By on August 20, 2013
The mountain is on fire. Don’t let this mutha... burn. (Sargent Schutt)

The mountain is on fire. Don’t let this mutha… burn.
(Sargent Schutt)

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The meeting started like it always does. Eagle Scouts paraded in front of proud parents and a gallery of stakeholders applauding politely while secretly hoping it’ll put the councilors in high enough spirits to pass its agenda item. Then, right on cue, the mayor butchered another surname.

“I’d like to welcome (pause) Lea (longer pause) Colasuonno to join our town attorney …” Only it sounded more like “Col$hkw*un#do.”

“How’d I do?” asked Mark Barron.

“Close,” the new assistant town attorney assured him.

The two high-fived to seal the deal and it was on to the opening act – a rambling and often off-point diatribe about the inefficiencies of pepper spray on bears from a public commenter named Chris Deile. Deile, from Silver City, NM, was addressing the council about a 1996 griz attack he survived in Alaska.

Deile told the esteemed panel pepper spray was nearly worthless and should not be promoted by area parks as the best line of defense against bear attack. He suggested the park hire trained Inuit guards armed with .454 Casull’s or sawed-off shotguns. Mayor Barron talked him away from the dais in the careful manner one coaxes a jumper off a window ledge and it was on to more important matters like a consent calendar filled again with temporary banner requests.

Can you hear me now?

Wireless providers are desperate to find locations where they can stash their towers. It’s no secret cell service has sucked this summer. Barron used the term “horrible.” AT&T approached the school board recently for permission to install a tower on school property and on Monday night the town electeds were being asked whether they wanted to sign off on a dish atop a light pole at the rodeo grounds.

No one was sure whether the town, county, or fair board could grant that kind of request so the mayor asked town attorney Audrey Cohen-Davis – and boy was she grumpy.

“I did not write this lease and I don’t like this lease,” Cohen-Davis said of the contract between the town and county on the lease and use of the fairground land written up years ago by county legal eagle Keith Gingery. “If the fair board were to move forward on this they would need the town’s permission. There may be some disagreement with county. But I don’t know how this promotes Western culture.”

Some councilors worried about visual pollution once AT&T and Verizon dotted the landscape with enough towers to get around every hill and dale in Teton County. Jim Stanford took up Dr. Devra Davis’s cause and wondered whether we weren’t all cooking our brains with these things buzzing everywhere, including one dish slated to be shoved into the steeple at the Lutheran church in Rafter J.

The council’s pleasure was to make staff think about it some more.

 Million reasons to worry

Snow King wants the town to get in bed with them on a million dollar loan from the state that’ll get water and power to the top of the town hill.

Melissa Wittstruck, from the Conservation Alliance, didn’t like the idea. She worried the business plan wasn’t vetted enough and didn’t like the wasting of a precious resource like water.

Town administrator Bob McLaurin assured Wittstruck that water was in peak demand during July and August, not so much in winter. He also reminded everyone in the room that snow-making is fast becoming a secondary use of water on ski hills. “In the event of a fire, water on the mountain is invaluable,” McLaurin said. “In Sun Valley, they turned the snow guns on last week.” Everyone seemed psyched to co-sign on a million bucks. Don Frank even dropped a corny line that sounded like he’d stayed up all night practicing it in front of a mirror. “Let’s get this snow on the road,” he said.

Stanford pumped his brakes. “I think this is a great project with a lot of benefits. I should be the biggest cheerleader for this,” he said. “But I cannot look the taxpayers in the eye with a straight face considering the very stark financial position of Snow King Resort detailed in last week’s paper (referring to another paper, not this one, which he likely stopped reading two weeks ago). I don’t know if we’re in the front of the line or back of the line. I cannot hand a million dollars over without the assurance it will be paid back. I would like to see some kind of additional collateral. Simply owning [water] pipe is not enough.”

Ryan Stanley, representing Snow King Mountain Recreation, promised Stanford the estimated $4,000-a-month loan repayment plan would not be a terrible burden for the mountain and they had skin in the game to the tune of some $330,000 of private equity.

McLaurin clarified most of that was in-kind moneys, like plowing services and such but there was some $100k in cash SKMR was willing to put up.

All voted in favor but Stanford.

About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.


  1. Please

    August 21, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    “Some councilors worried about visual pollution”

    After putting signs up all over town!???

    The Town has butchered the sight lines all over this city with their signs. This Town is obsessed with sign clutter – like “temporary banner requests”

    There are, like, a dozen “Bike Lane” signs between Virginian/SK and Flat Creek/SK. Don’t get me started with the new pumping station below Budge.

    Put up the Cell Tower. Get rid of the excess signage.

  2. Chris Deile

    August 24, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    I’m Chris Deile. You’re comments here about me are not only inaccurate in numerous respects, they’re immature. Why won’t the Jackson Daily Hole publish my letter (worthy enough for the Portland Herald Press)?

  3. Chris Deile

    August 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Both the Anchorage Daily News (Anchorage population 250,000) [August 1, 2013] and Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine pop. 60,000) [August 6, 2013] published my letter, but not the Jackson Hole Daily. Particularly as there were two grizzly attacks in this area recently, I submitted that letter to the Jackson Hole Daily on the same day as this city council meeting but it has yet to appear.

