Bill honors late lawmaker, jackalope

2013-01-11T22:30:00Z 2013-01-11T23:01:34Z Bill honors late lawmaker, jackalopeBy LAURA HANCOCK Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
January 11, 2013 10:30 pm  • 

Jackalopes, mythical creatures of the American West, are reportedly so friendly they even let humans ride them.

Dave Edwards was a Wyoming statesman with a larger-than-life personality, sense of humor and reputation.

Now a bill honors both.

House Bill 149 is the resurrection of a bill that Edwards sponsored in 2005 when he represented District 6 in the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The bill would declare the jackalope the official mythical creature of Wyoming. If passed, the law would be called the David Richard Edwards Memorial Act.

Edwards — who also served as a Douglas city councilman and Converse County commissioner — died Saturday at age 75 after suffering the effects of a stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

On Friday, when his loved ones buried him in Douglas, members of the Wyoming Legislature in Cheyenne,  many of whom had served with him, put forth the bill.

Legislators from both parties sponsored the bill: Reps. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne; Kermit Brown, R-Laramie; Rita Campbell, R-Shoshoni; Richard Cannady, R-Glenrock; Kathy Davison, R-Kemmerer; Keith Gingery, R-Jackson; Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete; Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell; Mat Teeters, R-Lingle; Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne; David Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne; and Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette.

Dan Zwonitzer recalled Edwards feeling crushed when his beloved jackalope bill didn’t pass in 2005.

“It passed out of the House 45 to 12,” he said. “The Senate never got to it on time. So it died.”

The bill received some criticism that it was a waste of the Legislature’s time, and Edwards never reintroduced it, even though he served for seven years through 2008.

Dan Zwonitzer believes the bill will have a different outcome this year.

“We can take 10 minutes of the floor and 10 minutes of the committee to remember one of our colleagues,” he said. “I think it will go through with no problems.”

Dan Zwonitzer remembers Edwards’ desk on the House floor in 2005.

“He was really, really excited about it,” he said. “He brought down about 10 jackalopes.

“They were on mounts and on wall plaques.”

Tiffany Edwards Hunt, Edwards’ daughter, called the tribute “sweet.”

“It’s a very, very kind gesture, and I’m sure he would be getting a great kick out of that,” she said. “He loves this state more than anything.”

The jackalope, “despite its name, appears as a jackrabbit with deer antlers throughout Wyoming at gift shops, sporting events, social clubs, watering holes and on post cards,” the bill states.

A part of Edwards Hunt wants to believe they’re real.

“I’m sure if you really look hard enough, you’ll find them throughout the state,” she said. “You’ve always got to believe. If you don’t believe, you’ll never get to see them.”

Jackalopes come out at dusk. People can draw them near with carrots with peanut butter, she said.

“Some girls like ponies,” she said. “In Wyoming, they like jackalopes. They’re pretty much the size of a pony. A saddle wouldn’t fit them so you have to be really crafty about riding them.”

More seriously, Edwards Hunt described how her father came to embrace the jackalope when the family moved to Douglas after he retired from the Navy in 1993. Edwards bought the historical LaBonte Hotel, at which a large jackalope was displayed. Another large jackalope can be found at a city park.

“That’s when he started to encourage the city to embrace the jackalope,” she said.

More jackalopes began popping — or hopping — up around town. These days, the city has Jackalope Days each June.

“It’s used for marketing and promotion,” Edwards Hunt said. “It’s brilliant. The state would be wise to adopt the same thing.”

After Edwards Hunt met her husband, she brought him to home to meet her dad. It was his first trip to Wyoming.

“My dad told him the story of the jackalope, and he had him fully convinced the jackalope is real,” she said. “Then my father took him out to meet a guy who lives in Douglas and has dinosaur bones and allows people to do digs. My husband got really into that. Fast forward a few days later, my husband started to think of the unlikelihood that a jackalope exists in the world, and realized he had been taken. He was convinced everything my father showed him was a farce, including the dinosaur bones.”

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