By Bill Sniffin, publisher
It’s said there are no boring stories. Just boring writers.
It’s also been said there is a story in every person.
My experience tells me there are myriads of stories in each person – you just have to dig them out.
An example today is my tale about a famed Wyoming game warden named Bill Crump, who spent most of his adult life in Lander. Prior to that, he roamed the mountains of Wyoming documenting wildlife numbers.
As a transplanted Midwesterner, I really looked forward to being in those mountains when our family moved to Wyoming in 1970. Those Wind River Mountains towered over our valley and we loved every minute we could spend in them.
To me, the vast Red Desert was just a nuisance. A huge place full of wasted space. It took forever to drive across it. The Red Desert meant nothing to me – that is, until Bill Crump took me for a real tour.
Before continuing, it should be noted that Bill died in September of 2020 at the age of 95. He lived a rich, long life. He may not have been the stereotype of CJ Box’s Game Warden Joe Pickett, but then again, he just might have been of the same type.
Bill was a big man. He stood 6-5 and could glare at you through his narrowed eyes under bushy eyebrows. You could tell that he had little trouble busting the most onery poacher that Wild Wyoming might throw in his way.
The impetus of our desert trips was my disdain for the desert which I no doubt mentioned. He replied that I just did not know my way around. One day, he took me for a long day’s Red Desert tour from Bison Basin south of Jeffrey City to the Oregon Buttes just off South Pass. This 100-mile trip showed a place full of flowers, lots of lakes and ponds, wild horses and wild desert elk herds, teepee rings, amazing pockets of petrified wood, box canyons, and Aspen forests. It was mind-blowing. We also visited a small part of the Killpecker Sand Dunes, petroglyphs, and visited the Tri-Territory marker, plus various Oregon Trail landmarks.
He later took my younger brothers on a similar tour and I am forever in his debt for introducing all of us to this fantastic place.
My other recollection of two very interesting things that happened at both ends of Bill’s Game and Fish Career.
Back before the days of radio collars, young G&F employees like Bill would spend their summers tracking big game all across the mountains and valleys of Wyoming. Bill was out there by himself documenting game trails, game habits, and just about everything else they wanted to know about big game habitats. Bill said it was the best job and the worst job. Best was doing his craft up there in God’s County. The bad was being away from friends and family for long periods of time.
As he approached the age of 55 and was running the Lander G&F office, he was told he was going to have to retire. At the time, Wyoming required its officers who packed firearms to retire at 55. Bill sued but I think he lost and he grudgingly retired to his beautiful ranch on Squaw Creek about three miles SW of Lander, where he was my neighbor and friend for four decades.
But I never knew about Bill’s seafaring exploits.
Local historian Jim Stewart served on submarines in the Navy and is about 5-8 tall, like most typical submariners. He told me the story about how a giant like Bill Crump ended up in the submarine service in WW II.
Crump was serving in the Navy and was a radioman. He was stationed in Perth, Australia, and he was bored.
The commander of the Submarine Pompon held a meeting of potential radiomen as his man had gotten sick and could no longer continue. Although he had never been on a sub before, Bill volunteered and against his commander’s admonishments, went on to have a distinguished career on the Pompon. It had many successful missions in the South Pacific. He was awarded many medals.
Bill led a full and satisfying life. He and his late wife Dee had five kids and a slew of grandkids and great-grandkids.
His ranch was beautiful and always neat as a pin. I always complimented him on how well kept it was. He would always respond that maybe he should charge me for providing such a view?
I thought I knew just about everything about my neighbor Bill, but trying to imagine him stooped over in a submarine during World War II – well, who would have thought? Like so many of our heroes from that great war, he never talked about his service. But now, we know.