Jaggi

Representative Peter M. Jorgensen

Representative Jack Landon, Jr.

Representative Thomas A. Lockhart

Representative Thomas E. Lubnau, II

Representative Michael K. Madden

Representative Robert M. McKim

Representative Del McOmie

Representative Erin E. Mercer

Representative Saundra Meyer

Representative David R. Miller

Representative Lori Millin

Representative Glenn Moniz

Representative John W. Patton

Representative Frank Peasley

Representative Bryan K. Pedersen

Representative Owen Petersen

Representative Frank Philp

Representative Lorraine K. Quarberg

Representative Jim Roscoe

Representative Mark A. Semlek

Representative Lisa A. Shepperson

Representative Colin M. Simpson

Representative William “Jeb” Steward

Representative Tim Stubson

Representative Matt Teeters

Representative Bill Thompson

Representative Mary Throne

Representative Sue Wallis

Representative Dan Zwonitzer

Representative David L. Zwonitzer

Members of the Wyoming State Senate
Senator Jim Anderson

Senator Eli D. Bebout

Senator Bruce Burns

Senator Cale Case, Ph.D

Senator Henry H.R. “Hank” Coe

Senator Stan Cooper

Senator Dan Dockstader
Senator Floyd A. Esquibel

Senator Gerald E. Geis

Senator John M. Hastert

Senator John J. Hines

Senator Rick Hunnicutt

Senator Kit Jennings

Senator Wayne H. Johnson

Senator Bill Landen

Senator Grant Larson

Senator Marty Martin

Senator Mike Massie

Senator Curt Meier

Senator Phil Nicholas

Senator Drew A. Perkins

Senator R. Ray Peterson

Senator Tony Ross

Senator John C. Schiffer

Senator Charles K. Scott

Senator Kathryn Sessions

Senator Charles Townsend

Senator Bill Vasey

Senator Michael Von Flatern

US Senator John Barrasso

US Senator Mike Enzi

US Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis

By Donald B. MacGowan

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Pahala Theater, Pahala, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Like many people, my life on the Island of Hawaii involves, figuratively, my wearing many hats…today I am wearing my “Independent Filmmaker” hat and driving from my home in Kona south to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to film the fire-fountaining eruption at Kilauea Volcano.

The drive is calming and scenic, much of the highway is posted thirty-five miles an hour, as the Hawaii Belt Highway runs from my sleepy little fishing village through the mountainous coffee-growing region of Kona, south through cattle and horse ranches and into the heart of the macadamia nut producing region. This is my favorite part of the Island; in my heart and mind it is the loveliest place on earth–rocky, rough open ocean shoreline with huge mountains and rolling, green volcanic slopes giving way to wide open spaces, uncrowded, even largely unknown to the outside world. I have a strong emotional bond to this part of the island. It was here, in the village of Pahala, that I first lived when I fled the frigid Rocky Mountain winters for a new life in tropical Hawaii a decade ago.

So when I reached the turn-off to Pahala I decided I had time for a break from driving to see what had become of my first home in Hawaii in the near-decade since I had lived there. For reasons and madness best left to the dust of the ages, I arose at 3:30 one morning at my home in Laramie, Wyoming. After living 20 years in the high plains, I was packed, ticketed, excited and ready for my move to Hawaii. The thermometer on my house read twenty degrees below zero and there was at least two feet of snow in my front yard–from the windows of Brees Field Airport I watched the rising sun light-up the east face of the Snowy Range, as frigid and alpine a view as I had ever had of it. Changing planes in Denver, San Francisco and Honolulu, I arrived on Hawaii in the brilliant sun and tropical warmth–I will never forget smell of paradise as I got off the plane; flowery, ripe, heavy with promise, romance and adventure.

No matter where I am flying in from, where I have been or for how long I have been gone from Hawaii, when the door of that airplane first opens and Hawaii’s gentle breath envelopes me, I know I am home. I have lived all over the US but I have never, ever felt that I was where I belonged, that I was at home, until I moved to Hawaii. When I come to Hawaii, I am coming home. I love Hawaii with a tender intensity that sometimes surprises me with its fierceness.

In Pahala today, I parked my car at Ka’u High School and walked across campus to the Teacher’s Cottage I had inhabited my first months on Hawaii, just to see how things had changed. My mind went back to the first morning I had walked across campus, full of excitement at living in this strange land, eager and curious to learn about this island and her people. There are not words to explain my joy-filled love for Hawaii, nor for the utter heartbreak of unnecessary sorrows that lurk just below the surface here.

Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Abandoned Sugar Warehouse, Pahala, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Some of the very first people I came across that first morning was circle of 5 girls, barely adolescent–ten, maybe twelve years old but certainly no older–playing with their Barbie dolls. All of them were smoking cigarettes, passing around a couple of 40-ounce beer bottles wrapped in brown paper bags; two of them were pregnant, another two were caring for their very real babies while they played dolls with their friends. One of the girls was my next-door neighbor’s daughter, Lehua; the others were her cousins. The babies all had the same father.

Moving from Wyoming to Hawaii I had expected to experience eagerness to explore my new home, perhaps some home sicknesses, and certainly a bit of culture shock but I was absolutely unprepared for this, what would become one of my most enduring visions of Hawaii.

How I came to understand this aspect of Hawaii is an allegory for how I came to love my tropical home here…for it is in the warp and weft of the contradictions, of the beauty and sorrow, of the ancient traditions and modern hustle, of snow clad peaks and steaming jungle, spuming volcanoes and calm, clear lagoons and yes, the interplay between the embracing promises of paradise and the greed-fueled waste and grinding poverty here that Hawaii weaves her magic spell on me.

Friendly, clean, quiet, scenic; Pahala seems a perfect community. Thirty years ago Pahala was a prosperous, bustling center of activity for the Pahala Sugar Company, but with the demise of the sugar industry, Pahala residents have either moved on to other towns seeking employment, or hunkered down to await what future may come.

When the 102nd US Congress convened in 1994 with the first Republican-dominated legislature in a generation, they set out to politically reward states that went conservative and to punish states that elected liberals in very, very quiet, but ultimately devastating, ways.

In a bid ostensibly to reign in “federal pork-barrel spending”, the Congress cut the Farm Subsidies Bill a few paltry million dollars by slashing the federal price support for sugar that protected American sugar companies from cheaper Central American and African sugar. The support was cut to a level where it still made sugar a profitable crop in sugar states that went Republican, such as Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Florida and California, but bankrupted the sugar industry in Hawai’i, the only liberal-voting sugar state. The amount saved was less than the cost of a single Tomahawk Cruise Missile, but the one-industry towns all over Hawai’i were completely devastated and no new industries moved in to take up the employment slack. There has been 70-80 percent unemployment ever since. The usual miseries of substance abuse and poly-generational sexual abuse, crime, hopelessness and degradation of the educational system moved in with the unemployment and small towns like Pahala have writhed in agony ever since. Everyone with ambition leaves town to live near work elsewhere, while those too old or unskilled languish, the human flotsam of a political system that rewards vindictiveness and cynicism. Such political finagling is as old as politics and rife in both political parties, but rarely does one get to see the painful cost of such partisan political gamesmanship writ so hugely, or tragically, upon the human landscape.

To be fair, shortsightedness among residents played a role in the misery of sugar-plantation towns in general and Pahala in particular. In mobilizing to fight against resorts moving in and to block a proposed private satellite launching facility, residents gambled on the sugar plantation economy lasting indefinitely. In seeking to preserve their generations-old way of life and their communities, they virtually guaranteed that life there would ultimately never be the same for anyone.

A re-birth, of a sort, is underway in Pahala and other small towns in Hawai’i; because of the extremely undervalued real estate, compared with the extremely over-valued real estate elsewhere in Hawai’i, mainlanders and retirees are buying up land as residents finally sell. This has caused a small renaissance in service-sector employment, but it will take a generation or two for these tiny towns regain their former energy and optimism.

Today, with nothing more pressing than nostalgia, I walked the small downtown of Pahala, stopping at the local market for a snack. The clerk was a young Hawaiian of exceptional beauty who eyed me somewhat oddly–I thought because strangers are still a bit uncommon in this town–then, coming around from behind the till she embraced me, kissing my cheek.

“Welcome home, Donnie” she smiled to me, “Aloha”.

Clean, sober and happily married for these past 6 years, a now 21-year old Lehua told me she had also had four more children. She and her husband had bought a house and a boat for tuna fishing; and he was general manager at a local macadamia nut farm. How had all this happened?

Laughing, she explained “Lucky we live Hawaii”, in her musical local pidgin that I had once found so impenetrable.

Lucky, indeed.

And magical.

No matter how long I stay away, Hawaii is always welcoming, and Hawaii is always home.

And this is why I love Hawaii so.