Turning A Cowgirl Into A Lady

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CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman finds himself in Johnson County, Wyoming on his quest to prove that Everybody Has A Story.


It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t love Wyoming, but Carley Jensen does not.

Carley rides horses, works at a local fast-food joint, and lives on her parents’ ranch on the very edge of town.

“I mean there’s nothing. We’ve got one mall in our whole state. I’m just sick of it.”

Her story is one shared by so many kids who grow up feeling as if there’s just nothing to do, but find something anyway.

“Well, kids like to get drunk.”

Carley’s problem with alcohol began in her freshman year of high school.

Her parents, Renee and Jeff Jensen, describe the night: “The police called.”

Jeff went and got her. Carley remembers, “My dad came and got me. And he was m-a-a-ad!”

“The first time. She walked into a wall. he was drunk,” says Renee.

Her parents lectured her and police cited her for being an M-I-P, or minor in possession of alcohol. It was the first of 5 MIPs she would eventually receive.

“You ground her,” Renee says. “You take away everything that was ever near and dear to her heart. And that didn’t work.”

Jeff agrees, “Well none of it worked. No effect.”

“They didn’t have any control of me,” says Carley.

Carley would skip school by day and sneak out by night. Her drinking eventually led to her flunking every class.

Her mother nods, “It just escalated out of control.”

Meanwhile, Johnson County officials were getting fed up. Not just with her, but with teen-age drinking in general. So they decided to do something quite radical. No longer would multiple offenders like Carley be going home with just another slap on the wrist. Now, they wouldn’t even be going home.

“Eighteen years old, and I’m going to jail,” says Carley. She spent three weeks in jail.

“I sat in my cell and just cried for two hours. And I think right then is when I was like,'OK, no more of this.'”

Did they do the right thing?

Her mother says, “I think so. You hate to admit that.”

And her father, “It gave her an idea (that) this is how it could end up.”

Apparently it did work. Since jail-time became an option, MIPs in Johnson County are down 95 percent. And here’s one other stat regarding Carley’s first year of college.

Carley says, “I did really good first semester. I got a 4.0.”

Now that’s quite a turn around.

“Yeah. My whole attitude has changed…I don’t know. I just grew up all of a sudden. I grew up.”

Who says there’s nothing good to see in Wyoming?
  • Robin Wood

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