The sign announcing “Buford, Wyoming: Population 1” may be gone but that doesn’t mean the town is now of a ghostly variety.
The town is still there. It’s a busy place too. And it’s going to get a whole lot busier.
Just no one now lives in the windy outpost alongside the south side of Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, which frequently boasts the lowest gasoline prices in the state of Wyoming.
Mintu Pradher, the owner of the Buford fuel stop (and the entire town), said a truck ran over the sign awhile back and it hasn’t been reinstalled yet.
It wouldn’t necessarily be accurate anyway. Without any inhabitants, “Population 1” is an exaggeration.
And the claim that it is the nation’s smallest town ZIP code has been debated for a long time. Residents of Whiteclay, Nebraska, dispute the claim for two reasons:
- People live in Whiteclay.
- Whiteclay is incorporated.
But, at 8,000 feet in elevation, Buford remains the highest community on Interstate 80, and that’s unlikely to change. So that part of the mangled sign is accurate.
The big changes in story for the tiny town of Buford?
There will be residents again, Pradher told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
The house where the one resident lived is getting renovated. Included in the renovation is an expansion.
When it’s all done by the end of next summer, someone or some people will be living in the house, he said, and the addition can be rented out like an Airbnb.
As frequently as the stretch between Laramie and Cheyenne is closed in the winter, that rental property could be pretty popular.
In addition to the housing district news, the business district will see a lot of activity.
Diesel Fuel Islands
Buford has long been a lifesaver for drivers low on gasoline. But semis were out of luck – not enough room.
Not anymore. Pradher said a diesel fuel island and lanes will be built on the western side of the gas station. Some of the tanks are already there.
“There’s no place to get fuel between Cheyenne and Laramie, so we’re going to provide it,” Pradher said.
He said everything should be operating by 2024.
The Violent Buddhist
That’s good news for Rod Miller, the fifth-generation Wyoming rancher who worked at the nearby Remount Ranch for years.
“There’s a special place in my heart for Buford,” said Miller, now a columnist for Cowboy State Daily.
“It was a cool place,” he said. “That’s where we’d grab beer and Copehagen. You could see all your friends and grab a cup of coffee too.”
There’s another reason he holds it in high esteem.
Before Buford made national news when a Vietnamese businessman bought the town for $1 million, there was an owner — a good friend of Miller’s — who got in some trouble.
“He was the only practicing Buddhist I know who pled guilty to assault with a deadly weapon,” Miller said. “You don’t see many of those.”
Miller said the man had a tow truck business at Buford in addition to owning the gas station.
There was a competitor, Miller said, who kept parking his tow truck on Don’s property to get calls.
“He told him several times to get his truck off his property, but the guy refused,” he said. “So he went out and shot the tires out of the thing with a .45.
“He got busted, of course, so that’s hilarious,” Miller added. “It’s not a very Buddhist thing to do.”
Former Cheyenne resident Dan Ballinger holds Buford close to his heart as well, and was glad to hear things are going well for the outpost.
Back in 1984, Ballinger went pistol shooting with his friends in nearby Vedauwoo — a recreation area filled with towering rocks that’s popular with climbers — when he was driving his truck up a 30-degree incline.
Unfortunately for the group, the weather turned and within minutes they were facing a full-blown white-out blizzard.
“We parked on the incline because we couldn’t see and hiked out of there,” Ballinger said.
He said it was about 5 miles to the Buford convenience store, and about halfway there he heard the “awful groan” of his truck giving way and plunging to the bottom of the rocky abyss.
“It was a good 50-foot drop and the truck went end-over-end numerous times before crashing into some giant boulders,” he said.
The plan was to rescue the truck the following spring when everything thawed out, but that was impossible, he said.
“It laid there upside down for years,” Ballinger said, adding that sometime in the last decade, someone towed it out or “it just disintegrated.”
As for Ballinger, he got home thanks to a forest ranger who had been caught in the same storm and felt bad for the teenagers.
“I remember he asked me where we had been,” said Ballinger.
“I told him we were at Devil’s Playground in Vedauwoo and Satan himself wasn’t dumb enough to be there right now,” he said.