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CHEYENNE - Life, sometimes, can be a real (rhymes with witch).

Lois Tobin found that out when she was cited for disorderly conduct because the banner hanging outside her Lingle tavern reads, "The Bitch's Corner Bar."

Specifically, Tobin was charged on Wednesday with violating the small eastern Wyoming town's obscenity ordinance, which states that a person is guilty of disorderly conduct "if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or carelessly creating a risk thereof, he or she … utters profane or obscene language in any public street or other public place, or place to which the public is invited."

Tobin faces a fine up to $200. Her initial appearance is Dec. 15 in Lingle Municipal Court.

Her attorney, Jerry Smith, said she will plead not guilty.

"There's no basis for it whatsoever," he said. "'Bitch' is not a profane or obscene word so far as I can determine."

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, bitch, used as a noun, has five definitions.

The first is "the female of the dog or some other carnivorous mammals." It can also mean "a lewd or immoral woman," or "a malicious, spiteful, or domineering woman." Other definitions include "something that is highly objectionable or unpleasant," and a "complaint."

Smith said he can find no legal basis for the word being obscene.

"How many bumper stickers do we see with it?" he said. "We see it on the back windows of pickups and cars all the time."

Lingle Town Council member Roy Foote said a constituent brought the sign to his attention, and he agreed to look into it. He said Town Attorney Greg Knudsen told the council that Lingle's obscenity law guarded against such things.

"It does not speak well for the town to have messages like that out there when we're trying to promote tourism in a small but friendly town," Foote said. "I just don't think it's an appropriate thing to do if she was really civil-minded and looking out for her community."

Mayor George Siglin said the police officer who issued the citation, Kenny Elwood, did what he felt was right.

"Me personally, I think the sign ought to stay because I don't have a problem with it," Siglin said.

Elwood declined comment based on advice from Knudsen. A message left at Knudsen's office seeking comment was not immediately returned Thursday.

Tobin bought the bar in 2000 and shortly thereafter changed the name, at least unofficially.

The outdoor sign read "Corner Bar" until she hung the banner in August to entice motorcyclists heading to the annual Sturgis rally who might have heard of the more colorful name but weren't sure of the bar's location.

She said that for years she has given shirts with the bar's name - including the b-word - adorning the sleeves to the town's fire department and hundreds of mementos containing the logo to customers every year.

"It's never been an issue," she said. "It's a total overreaction. If they were going to do something, they should have done something five years ago."

Tobin said one can pick up souvenirs in any town in Wyoming that bear the word. She also noted that Elton John once had a big hit song, "The Bitch is Back."

"I don't see where it's obscene," she said. "I'm going to fight this all the way."

Capital bureau reporter Robert W. Black can be reached at (307) 632-1244 or robert.black@casperstartribune.net.

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