    Jake Nichols found it necessary to malign me for taking a politically incorrect position. During public comment, I pointed out the Jackson Daily Hole, when reporting about the recent bear attacks, contained a quote that the important point was that those attacked “came away alive and they had pepper spray”. I said the actual point is that pepper spray allowed the bear to make contact–leaving their fate up to the bear. Apparently that correction prompted Jake Nichols to retaliate by making me appear irrational and illogical during public comment. So much for ethical journalism, even if it is in the form of satire, because I was well aware of the 3-5 minute limit on public comment speakers and respected that. There was no “act” to follow. Nichols resorts to the same smear campaign as Florangela Davila in the Seattle Times when she made me look extremely foolish for taking a pro-firearm position in her pro-pepper spray article (“Spray Pepper or Bullets?”). Again–unethical and immature. If you believe bears were here first and should thus have precedence over human life then say that; don’t malign others for believing differently, and don’t lie by telling people pepper spray is the best choice for defense in a bear attack. If it were the better choice, wildlife officials would choose pepper spray when responding to bear attacks instead of what they do choose–firearms.

  4. Chris Deile

    August 25, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Pardon my sloppy writing–I hunt and peck. The above message means my Anchorage Daily News letter was published August 1, 2013 and the Portland Press Herald was published August 6, 2013. I will post the letter here and hope it remains.

  5. Chris Deile

    August 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Portland Press Herald; August 6

    Letters to the editor: Non-lethal policy favors the bears

    Regarding Matthew Dyer, the Sierra Club hiker attacked while in his tent at 1:30 a.m. July 24 in eastern Canada’s Torngat Mountains when an electric fence failed to stop a polar bear:

    CBC News reported July 27, “Parks Canada advises visitors of the park to hire an armed Inuit polar bear guard … . Dyer’s group did not hire a bear guard.”

    Armed Inuit guards — an excellent idea, by the way — were quite likely not hired because the Sierra Club seeks non-lethal means of protection in a bear attack, most notably by advocating pepper spray for bear attacks.

    Although the electric fence and pepper spray are steps in the right direction in trying to co-exist peacefully with bears, they’re not enough to stop a charging bear, particularly in the wee hours, when bears tend to attack people in tents. (Japanese wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino experienced a worse fate than Dyer in Kamchatka, Russia, on Aug. 8, 1996, when a bear attacked him in his tent at 4:30 a.m., dragged him out of it and killed him.)

    In September 1996, my friend Keith Benner and I were attacked by a brown bear in Alaska as pepper spray allowed a face-to-face encounter, risking mauling and death after the bear knocked me to the ground with a side-arm swipe to my chest.

    A .454-caliber Casull or .338-caliber rifle (I’ve since learned) could have stopped the bear in its charge instead of leaving our fate up to the bear. (Our experience is described in the article “A Can of Spray, A Lot of Luck,” in the Sept. 29, 1996, edition of the Anchorage Daily News.)

    The Inuits must be shaking their heads.

    Chris Deile
    Anchorage, Alaska

  6. Chris Deile

    August 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    My submission to Portland Press Herald in reply to Matt Dyer:

    RE: Matt Dyer’s response to my letter: Dyer completely evades the point. He states that even if he’d had an AK-47 in his tent, he would not have had time to use it (when attacked by the polar bear in Canada). That is why the armed Inuit guards are such a good idea, and one wonders why such an option is not advised in our National Parks, particularly Glacier N.P. which has the most bear attacks in the contiguous U.S. Strange that Canada parks officials advise people to hire armed Inuit guards, whereas U.S wildlife officials advise the public to rely on pepper spray (for just one example, see National Forest service “Be Bear “). Because whenever there is a bear attack, U.S. wildlife officials always respond with firearms–not pepper spray.

    As for Dyers portraying the pro-firearm position as motivated by fear, that’s a common ad hominem used by pro-pepper spray propagandists. Do wildlife officials choose firearms over pepper spray becasue they’re afraid? Of course not. Me? I hate guns–always have and still do. But it took a bear knocking me down, growling and snarling in my face while waving its paw threateningly at my head to realize pepper spray allowed that to happen whereas a firearm could have stopped the bear in its charge.

    I’m presently quite ill, but if trained would love to be a bear guard. Particularly if it would help protect a vulnerable family in a tent. If not a polar bear, imagine an 1100 pound Kodiak Island brown bear charging at 30mph….pepper spray or an electric fence will not stop it from making contact with you.

  7. Dear Chris

    August 25, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Welcome to the Hole.

    Jake just ‘reports’ it as he sees it – it’s more interpretation than reporting but it’s usually in a good-matured way. He’s not likely to “retaliate” so much as put his spin on the comical & questionable events around town and the World. Of course, he has a gaydar like sense for what’s comical & questionable.

    You did get a mention and Jake did make your point for you even if it was in a backhanded way. All publicity is good publicity if you truly care about your position. Roll with it and accept the harassment from Jake. You’ll gain his respect and that of others. I can laugh at my own ideas when I express opinions out of the mainstream. I know they sound stupid, funny, odd, whatever. Almost everybody thought the economy was red hot right before it collapsed. Contrarians are often seen as odd -like Copernicus.

