One of my Senate colleagues recently sported an unfamiliar lapel pin: the profile of the Grim Reaper, complete with a scythe. The Grim Reaper is an old symbol of death, and he uses the sickle to harvest the souls of the living.
I instantly knew the meaning of the lapel pin. In a recent media interview, the House leader referred to his side of the Legislature as “the golden goose” and the Senate as the Grim Reaper. He was commenting on the difference between the House and Senate versions of the state budget. In recent years, the Senate has been the more fiscally conservative branch of the state government. The House has spent more, often approving tax hikes as well.
When he read the House leader’s comments, my Senate colleagues took it upon himself to track down a firm that made, of all things, Grim Reaper lapel pins. He ordered a bag of them and distributed them freely to members of the Senate.
I accepted one and promptly put it on my coat. It is kind of funny, but I must admit I had second thoughts. It symbolizes division—us versus them. There’s enough of that in the United States today. It’s not as deep or acrimonious in Wyoming as it is in Washington, but we must be careful to avoid going down that path.
Several years ago, it was my honor to meet the late Carl Venne, at that time the Chairman of the Crow Nation.
“We must build bridges, not burn them,” he said.
We have some hard times ahead of us in Wyoming. Our wealth and jobs have often come from the coal, oil and gas industries. They’ve boomed and busted over the years, and are currently in a bust. This time, the bust may be worse than ever, perhaps even permanent. The War on Carbon energy continues unabated, and we bear the consequences in the Cowboy State.
I firmly believe that our best days are ahead. It will be a struggle, and there will be sacrifices. But to get to the best days, we must be careful to build, not burn, bridges.
The Grim Reaper lapel pin has been consigned to a dresser drawer. It remains a humorous reminder of a brief dustup in the Legislature. For now, though, the focus will be in setting aside divides and finding ways to work together for Wyoming’s future.
Dave Kinskey represents Wyoming Senate District 22 which consists of Johnson County and eastern Sheridan County. A businessperson and former Mayor of Sheridan, he can be reached during the legislative session at [email protected]