Bill Sniffin: Life And Death In Time Of Coronavirus

In the end, we are all soldiers in this world-wide battle against one of the worlds greatest plagues. Few people alive have experienced what we are going through.

Bill Sniffin

March 30, 20205 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

By Bill Sniffin, publisher of the Cowboy State Daily

The coronavirus is one everybody’s mind. Here are four recent things concerning this plague that are on my mind:

First, so there we were, 19 days ago, sitting with 2,000 other fans watching my favorite singer, Rod Stewart, perform at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. We were with our good friends Dan and Cindy Whetstone of Libby, MT.

Seeing Stewart had been on my bucket list, and it was fun to cross that goal off. The concert was terrific.  What was not so terrific were the 15 text messages I received from our children telling us to “get out of there” and “pack up and come home” from our quick trip to Sin City.

We did just that and have been in self-quarantine at our home in Lander ever since. 

Second, we recently phoned our friends, the Whetstones, and they told about a person they knew who had just died from the coronavirus in Kalispell.  He was Jim Tomlin, 77, from Libby.  Our friends live on Crystal Lake south of Libby.

This man was the first coronavirus death in Montana. They did not know Tomlin well but had heard the sirens of the ambulance when it went by their home on its way from Libby to the bigger city hospital in Kalispell.

Tomlin’s son told a horrible story in the Missoula newspaper about how his father had just returned from a vacation to the California desert and started hacking and coughing. He was confused and not well, the son said.

The son described the “crushing loneliness” his father felt in the hospital as his conditions worsened. No one was allowed to see him because of his diagnosis. Hospital staff set up a phone so the family could say their final good-byes in his ear. “If you think this virus is not going to affect you, well, you will know someone who dies from this,” the son concluded.

Although not mentioned in the story, hundreds of people in the Libby area have lung issues from a former asbestos plant that operated there for years. 

As I write this, Wyoming still has not had its first coronavirus death. 

Third, the first coronavirus death in South Dakota had a Wyoming connection. Fr. Robert Fox of Glenrock is from Rapid City, and he writes about his best friend: 

“Greg Weiland, 69, Rapid City was a good man and a great friend (and he had a heart condition). I’ll just share one story here. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s it was not unusual for a couple of guys to spend Friday nights cruising 8th Street in Rapid City. It was a way to socialize 

“Everybody knew which parking lot was best for hookups or finding someone to enter a drag racing challenge. So, one beautiful summer evening Greg called and asked me if I wanted to cruise 8th with him?

“He came and picked me up and said, ‘Bob, let’s do something different tonight. How about we spend the evening looking for people we can help.’ 

“’Let’s do it,’ I said. So, we started driving and talking about what we were looking for – people who were walking we could offer a ride, people with car trouble, fights we might be able to break up. We drove around late into the night talking about how different the world would be if people spent more time looking to help others and less time seeking selfish pleasures and thrills. 

“We did find one guy who needed help. We helped him change a flat tire. That conversation we had strengthened our friendship and our resolve to spend time like this, just cruising through life looking to help others.” 

And fourth, I should mention my terrible dream last night too.  We were shopping in the dream, and I suddenly started coughing and choking. I turned to Nancy and said: “We gotta go home.  I am sick!”  Then I woke up. I was convinced I was sick, but luckily, I was fine.  Crazy.  This coronavirus is even invading our dreams!

In the end, we are all soldiers in this world-wide battle against one of the world’s greatest plagues. Few people alive have experienced what we are going through.

Please follow the rules. Be careful. Reach out in a safe way to stranded or lonely people. We will emerge from this as a possibly much different people than we were before this all started.  

We are a resilient people and we will be stronger in the end. 

Check out additional columns at He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.