Bill Sniffin: Folks In Beautiful Sublette County Got Their Share Of News In April

Columnist Bill Sniffin writes: “Calls to boycott Wyoming tourism have echoed from all corners of the world. Some observers say this could be as bad to the state’s reputation as the murder of Matthew Shepard way back in 1998."

Bill Sniffin

May 04, 20245 min read

Sniffin mug shot 10 3 22 v2

Pinedale, Daniel and Sublette County, Wyoming, have all been hit with curious and controversial news stories in recent weeks.

Sublette County is one of my all-time favorite places. Not only are the people nice — just think of Dave and Peggy Bell, for example — it has the best skyline in Wyoming featuring the iconic Wind River Range.

Up the road in Jackson Hole, you have the Teton Range, which features a view that belongs to the world. We Wyomingites love that view of the Wind Rivers from just about anywhere in Sublette County — best in Wyoming.

The three news stories that have hit recently that divided up peoples’ opinions.

First, there was the horrific display of idiocy by a local guy who chased and ran down a wolf on his snowmobile and displayed the poor injured critter in a bar in Daniel.

Second was the bad form when Pinedale officials fined the mother of a 13-year-old $400 for her daughter selling Girl Scout cookies from a sidewalk in Pinedale.

Third was about how a hopefully well-intentioned billionaire, Joe Ricketts, has been buying up land in Sublette County and possibly wants to re-name some areas of it “Little Jackson Hole,” causing quite the local furor.

Small Towns Like This Are Unique

I have some experience with small Wyoming towns of about 1,000 to 2,000 population. I founded the newspaper in Dubois, for example (with great help from Cindy Boyhan and Mary Allison, back in 1978).

Here is my theory: Small towns often suffer from big internal divisions. They often lack the critical population mass to avoid dividing into almost deadly sides. There are just not enough neutral other people to blunt the negative effects of these Hatfield-McCoy type of feuds that strike small towns.

Another theory is that these are usually small, out-of-the-way places that attract a certain kind of person with strong opinions who just wants to be left alone. They love their selected place just the way it is. They do not welcome change.

And finally, a third theory is that these are usually beautiful places that cause outsiders to show up with lots of new ideas, driving the longtime locals crazy. But I digress.

That Wolf Fiasco

Cody Roberts of Sublette County is being vilified by people from around the world. Yes, around the world. What he did was unforgivable.

The news story appeared in Cowboy State Daily (by Mark Heinz) about Cody running down a wolf with his snowmobile.

Then he took the injured animal to a local bar in Daniel. He had taped its mouth shut with duct tape. He posted photos and videos of him holding up this poor critter, enraging millions of people around the world. It was a major news story from London to Tokyo.

Roberts then killed the animal. He was fined just $250 by Game and Fish and the outcry started. The Wyoming G&F has had its reputation besmirched.

Calls to boycott Wyoming tourism have echoed from all corners of the world. Some observers say this could be as bad to the state’s reputation as the murder of Matthew Shepard way back in 1998. I sure hope not.

Meanwhile, the bar in Daniel is being slammed. And people there are stunned at this spotlight of bad publicity that no one was seeking. Insults by the thousands have been heaped on these folks. Threats of violence have also occurred.

Stay tuned on this one, folks. It is a huge story and a nasty setback for Wyoming’s reputation.

Girl Scout Cookie Sellers Are Royalty

It used to be said that All-American meant the flag, baseball and apple pie. You could add the annual sale of Girl Scout Cookies to that list.

But not in Pinedale.

A 13-year-old girl was selling cookies on a sidewalk on Pinedale’s Main Street, which is the U.S. highway through town. Her mom had parked her car on the sidewalk, which is very much against the law just about everywhere.

The local official in charge unwisely (but legally) ticketed the mother with high crimes worth about $400 in fines. How about just a warning and using some common sense?

So, the news went on Facebook and then viral and, of course, the story was first published in Cowboy State Daily, written by Pat Maio.

Little Jackson Hole?

It could be assumed that most folks in Pinedale and Sublette County do not want to become like its neighbor Jackson Hole, which is the most expensive place in America and famous for its billionaires and liberal ideas.

And yet, billionaire Joe Ricketts has been buying up beautiful properties in that area for a long time. Most recently, he purchased the White Pine Ski Area, which is a local institution that was really struggling. With Ricketts at the helm, it should blossom. This is good news for Sublette County.

Joe says his research shows that the Sublette Area was once known as Little Jackson Hole by those mountain men who settled the area way, way back in the early 19th century.

The marketing folks who work for Ricketts can see a good logo. It does not take an idiot to figure out what a great name “Little Jackson Hole” could be in promoting things like guest ranches, golf resorts and ski areas.

But ouch to some of the local folks, who are offended by such changes.

Cowboy State Daily’s Renee Jean covered this story extensively on March 30 and into April.

Just One Controversy At A Time?

Most towns could see a news story like any of these three occurring over a period of many years, but not in the same month!

This all happened to Pinedale and Sublette County just during the month of April. I am sure folks there could not wait for April to end.

Unfortunately for them, these stories are not going away with the arrival of a new month.

Share this article



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.