A Hearty Breakfast With a Youthful Dick Cheney

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Bill Sniffin
Bill Sniffin

It is almost stunning to see how healthy Dick Cheney looks the first time you see him with his new heart.

The former Vice-President, Defense Secretary, Wyoming Congressman and President Ford’s Chief of Staff was in Lander and stopped by the Fox News All-Stars for breakfast recently.

He was in Lander competing in the One Shot Antelope Hunt as Gov. Matt Mead’s designated hunter.

His greeter Dave Kellogg brought the former Veep by to have some coffee and meet and greet some of the locals.  Several of the guys at our morning coffee group are greeters for the One Shot and it is traditional for them to bring their teams by for coffee or breakfast.

I asked Cheney about his new heart.  He said he has joined with a noted heart specialist Dr. Jonathan Reiner in writing a new book that details all the improvements that have been made keeping people with heart disease from dying.  It covers a period from 1968 to 2008. Cheney had his first heart attack in 1978 and has been dealing with cardiac problems ever since. He said the CBS program 60 Minutes would be doing a feature on the book.

Cheney had his heart transplant in March 2012, after being on a waiting list for more than two years.  Three weeks later he was speaking to the state Republican Party in Cheyenne.  He called the experience of a new heart “amazing.”

His old heart was worn out and was this big (motioning with his hands).  “I had to laugh when pundits had to admit that I really did have a heart. We just proved it,” he joked.

Cheney, 71, described having this new heart as a rejuvenating experience and his body seems to be getting younger.

This is a good thing because hunting can be strenuous. Predictions were that antelope were scarce this year and that could mean a long time driving pickups around the desert and occasional long hikes.

He was officially scored as a miss in the 2013 hunt when the bullet lodged in the barrel of his custom-made rifle.  He had been scoring near bull-eyes in practice all week. But on hunting morning something went awry.  

Cheney good-naturedly blamed Indian Medicine Man Willie LeClair for bad medicine when Willie had earlier blessed his bullet.  Maybe so.  

The Indian name given to the former Veep was “Two Heart.”

He arrived to our breakfast wearing his trademark beige cowboy hat and cowboy boots.  He looks like a real Wyomingite, which prompts me to recall my favorite Cheney quote: “I wasn’t born in Wyoming but I got here as fast as I could.”

The conversation was convivial and mainly about Wyoming and about hunting.  No need to talk politics.  Cheney recently had an hour-long documentary aired on Showtime Cable network, which treated him pretty well and other projects like that, are in the mix.

There is a Hollywood rumor that HBO plans a mini-series about this Wyoming guy, who was the most powerful Vice-President in US History. Can’t wait to see that.

But we didn’t talk about that. We also did not talk about the U. S. Senate race involving his daughter.

When questioned about his heritage, Dick described his Cheney ancestry going back to 1609 and talked about various family members who fought in the Civil War and who later moved to Nebraska.  They kept going broke when drought would dry up crops on the homesteads.  

Although our guest did not tell this joke, it reminded me of the funniest joke I ever heard him tell. It goes like this:

Cheney was on TV back in 2005 filling in for the president who was attending the Pope’s funeral. He told Jay Leno that people never know how to pronounced his last name. Is it CHEENEE or CHAINEE?

Finally at a family reunion, Dick asked his oldest relative, Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben said it was CHAINEE.

“Good,” Dick said.  Then he asked his uncle about his dog, which he thought was very well mannered. What kind of dog was it?

“It is a BAGEL,” his uncle said.

Ben Freedman of our group had quizzed the former Veep about family origins since Ben’s ancestors were named Cheney and have been around a long time.

Not sure they ever established a firm connection between the Lander Cheneys and Casper Cheneys, but it made for good conversation.

They did determine that Ben’s ancestors pronounced their name CHEENEE while Dick reiterated that his family pronounced his name CHAINEE.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com.  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.

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