Prominent Wyomingites Reflect on their Favorite Holiday Gift
Her name was Buffy, and she changed my life. On Christmas Eve when I was in the fourth grade, my parents and I welcomed a 12-week-old Shih Tzu into our home and hearts. One minute, Buffy was a charcoal tornado, sprinting laps through the downstairs of our house; the next, she was curled up next to me while I did homework or snuggled up on my lap while I watched TV.
Buffy hooked me on Shih Tzus for life. Now, decades later, I’m on my third one. As I write this, Lucy is resting in her day bed in my office, a companion as loyal and loving and funny as the best Christmas present I ever received.
I’m convinced that everyone has a favorite gift, one that provided not just a moment of pure joy, but also made an impact on their lives. In the spirit of the season, we asked prominent Wyomingites from across the state to reflect on the best holiday present they ever received.
From all of us at the
Wyoming Truth, we wish you a happy holiday season—and a great gift!
Cynthia Hanson, Editor
Congresswoman-elect Harriet Hageman: “My favorite Christmas gift was the engagement ring that my now-husband gave me in December 2001. I was so surprised when he asked me to marry him, and he picked out a ring that is perfect for me. It was truly a glorious day, and I am fortunate that I found him.”
Sundance Wicks, University of Wyoming Men’s Basketball Assistant Coach: “When I was in ninth grade, my Uncle Rob got me 20 shares of Microsoft stock in an envelope. I was a little angry at the time, that I had gotten an envelope that said, ‘You’ve inherited 20 shares of Microsoft stock.’ This was back in 1995, [the stock] splits a handful of times, and I no longer have 20 shares but upwards of 200 shares. It came in handy as probably the biggest visionary gift I’ve gotten in my entire life… now I was able to take that stock, still have some, and use some of it for college.”
Breanna Ball, statewide information specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department: “My favorite Christmas present was a Kifaru hunting backpack. My husband gifted it to me three years ago. I appreciate quality gear that I can depend on in the tough Wyoming weather.”
Grady Hutcherson, President of the Wyoming Education Association: “The best Christmas gift I received was an antique alphabet sampler from a student and his family that I had a significant positive impact on.”
Neicole Molden, warden of the Wyoming State Penitentiary: “The best gift that I received was a clock from an employee with a quote: ‘For sharing your knowledge; I thank you. Because of your wisdom; I admire you.’ It was the best gift because it made me realize how much impact I had on my staff.”
Mark Eisele, Vice President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association: “When I was a little boy, my father said I can get a new saddle when I learn how to master bareback riding. Here is the saddle decades later that I got for Christmas. Although it is worn and stained, it was with me for many cattle moves and gathers. My three children learned how to ride with it when they were little, and my granddaughter and grandson will also use it soon. That was a very special present for young boy, and now it’s a family heirloom.”
Rosa Reyna-Pugh, State Committeewoman of the Sweetwater County Democratic Party: “The best holiday gift I have received was from my Aunt Elena and Uncle Mingo. I was probably 6, and they gave my siblings and I a joint gift: a DVD player when they first came out. It was the best gift since my siblings and I bonded over watching movies together often. Now that we are grown up and apart, we will make time to take advantage of Disney+ with their GroupWatch feature.”
Shawn Reese, Executive Director of Wyoming Humanities: “The best Christmas gift I ever got was free time, ironically, due to COVID. In 2021 there wasn’t the traditional hustle and bustle with shopping and holiday parties. That year Christmas seemed slowed down and a cozy, reflective occasion with family.”
Cara Chambers, Director, Division of Victims Services for the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office: “The one gift I kept circling back to was a wooden skateboard I received when I was 10 years old. This was the mid ’80s, and I was living in Rabat, Morocco, at the time. Didn’t have a Toys ‘R’ Us to go to, and pretty much everything was ordered through a catalogue. That skateboard was my favorite, because I loved the ‘idea’ of skateboarding even though it scared the crap out of me! I barely stood on it, preferring to sit on it and have my 8-year-old sister push me around on it. I think I chose that gift because of what it symbolized to me: Wanting to be someone (I guess) I wasn’t at the time and pushing myself to do something that really scared me and didn’t come naturally.”
Kevin McKinney, Radio Color Commentator for Wyoming Football and Men’s Basketball: “I was 5 or 6-years-old, and I wanted this ditch digger-big metal thing. It was steel and had a shovel and scoop. I wanted it so bad. I woke up Christmas morning, and low and behold, there it was under the tree. I was so excited. My dad told me he had stayed up almost all night trying to put it together, but it was a great thrill.”
Kiera Grogan, Public Information Officer for Natrona County Sheriff’s Office: “My all-time favorite Christmas present is quality time with my family. Since graduating high school, I have lived all over the country – away from my family who all live in New York – and there is simply nothing better than the gift of being reunited with them for Christmas each year when we can all unplug, unwind, share laughs and enjoy each other’s company.”
Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody): “The most recent funniest gift I received was a coffee mug that said, ‘I survived another meeting that should have been an email.’ . . . During the Christmas season, I focus more on giving and spending quality time with my family and church family. It is a family tradition to spend an entire day making and enjoying tamales, empanadas and atole [a hot Mexican chocolate drink]. Participation of the entire family is required, regardless of age. Our family traditions during the Christmas season provide opportunities to connect and share moments that I hope to be carried out by future generations.”
Mark Jones, National Director of Hunter Outreach, Gun Owners of America: “The most memorable Christmas gift I received was when I was 10 years old. My parents gave me a 410 shotgun, and my Dad spent many hours taking me hunting and teaching me about responsible firearms ownership. That gift was a big part of developing a lifetime love of hunting and firearms. The experiences I have had while hunting and shooting over the years have helped me develop into the person I am today.”
Acacia Acord, Rancher and Agriculture & Commercial Loan Officer at First National Bank of Gillette: “Mine is probably when [my husband] Shawn took me for my first sleigh ride around Christmas two years ago. It was so quiet except for the harness bells, like we were transported back in time when things weren’t so rushed and artificial. Shawn Acord, Rancher and Owner of Acord Quarter Horses: “My best gift was my first saddle at age 5. Every cowboy needs his own saddle. Now that I had one, I could be a real cowboy with the rest of them!”
Desirée Tinoco, Executive Director of Missing People of Wyoming: “I was about 5-years-old, and I asked Santa for a real toolset – none of that plastic stuff – knowing my parents wouldn’t approve. On Christmas morning, I was so thrilled to see it under the tree. Although it’s missing some pieces, I still have it to this day.”
Kaycee Clark-Mellott, Ellen Fike, Jacob Gardenswartz, Jennifer Kocher and Shen Wu Tan contributed to this report.