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Riding with the Rangers: Weebles, reflective fire engines, and the old days of uranium

Nov 1, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

At a recent Friday night football game at Wolverine Field, as I was working the end zone with my camera, some younger boys were having fun with the "weebles." In my very short career as a football player in the Riverton schools, a "weeble" was the round-bottomed blocking dummy that would pop back to an upright position after it was tipped over during a blocking drill.

The nickname came from a TV commercial for a toy that was popular in the 1970s. The catchy slogan for the egg-shaped little figures -- set to music -- was "Weebles wobble but they won't fall down."

Unbeknownst to me, the Weeble was reintroduced a couple of years ago and now is on the market again. From what I've read, the old slogan has been revived as well.

On this warm night at Wolverine field, a half-dozen grade-school boys were running into the blocking dummies again and again. The weebles had been left out after practice the night before, evidently, and they proved to be what my mother would have called "an attractive nuisance" to the children.

It fell to RHS math teacher and coach Brian Shultz to break it up.

"Sorry guys," he said. "But you have to go sit down," he told the young weeble-knockers.

Greeted with a chorus of groans, Brian was sympathetic.

"I know it's fun. Hit it one more time, but that's it."

After they had cleared the scene, he looked my way.

"I've got 'Gestapo duty' tonight," he said with a smile.

All in a night's work. (And he's right -- it's really fun to hit those things.)

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Seeing the "weebles" being enjoyed reminded me of former Ranger sports editor James H. Cocco, probably the best headline writer we've ever had. Years ago the Wyoming Cowboys played Weber State in a tough football game in Laramie. Weber State built a big lead early on, but the Cowboys came back with a touchdown and had a couple of chances to win it.

Alas, the comeback fell short, and Cocco wrote the following headline for Sunday's sports section:

"Weber wobbles but won't fall down."

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Ranger photographer Wayne Nicholls has a request. When a championship sports team is going to get a fire truck ride through town, he wonders if a truck other than the big, newer engine with the American flag emblem on the side could be used -- especially if the celebratory ride is going to be at night.

It's not that Wayne has anything against the American flag. It's just that the sides of that engine are so reflective that when he uses his camera flash for a nighttime shot, he might as well be shooting into a mirror. When the golf team got its champ ride in September, many parents contacted us asking if Wayne had a picture because theirs didn't turn out well due to the blinding reflection back to the camera.

No luck. The same thing happened to him.

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Former Riverton resident Don Snow has made good on his pledge to write a history of the Gas Hill uranium industry. His new book, "Chasing Gas Hills Yellowcake," is now available. The hardback volume, 392 pages strong, is a lively account of the early days of prospecting, which Don Snow observed first-hand and through long friendships with those early industry leaders, leading to present-day work to rebuild the industry.

A good bit of the book also comes from research Don did through the Ranger Mining Edition, and he is generous in his credit to us. Much appreciated.

Don says copies of the book might show up in local stores next year. In the meantime, "Chasing Gas Hills Yellowcake" is available through Amazon.com. And remember -- local booksellers usually can get an even better price through Amazon than you can, because they get an added dealer discount that you don't. Online isn't always best.

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Corresponding recently was former Ranger sports writer and circulation manager Dan Penovich.

We ran a notice of Dan and wife Alice's 55th wedding anniversary. He included a personal note recalling that he was working at the old radio station KWRL when my dad, Ranger founding co-publisher Bob Peck, came by the station to pick up some teletype paper in 1958 and offered Dan a job as sportswriter, photographer and, later, circulation manager. He had graduated from Riverton High School six years earlier, a classmate of my uncle, Russell Peck.

Dan recalled working on sports with Roy Peck (the other Ranger co-founder), as well as overseeing a growing circulation task.

"This was in the midst of the mining boom in Fremont County, so I had paper deliveries scattered all over," he writes.

He later covered sports for the Salt Lake Tribune and then worked at the University of Illinois. Dan Penovich settled in Springfield, Mo., some years back, but, like so many former staff members, he's still Riding with the Rangers.

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