    You must recognize that SOME people will find your idea silly and that, as with any topic, it is a normal reaction for them to suggest that your ideas seem odd and thus infer that you are odd. If you understand that reality, you might be able to engage in a more thoughtful and rational discussion with folks who happen to disagree with you.

    Plenty share your opinion, even in Jackson. Plenty don’t.

    Getting your letter published may have more to do with the lack of news or the craziness (by some publisher’s standard) of your idea. Newspapers don’t lend credibility to your idea any more than a personal blog post will. Facts do, however.

    None will dispute that bears sometimes get past pepper spray. None will dispute that a gun can kill a bear. None will dispute that a gun may be better than pepper spray under some circumstance and in some locations for some people. None will dispute that pepper spray has stopped bears in their tracks as has a bullet.

    Assuming Jake has his story correct, I will dispute the idea that the majority of the public needs, or wants, armed guards in the forest to protect us – or that they would do any good seeing as how they can’t be everywhere. The Government does a pretty good job of relocating nasty bears just as it relocates nasty people. I will take issue with the idea that firing weapons in our ‘local’ national parks & forests is the solution to aggressive, or curious, bears (the few and far between, currently). I will accept the idea that a weapon can be a better option and that it’s good for some people to carry one in some locations. I don’t think this is news, however. At least not in bear country.

    Most folks don’t carry weapons. Most folks are best served by bear spray. Most folks can’t shoot straight under pressure. Most folks won’t get a gun or spray to repel a fast charging bear angry bear. Most folks just accept the fact that bears live with us and, like Sky Diving, some activities carry a potential risk including death. They don’t feel the need to arm the World to protect themselves from every hazard. Death & injury happens. Bears are usually just being bears. People are usually just being stupid, however.

    If I was traveling in the Alaskan backcountry, I would probably be carrying a gun and pepper spray. Some parts of the Wyoming Wilderness, too. And I think most people who live in bear country are happy with their choices for protection and understand the risks. We ALL know about bear attacks and we ALL know that nothing you do to protect yourself is guaranteed to work.

  8. Ben

    August 26, 2013 at 6:03 am


    You are nutty.

    You need help.

    Not that the bear spray vs gun debate isn’t worth discussing, it may be.

    It’s that you feel that it’s necessary to settle old arguments with others in this forum. You come across as an insecure person who needs to always explain oneself to the point that it becomes an obsessive-compulsive issue.

    You write about your “submission to Portland Press Herald in reply to Matt Dyer:”

    This ain’t the Portland Press.

    Matt isn’t here.

  9. Chris Deile

    August 26, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Ben: Your post is ad hominem; Jake Nichols comments about me are a cheap shot smear.

  10. Chris Deile

    August 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Who addressed the comment to me @ August 25 6:08p?

    There is nothing funny about harassing people. It’s immature and manipulative. It’s also libelous because I never said anything about “sawed off shotgun”. Nor did I say pepper spray is worthless–it can be used in conjunction with a firearm, and may even be helpful to some degree. I shared first thing from the podium that I am from Anchorage, Alaska. Jake Nichols has me from Silver City, NM (I was there appx. all of three weeks). Nothing was “rambling and off-point” about my brief public comments. This crap comes up on a Google search of my name–Jake Nichols falsely portraying me having to be talked away from the podium. My comments during public comment came directly from the letter (above) submitted to Council members before speaking, and I shared of how we were attacked and the pepper spray not stopping the bear. I then closed by sharing of Japanese wildlife photographer Michio Hoshino, that he was very knowledgable about bears and taking proper precautions yet was still attacked in his tent and killed by the bear. Everything I said was directly on-topic. Again, the Seattle Times did the identical thing–they would not publish my letter (because of it being too logical), instead portraying me to appear like an irrational fool in the article “Spray Pepper, Or Bullets”. It’s very harmful, as such false portrayal may have cost me numerous outdoor adventure jobs applied to since then (as that article which for many years always came up right at the top of links when google searching my name). When you must resort to such blatant deception and falsehood it shows your position is weak. And if you fail to see the harm you are not only unethical but irresponsible. I don’t respect that in the least–it’s junior high school.

  11. Chris Deile

    August 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Btw, I brought that Seattle Times article by Florangela Davila (referred to in last post) to an attorney years ago and they said it was indeed libelous.

  12. PETER

    August 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm






  13. Chris Deile

    August 27, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Thanks, “Peter”. Btw, what are those Boy Scouts being instructed to use for bear attacks? Rainbow umbrella’s and pepper spray? lol Call me a psychiatrist.

  14. Chris Deile

    August 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Regarding “gaydar” in Aug. 25 6:08p post: They should show this before tonights movie at the bike in movie theater here in Jackson, Wy:

    Men On Football – Original, Unedited Version from In Living Color

    video by majorleaguepinscom

    I remember taking a consensus when that sketch was popular in the early 90’s and both pro-gay and anti-gay people thought it was hilarious.

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