Bill Sniffin: Strange Times During Strange Days In Strange Places

One of my recent columns proudly exclaimed that we only had eight deaths in Wyoming. By the time that column was published by various newspapers, the toll was up to 13. Today the toll is rising.

Bill Sniffin

May 26, 20204 min read

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The national COVID-19 death toll is hovering near 100,000 as I write this. Such a horrible number. 

One of my recent columns proudly exclaimed that we only had eight deaths in Wyoming. By the time that column was published by various newspapers, the toll was up to 13. Today the toll is rising.

Alaska reports just eight deaths. Montana has 16. Hawaii has 17. 

Colorado has almost 1,000 deaths, depending on how they are being counted. Other western states show much lower numbers similar to those in Wyoming, with South Dakota having 50 and North Dakota 54. Idaho has 79. Utah has 97. 

These strange times seem to require strange numbers.  One piece of important data is missing, it seems to me.  We should list the people who died strictly from the virus in one category. 

We should then list as a group the people who are also elderly and sick and whose death was hastened by the virus.  Such a change in data reporting might take some of the fear out of this plague. 


Did you know the racoon is the mascot of this disease?  This is because the racoon always wears a mask and obsessively washes its hands.  Also, the letters in the word RACOON and spell CORONA.


Writer Tim Sandlin of Jackson recently posted on Facebook about his visit to Old Faithful over Memorial Day weekend. He reported that 5% of the folks were wearing facemasks and 90% of the cars were from out-of-state.  

The crowds were big and he was wondering where all these folks were going to be sleeping and eating.  Much of Yellowstone is still closed. He speculated that Cody and Jackson might bear that brunt. 


On May 15, my wife Nancy and I donned our masks and headed downtown to pick up some big bags of bird seed.  Folks at the store were nice enough to take our order over the phone, then process the payment, deliver the birdseed (actually squirrel feed, ha!) to our car and put it in the trunk.

The nice man at the store was wearing his mask and wearing gloves but the store was really busy and there were people everywhere.  I was standing beside my car outside the store. I was uncomfortable with so many people swirling around after two months of leading a solitary life cooped up in our home. 

What was ironic was exactly half the people were wearing masks and the other half were going along as if these were normal times.  

There was true confusion on the part of these two groups of people as they sort of side-stepped around each other and eyed each other suspiciously. 

Not sure if the mask-less people felt guilty or were smirking at us covered up people for being so darned safety-conscious.

It was such a nice, sunny day it was easy to feel like we were overreacting.  

We live on the road that goes through our wonderful Lander City Park. This time of year, the park should be full of baseball players and teams in full uniforms and playing hard.  It is just surreal to see the diamonds mainly empty. Little League was just cancelled.

There were families having picnics and several folks fishing.  Some other adventuresome types were kayaking in the Popo Agie River, which was rising with the spring runoff. Gosh, what a nice time to be alive in Wyoming.  It seemed so normal – except for the lack of Little 



While I was out enjoying that beautiful Saturday afternoon May 16, our 90 legislators were busy working hard on dealing with $1.25 billion in federal funds headed our way as a result of the coronavirus. 

The men and women were busy as I watched them in action live on Zoom, streamed on YouTube.  What was stunning to me was that just 84 other people had tuned in to watch them.  

Their work was exacting and very interesting.  You could switch back and forth between the House and Senate.  They were very sincere.  I am proud of them. 


I want to give a shout-out to Wyoming historian Phil Roberts in Laramie.  He recently suffered a stroke and is now in therapy, he reported on his Facebook page.  Get well, Phil! 


Boy, I sure miss sports.  It was crazy to tune in to ESPN on prime time and watch a live cornhole tournament.  Cornhole?  Reportedly, Korean baseball will soon be covered by American TV.

The rain-soaked golf match featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady scored high ratings.  It was quite entertaining, too. Just shows how desperate we all are to get some kind of sports fix on TV.  

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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.