Dave Simpson: Smile When You Call Me A Non-Native

Columnist Dave Simpson writes, "We might be just as well off with lawmakers who live here because they made the wise decision to come here, not just because this is where their mothers delivered them."

Dave Simpson

March 18, 20244 min read

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The delicate subject of where you were born has come up in the feud between the Freedom Caucus Hatfields, and the Wyoming Caucus McCoys.

Rep. Barry Crago, a Wyoming Caucus member (born in Montana), told Cowboy State Daily last week that we need  “good Wyoming people” in our legislature, “who have spent some time in the state.”  The story reported that one third of Freedom Caucus members are not Wyoming natives.

You know. Interlopers.

Johnny come latelys.

Suspected Nebraskans.

(No word yet on how many Wyoming Caucus members weren't born in these parts. But I'll bet the Freedom Caucus is working on it.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I was not born in Wyoming. Nope. I was born in Chicago (don't hate me), not far from the hotel where Al Capone had his famously empty vault.

Without a stitch of clothes or a dime for a phone call, I had no choice but to go home from the hospital with my parents, where I spent the next 18 years. I didn't know at the time that I'd have been much better off if it happened in Wyoming. It wasn't my fault, but if you stop reading right now, I'll understand.

(When my daughter was born in Craig, Colorado, we were tempted to beat it on up the road to Baggs, so she could be born in Wyoming. But there just wasn't time.)

While not a Wyoming native, I get points for attending UW, and having “spent some time in the state,” paying property taxes in Carbon County since 1981. (Back then, the property tax bill on my wooded acre was $7.20 per year. They let me pay it in two installments.)

My wife's pedigree  is also spread out like a dog's breakfast. Born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma, she graduated from UW, earning two swell degrees. Nomads following newspaper jobs, we found ourselves in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.

Bottom line: If you're picky, you might not want us in your caucus, Freedom or Wyoming. Who knows what crazy notions we picked up in, say, Nebraska. Or worse, Illinois.

But, don't fret for us. Wyoming natives can be forgiving.

I have a longtime friend who was born in Rock Springs and raised in Casper. We'll call him Greg, because, well, that's his name.

He and I consumed many pitchers of Coors and cheeseburger specials at Frosty's Bar in Casper.

The subject of where we were born never came up. Greg had two serious problems. He was an unrepentant Democrat.  And whenever he went up to the bar to get another pitcher of Coors, he came back with the beer and shots of Jack Daniels.

It was brutal.

About that time, bumper stickers resembling a Colorado license plate with the word “NATIVE” on them were common. Greg wasn't impressed, and we agreed that everyone was born somewhere, and none of us had a say in where the launch occurred.

Another longtime Wyoming resident – we'll call him Larry, because that's his name – is about the most ornery Wyoming guy you can imagine, insisting for years that Liz Cheney was “a carpetbagger.”

He's the guy who told me last year that any bill in the Wyoming Legislature that dies in the Speaker of the House's desk drawer should be decided by the voters in the next election.

Go Larry.

I met Larry 55 years ago on the eighth floor of Orr Hall in Laramie, and we've been friends ever since.

But the sad truth about him (I hesitate to type these words, it's so sad) is that he was born in – wait for it - South Dakota. He'd make a great bare-knuckled Freedom Caucus guy, but lacks the pure born-in-Wyoming bona fides.)

We might be just as well off, however, with lawmakers who live here because they made the wise decision to come here, not just because this is where their mothers delivered them.

People like us, born through no fault of our own in shady places like Texas, South Dakota, and yes, even Illinois, can become “good Wyoming people.”

There's hope for us.

You might even want people like us in your caucus.

(As long as we promise not to tell you how they did things in the state we came from.)

Dave Simpson can be reached at: DaveSimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson

Political, Wyoming Life Columnist

Dave has written a weekly column about a wide variety of topics for 39 years, winning top columnist awards in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska.