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Bill Sniffin

Bill Sniffin: Ten Years Normally Seems Like A Long Time, But 2012 To 2022 Was A Blur

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Ten years ago, right now, I was sitting in the Casper office of one of the two most generous men in Wyoming.

I was trying to convince the late Mick McMurry to pre-order several thousand copies of a coffee table book I was hoping to publish about Wyoming. Without the pre-sales, I felt the $100,000 project was out of my reach. 

My, have those 10 years zipped by quickly! Where truly does the time go? 

Back to my story:

In January 2012, I was getting into my golden years and planning a legacy project. It had been a long time since anyone had published a coffee table book about the state. And, as I found out later, it appeared nobody had really done a book of this magnitude on his or her own. Most were done by national companies or state agencies. 

Ten years ago, I felt, at the age of 65, my time might be running out. No longer could a person do just any old this or that – it was time to focus on some really important projects. 

At that advanced age, this could be a person’s last great effort. A legacy project, right? It was important to do something really consequential, hence, a coffee table book featuring “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” became my all-consuming passion.

With the help of the foundation established by Mick and his wife Susie, we did publish that volume and two more later, creating “The Wyoming Trilogy.” 

We sold 35,000 of those books, probably the largest sale ever of a series of this type. I am proud of that effort but it soon became obvious there were some other projects to come. 

In 2018, a second very generous man, the late Foster Friess of Jackson, asked me to join his team in his bid for the Republican nomination for governor. 

After running for governor in 2002, I had been asked many times to help with campaigns but always demurred. But this one? Heck yes.

I had gotten to known Foster some years before and this looked like the chance of lifetime to experience a world-class political campaign, right here in our own little Wyoming.

That campaign between May and August of 2018 was one of the busiest times of my life, but it was sure fun. Foster was a former billionaire (before he and Lynn gave away over $300 million to charities) and he was well connected in national GOP circles. For example, he had access to former President Donald Trump’s ad agency and the Koch brothers polling company.

Foster’s campaign finished second to now-Gov. Mark Gordon. It was time for me to move on to other projects.   

Five years ago, I heard a spectacular talk by Wyoming archeologist, the late George Frison, when he was over 90 years old. I told Nancy that I was immediately going to go home and write up a 20-year plan for myself.

And then two years ago this month, I was asked to be publisher of the Cowboy State Daily (CSD).   

Working with founders Annaliese Wiederspahn, Jimmy Orr, and founding funder Foster Friess has been a highlight of my recent professional life. 

I would argue that CSD has become among the leading sources of news in the state. More than 2,000 news stories were published in the past two years. Folks, that is a lot of news. And it was delivered by email free to more than 20,000 subscribers’ addresses each morning. 

When I started in the newspaper business at the age of 15 with a weekly newspaper in Elgin, Iowa, that newspaper used hot type, basically melting and molding lead to put words onto paper. Its method of printing was one generation removed from Gutenberg, who invented movable type and printing.  

So here I found myself, some 60 years later, as publisher of what we think is the leading digital news source in Wyoming and one of the most interesting digital sites in the Rocky Mountain West. What a news career. And it’s not over yet!

The special sauce for CSD is Orr, who is a former digital managing editor at the Los Angeles Times and Christian Science Monitor. He knows this stuff! 

Nancy says be sure to mention our family added one grandchild, three great-grandchildren, two new grandsons-in-law, and one new granddaughter-in-law in the last 10 years. Everyone grew older and hopefully smarter. We all are optimistic going forward. 

So here I am in 2022 and reflecting on, wow, have those last 10 years passed by quickly or what!  

See you all in the future. It’s going to be great!

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Bill Sniffin: Far Above The Cowboy State Is A Breath-Taking Experience

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

In my opinion, there is no better way to appreciate this land we call Wyoming than seeing it from the air.

And looking down right now is just about as good as it can possibly get. The valleys are glistening with bright snow while our purple mountains bask in the sunshine with still enough pearly white snow to sparkle in the distance.

Ah, what a sight.  Just love seeing Wyoming from the air. Nothing like it in the world.

I write these words as a person who piloted his own airplane for 30 years.

The legendary flight instructors Les Larson and Larry Hastings taught me to fly in 1976. I bought into a plane with a local accountant named J. Ross Stotts. The plane we bought was an old Piper that had been owned by the late Mable Blakely. She was famous as one of the original “99s,” the name given to the first women pilots in the country.

That plane was heavy but fast. Later I flew Cessna 182s, which landed like a leaf falling from a tree. But not that original Piper – it was like slamming to a stop on an aircraft carrier.

I loved it. Every bit of it.

As a little boy, my first flight was in a two-seater Piper Cub.  I was jammed between my dad and my uncle Dick Johnson, both big men. We took off and flew all over the hills and valleys of northeast Iowa. I can remember how my stomach felt as we turned and climbed and soared. I even remember the smell of the hot oil coming from the engine. When we landed on a grass strip I recall saying to myself, “Someday that is going to be me. I will be flying my own airplane.”

It was 19 years later when I became a pilot.

I was part of a small newspaper company that had newspapers in Lander, Greybull, Cody, Green River, and Gillette.

Wyoming is so doggone big; there is just about no way to make it smaller. But flying an airplane instead of driving a car definitely works. My first solo trip involved flying to Greybull, which took a little over 30 minutes. It is a 2.5-hour drive.

That view of flying over Boysen Reservoir and looking down on Wind River Canyon, well, it was spectacular. To the northwest, the Absaroka Mountains were high and rugged. The airport at Greybull was a piece of cake. The runway is wide and long because of all the old converted bombers being used as fire-fighting tankers that were based there. Plus, Greybull gets very little wind.

Cody, on the other hand, always had a nasty crosswind that blew down from Rattlesnake Mountain right about the time you thought you had your landing in the bag. Oops or words to that effect usually accompanied my landings at Cody.

Later on, we got involved with ownership of newspapers in Montana and South Dakota.  Thus, we often flew over the entire state of Wyoming on these journeys. It was fun flying around the southern tip of the Big Horn Mountains. Huge herds of domestic sheep could be seen. Crazy Woman Canyon near Buffalo was spectacular.

I fell in love with buttes during these flights. The Pumpkin Buttes southwest of Gillette were probably my favorite although Pilot Butte near Rock Springs comes close. One of the Rawhide Buttes outside of Lusk is sure an odd piece of rock. Looks more like a pyramid.

The historic Oregon Buttes on South Pass were so significant in our history. When those 500,000 emigrants reached these buttes, they knew they had crossed the Continental Divide.

Crowheart Butte south of Dubois is a landmark that you can see from a long ways off.

And flying over Devils Tower is unforgettable.  What a monolith! I learned to love the Wyoming Black Hills from flying over them so many times.

I rarely flew directly over the top of mountains. But I could look out the window and see the jagged peaks of the Wind Rivers or the impressive canyons of the Big Horns.

Flying over Elk Mountain and Kennaday Peak between Rawlins and Laramie could be frightening. Crazy odd winds along that route, known on the ground as the Interstate 80 Snow Chi Minh Trail.

Here is part of a wonderful poem that I love, which talks about the love of flying. It is called High Flight by John Gillespie McGee Jr. Its final lines go like this:

“Up, up the long delirious burning blue,

“I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.

“Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;

“And, while silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

“The high untrespassed sanctity of space.

“Put out my hand, and touched the Face of God.

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Bill Sniffin: Looking To 2022 – Big Election Year! Energy Rebound! Cheney Decision?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

If 2020 was the pandemic year to forget and 2021 was a dumpster fire, just what in the heck is going to happen to us in 2022?

It is always easy to be optimistic going into a new year.

I have been writing these prediction columns for decades and I almost always have a good feeling about each new year. 

As for 2022, I think it will be one hell of an exciting year.

Not sure it will be a good year or not. Time will tell. 

Let’s get out the old crystal ball and make a few predictions:

• A year ago, we predicted folks in Wyoming would be desperately trying to stop Rocky Mountain Power from shuttering coal fired plants in Wyoming. But whoa! The big news in 2021 was that Wyoming was picked as the location for a new nuclear power plant to be built at the site of a coal-fired plant being retired. Everything changed. For the better. 

• In 2020, we correctly predicted that 2021 would be a record tourism year. It was and then some. It is easy to predict that 2022 will be its equal and might even be bigger than 2021. Finding good workers will continue to be the biggest problem in the hospitality industry in Wyoming. Hospitality is the state’s largest industry, employee-wise, with 33,000 workers. Energy will still be the largest industry, dollar-wise. Because of crowding in Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, the rest of the state will benefit big-time as tourists will finally understand that the Cowboy State is full of other amazing places to see, too. 

• With all the emphasis on wind and solar, everyone seemed to want to believe that fossil fuel industries were dead. Yet 2021 was a banner year for oil, natural gas and coal and 2022 will be even better. Huge impressive new renewable energy projects are being developed, but they are likely decades away from replacing fossil fuels. Despite premature predictions of its death, the fossil fuel industry will be alive and kicking in 2022.

• Another thing that folks thought would be dead in 2022 was the COVID-19 virus. It actually killed more Americans in 2021 than the previous year. The year 2022 will continue to be deadly for the virus. It is easy to predict that another variant will come along and let’s hope that it is not as deadly.

• In the world of wildlife, the zombies of our mountains – victims of Chronic Wasting Disease – will continue to wander the wilderness. This problem will continue and, after lurking in the shadows for years, will burst out into prime time. It could even affect deer and elk license allocations.

• As I write this, it looks like former President Donald Trump will be coming to Wyoming to promote Harriet Hageman’s candidacy against his arch-enemy, Wyoming’s U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney. The Hageman-Cheney race, if it materializes, will be one for the record-books. We could easily see candidates spending $5 million each, far more than any other race in the state’s history. My prediction is that Cheney will not run and will instead enter the race for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. I have bet some expensive cigars on this race with some pretty astute editors who predict Cheney will run. Stay tuned.  

• Gigantic construction projects like the retrofit of the missile installations at F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne will be in the news. Also, with a trillion bucks budgeted by Congress for infrastructure, we will be watching for some of that money to trickle down to Wyoming.  We have lots of needs out here on the frontier. This will be an economic boon for the state. 

• This year will be a big one for Gov. Mark Gordon, as he runs for reelection. Gordon will argue that he is battle-tested.  Is he ever! He endured every unpredictable situation during the 2020 Pandemic year possible, and then dealt with the Dumpster Fire year of 2021 by showing leadership.  What will be interesting to watch is who will surface as his opponent in the 2022 GOP primary. His biggest logical foe was Hageman, but when Trump picked her to run against Cheney, well, it opened up a whole new window of opportunity for challengers.  But who? Cheyenne businessman and 2018 candidate Sam Galeotos is a definite possibility.  Not sure who else. As a former State Treasurer, it was argued in 2018 that Gordon was the best-prepared candidate to run for the office in 50 years. He endured tons of COVID-19 criticism but he managed to navigate the past three years without too many lasting battle scars. It truly was a thankless job during much of his time in the big office.  

• So, here’s a toast to 2022. God bless our country and our wonderful state of Wyoming. Let’s pray for a good year. 

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Bill Sniffin: From Biden Silliness To Enzi Death To Loss Of Football Players — 2021 Was A Big Loser

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The death of retired U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi in a freak bicycle accident sort of defined the year 2021 for me.

Like all of us, he had endured 2020 both as the year of the pandemic and as a dumpster fire we just wanted to put behind us. He was looking forward to 2021 as his first year of retirement and as a year of recovery.

Alas, Mike died and 2021 just did not get any better. As the year ground on, we watched in amazement as the Democrat administration of new President Joe Biden tried to re-make the country into some hybrid form of the most liberal thinkers’ wildest dreams.

I call 2021 the beginning of the “silly season.”  Literally, it has been a time when every progressive professor has gotten to unleash his or her “silly” scheme on the rest of the country. From open borders to boys competing in sporting events as girls to spending trillions of taxpayer dollars. It has been a fiasco and I am glad to see to 2021 in my rear-view mirror.   

This is my annual column taking a look back at the previous year. Other top events of 2021:

• The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic continued, but here in Wyoming, our population remained the most stubbornly un-vaxxed place in the country. A majority of our people do not like masks and they really do not like mask mandates. 

The foolishness peaked when an unmasked Laramie schoolgirl was handcuffed and escorted from her school by uniformed police. Really?

• Our U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney and her feud with former President Donald Trump bubbled to the top in 2021. This is ugly and it was personal in 2021. Stay tuned.

• Wyoming apparently decided it loves nukes in 2021. And I do, too. The plan to build nuclear power plants in Wyoming, starting at the site of a Kemmerer coal-fired power plant, is a great one. Well done.

• Just about everybody in Wyoming who owned a house got rich in 2021. This is very, very good news. A great many homes doubled in value this past year. Folks want to move here and they are bringing their checkbooks with them. This probably should have been the biggest story of the year. It was the biggest good news story, that’s for sure.

• Another good news story is the premature belief that fossil fuels are dead. Oil was at $80 per barrel and even coal shipments increased during the year. This was in spite of Biden’s silly advisors shutting down as much in-country fossil fuel development as possible and then begging the Arabs to pump more oil so we could import it. This is not only silly, it’s criminal. Just 18 months ago, we were exporting energy. And gasoline at the pump was $1 lower. You can’t make this stuff up.

• State government was in turmoil as it operated on the assumption that we were in deep financial trouble. Then billions of Biden’s “silly money” rolled in and severance taxes spiked because of fossil fuel prices going up. So elected state leaders were left discussing mask mandates.

• While dozens of Indian girls go missing across the country each year, in 2021, the whole country went berserk when a pretty blond girl named Gabby Petito disappeared here in Wyoming.  Her body was ultimately found in northwestern Wyoming. Her boyfriend’s body was found later in Florida. Case closed. But it pointed up the disparity of how the national media covers missing persons cases. If you are blond and pretty  — good luck. If you are dark skinned —  tough luck.

• President Biden’s inept abandonment of Afghanistan was personal for Wyoming as a young Jackson man, Rylee McCollum, was among 13 servicemen and women killed in a suicide bombing that occurred as American troops provided security for people attempting to flee the country.

• Bear stories were in abundance in 2021 and Miss #399, the queen of Jackson Hole, was the star with her four almost full-grown cubs. These five giants roamed Jackson Hole with impunity and were probably photographed a million times.

• Tourism had an-all-time record year. It was a great year to be in the hospitality industry – if you had enough employees. The most ubiquitous sign in Wyoming (and the entire country) was “help wanted.”  This problem was also blamed on Biden policies that increased unemployment benefits, leading people to stay home rather than get jobs.

• Ag folks dealt with low prices (while big packers made a killing) and also drought conditions in much of the state. Big ranches continued to be bought up by outsiders.

• As the year ended, our Cowboy football team won the Famous Potato Bowl in Boise and then watched in dismay as nine of our best players jumped ship with the transfer portal. Now that was really a downer way to end a year that already was not so happy,

• Next up: looking ahead to 2022.

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Bill Sniffin Memory: A Cross At Christmas On Top Of Crump’s Mountain

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

(Note: This column first appeared in December, 1988 when my son Michael was seven years old. It is featured in my book The Best Part of America. It’s reprinted here in the spirit of Christmas.)

The idea of creating a Christmas Cross on top of Crumps Mountain was not in our original plans. All we wanted to do was explore the Squaw Creek area three miles south of Lander on a Sunday afternoon and perhaps check out some deer.

We had lived at our home near Squaw Creek outside of Lander since June, 1976. And although we had always enjoyed the view of the spectacular bright red Crumps Mountain, I had never set foot on that property.   

We decided a hike was a good idea and after making the appropriate phone calls for permission, we headed out. The excellent weather was perfect for it. 

We left at 2:18 p.m. I believe the Denver Broncos were ahead 7-0, and darn it, I wanted to see that game! But my young son had pulled this promise out of me that we would take this hike, so away we went. 

Our trip would cross a large pasture until we could cross the creek.  Our original intentions weren’t to climb the hill (or mountain, as Michael referred to it). The day was glorious, about 30 degrees, no wind, and sunshine.

We followed some deer tracks to the creek and tried to find a way across. The creek was just a little too wide for my son’s seven-year-old legs. Finally, we found a place where the deer tracks revealed they used to get across.

We were originally going to hike down the creek, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to climb straight up. As we marched up the hill, we took note of the creek, the houses and the road getting smaller beneath us. Our view of the huge Wind River Mountains off in the distance kept getting better as we climbed. We saw lots of animal tracks, mainly deer. 

Occasionally, the snow was about 18 inches deep and other times, the snow was gone and red mud stuck to our boots. The contrast of green bushes, white snow and red rocks was striking. The sun was peeking through the clouds just off the towering Wind River Mountains to our left. 

We climbed about two thirds of the way up the hill, where we found a nice place to rest. My son decided we should mark this place as it probably was going to be as high as we were going.  He was getting tired. Slogging through the mud had taken its toll. 

Down in the valley, seven deer were crossing the creek where we had crossed it. They hopped across the field to the north entrance to the Boulder Loop drive, jumped the fence and headed up to our neighbor’s bird feeder.

There was a trail that led up the mountain going the other way. It was a deer trail. We wondered where it went? So, we followed the tracks and it switch backed the rest of the way up. 

Just like that, we were on top! 

Our view was a panorama of most of the Lander Valley to the north, Table Mountain to the east, the Wind Rivers to the south, and Red Butte to the west.

We saw two beautiful little birds chattering around in the five-foot high evergreens. They were multiple colors — white, gold, dark blue, etc. This was the weekend of the Lander Valley Christmas Audubon bird count – perhaps we should have participated.

We climbed on over the mountain ridge toward the southwest and came into a clearing almost exactly north of our home. We each found a “thinking rock,” which is my name for those rocks that are perfect for sitting on and thinking. I sat, while Michael immediately got up and wandered around. There would be little sitting for him this day.

We dragged a flat rock up to the top of the clearing and said we would use that as a marker, but he wasn’t satisfied. Instead, he wanted to tear out a root, but couldn’t quite coax it out of the ground.

I tugged at it and was surprised to see that it broke loose. So, there we stood with a 10-foot-long white root. We could use it for a marker. Without thinking, I placed it vertically against a dead tree — how about that? Michael disagreed and not really realizing what we were doing, he insisted we lay it out horizontally, which we did. And it suddenly became a cross. 

We decided to call it our Christmas Cross. 

The sun started to go under a cloud and the warm weather disappeared. As we shivered, we looked way down at our house. We decided it was time to head home. The trip didn’t take long at all.  

Little boys like to get muddy and it was difficult keeping this boy from getting dirty from head to toe.

I kept looking back to see if our cross was visible, but it wasn’t – not to us, anyway. 

Once home, we got out the binoculars and scanned the hill from our kitchen window. 

And there it was. We had gone all the way up there and created this cross. It was our little way of celebrating Christmas.

Our little trip certainly didn’t measure up to the all the good charitable works people around Lander did that day delivering Christmas food baskets to the needy. But it will go down in our memories as the day we climbed Crumps Mountain and created a Christmas Cross.

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Bill Sniffin: If Desperate, Buy A Man A Cordless Drill, Other Last Minute Gift Tips

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The Christmas season is a wonderful time of year. And besides the obvious religious reasons we celebrate the holiday there are gifts to give and to receive.

When Christmas gets close, here are the Do’s and Don’ts of gift buying for men in Wyoming. Buying gifts for men is not nearly as complicated as it is for women, according to my witty friend Aggie.  

First, remember the three rules of shopping locally – first, it helps the economy; second, you will see all your friends; and third, you will be stunned to see the outstanding selection being carried by your local stores. 

Next, always keep in mind that not everyone is having as good a Christmas you are. Is there someone you can help? Of course, there is.

And finally, my wife and three daughters say that I am impossible to buy for. Because of this, I am including some tips for last minute Christmas shopping for Wyoming men, which were sent to me by my friend, Aggie. Although these guidelines sound suspiciously like an old Dave Barry column, she contends it was anonymously sent to her through the Internet with some Wyoming editing.

So here, are last minute tips for buying gifts for a Wyoming man: 

#1: The best gift of all is a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. Aggie says she has a friend who owns eight and he has yet to complain. As a Wyoming man, you can never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.

#2: If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. “Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?” “OK. By-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?” Again, no one knows why.

#3: If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car, a 99-cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.

#4: You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big-screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.

#5: Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after-shave or deodorant. Wyoming men do not stink – they are earthy.

#6: Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. “Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink.” You get the idea. No one knows why.

#7: Men enjoy danger. That’s why they never cook – but they will barbecue. Get him a monster barbecue with a 100-pound propane tank. Tell him the gas line leaks. “Oh, the thrill! The challenge! Who wants a hamburger?” Men love chainsaws. Never, ever, buy the man you love a chainsaw. 

So, there you have it, Aggie’s seven rules for buying Christmas gifts for Wyoming men. However, this really does sound like a Dave Barry column so he deserves the credit, I think.  Have a wonderful Merry Christmas, everyone.

This is also a time for me to plug all those groups who are raising money this time of year for the needy. My wife Nancy has spearheaded the annual Christmas Food Basket drive here for decades. Over 300 teeming baskets of food are delivered by the Elks Club. Folks running the program are Deanna Trumble, Kevin Green, and Dick and Julie Lefevre.

Check out your town for local food banks, Salvation Army efforts and food pantries. Also toy and coat drives for the needy.

John Davis of Worland sends along a nice list of local Wyoming books. “I’m a member of the Awards Committee of the Wyoming State Historical Society. Every year we meet to give awards, which is a fun exercise, because we get to review all the best books written about Wyoming in the previous year.” He recommends the following award winners:

Fiction:  Great Lonesome, by John Nesbitt, Torrington. Nesbitt is a first-rate fiction writer.

Biography:  George W. T. Beck:  Beckoning Frontiers – the Memoir of a Wyoming Entrepreneur, by Lynn Houze and Jeremy M. Johnston, Cody. Buffalo Bill Cody was not the only exceptional character in early Cody. George W. T. Beck was one of the giants of the era, and working closely with Cody he framed the vibrant community we see today.

Non-Fiction Book:  Homesteading and Ranching in the Upper Green River Valley by Anne Charles Noble, from Cora, Wyoming, and Jonita Sommers from Pinedale. A good overall history of one of the most stunningly beautiful areas in Wyoming.

Other great books are by the Gears of Thermopolis, Craig Johnson of Ucross, CJ Box of Saratoga, Sam Lightner Jr. of Lander, Karen Schutte (formerly of Big Horn Basin), Jordan Peterson, Steve Horn, Cat Urbigkit, John Washakie, Mary Billiter, Gayle Irwin, Zac Pullen, John Davis, Dave Bell, and others. I apologize for those whom I have omitted.

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Bill Sniffin: The Duck Whisperer’s Take On Wyoming’s Political Situation

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

By Bill Sniffin, Publisher 

What possible connection could a bunch of ducks have with Wyoming’s current political situation? Well, let me explain.

My relatives refer to me as “The Duck Whisperer,” since we have tame ducks that qualify as our pets. No dogs. No cats. No parakeets. No hamsters. Just ducks. 

And we have odd ducks, sitting ducks, lame ducks and we even have daffy ducks. Here are some thoughts on the current political situation, duck-wise:

• Sitting Duck – Although she is far from being a lame duck, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is obviously being viewed as a sitting duck by the gal who wants to replace her, Harriet Hageman. She may find out Liz is not as much of a sitting duck as she thinks.

Of course, all this is moot if Liz hangs around until the filing deadline in May and then announces she is not running. 

With the flak she has had to deal with in Wyoming, it would be easy to believe that her staff’s advice for their boss might be “duck!”

• Cold Duck – This is the aforementioned Harriet Hageman, who seeks to revise her role in the pecking order and move to the head of the line. She thinks it is her turn because the former President Donald Trump told her so.  

A word of caution, though, is be careful of Cold Duck. It can give you a headache. Criticism washes off like water off a duck’s back. 

• Daffy Duck – Here in Wyoming, could this possibly be State Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R-Cheyenne)? With the some of the bumps along the way during his campaign for Congress . . . well, it has not been a smooth ride.   

• Dead duck – that tag may very well describe Ms. Cheney in about six months. Or sooner if Republicans continue to bail on her. Her actions on the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol will continue to sour Wyoming voters, we predict. 

But enough about politics. Back to the ducks. 

I have learned a lot from our ducks, which go by the names of Pearl (a twin to the Aflac duck on TV ads), New Stud, Studley, Blackhead, Greenhead, Paint, Speckledbill, Greenbill and Whitey Too.

For the longest time, we had four males and a lone female, nicknamed T. P. which stood for the old expression “Town Pump” referring to, well, you know . . . 

Then one day, T.P. laid a nest full of eggs and became a “sitting duck.”  That was the end of her. All we found were some feathers and broken eggshells. Truth be known, she was probably too exhausted from all her amorous adventures to flee her attacking owl, osprey,  mink, fox, or coyote.

Then a fifth male who had been driven away by the others returned home. He soon got along fine with the other boys because there were no ducks of the female persuasion to fight over at the time.

We also once had a rooster. We seem to attract male birds. 

We have ponds and a creek on our property. The ducks are able to fend off predators by staying in the water  (unless they are sitting ducks) but this did not help the rooster. All we found were some feathers. He was only on the job three days.

Having all these ducks has caused me to pay attention to how many “duck expressions” we use in normal conversation. For example, these ducks really do have a “pecking order.”  Now I understand the expression “having your ducks in a row.”   We also have several “odd ducks.” 

Not sure why a bad doctor is called a quack but I think I now know where the expression “like a wounded duck” came from.

The ducks are terrific fertilizer spreaders. Nancy calls them “quacking crappers.”

The following note came from an old friend who previewed this column: “I found your column just ducky. You certainly didn’t duck your responsibilities to put out a great piece, nothing foul in any of it (or maybe fowl in all of it!) signed: Jeff (Quacker) Wacker.

Our biggest problem is that Nancy insists on feeding the ducks corn.  They love that stuff. I call it duck candy.

When she starts out the door with a big pitcher of corn, they come running. Did you know that only female ducks quack? A very demanding quack, at that.  

The guys? Well, they just mutter a lot. Just like home.

My sister-in-law Tamara offers the following: There was a duck that went in the store to buy some chap stick. 

The storekeeper said, “That will be $2.” 

The duck, said, “That’s ok. Just put it on my bill.” Groan.

As I write this, there is a storm predicted from over the mountains. Not sure how the ducks will handle it. 

Probably the snow will just fall off a duck’s back.

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Bill Sniffin: If I Had My Life To Live Over . . .

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

If you had your life to live over, how would you live it?

It seemed appropriate that I started to write this column during the weeks of the year’s shortest days.

This is my attempt to define a perfect life and how important it is to aspire to live that perfect life.

I write this as a two-time great-grandfather, a grandfather to 13 and an ancestor to all those other descendants who are not here yet.

My most important conclusion is that the greatest wealth a man can acquire in his lifetime is a healthy and loving family. Nothing else comes close.

So just how “deep” should I make this essay? Well, here goes:

In recent years I have been hanging out with some folks who contend your most important goals in life should be finding truth, goodness, and beauty.

Looking back on a career in journalism, it is easy to agree about the importance of truth. Rarely is truth relative.  When all the facts are in, truth will usually rise to the top.

When I was younger, I loved the concept that all things were relative, which means just about everything was determined by the situation. After years of dealing with life, you realize that relativism is overrated. 

There are absolute truths in this world. You need to find them out and then live your life accordingly. There is right vs. wrong. There is good vs. evil. Character and ethics are real and both will help you find the truth.

In my life, I did not have to look too far to find real goodness. My wife of 55 years, Nancy, is the best person I have ever known. How on earth I ever found her is a big mystery to me. She is the best thing that ever happened to me. Let’s hope all you folks out there reading this will be as fortunate when it comes to your most important relationships.

Nancy was a Jefferson Award recipient in 2011 for all the good she did in raising money to fight cancer and helping the needy with the Christmas food basket program.

When it comes to beauty, I say just open your eyes. In Wyoming, we live in a beautiful place populated by beautiful people.

In recent years, I have worked with 54 Wyoming-based photographers. I love their outlook when it comes to Wyoming. A great many of them love a foggy day or a hard rain or a heavy snow because of the opportunities it gives them to photograph our beautiful landscape in a new way. Now, after listening to them, I try very hard to not complain so much about the weather. 

This is difficult as I get older.

If I had my life to live over, I would not have squandered so much money and time on toys. A big boat comes to mind. Sure, we had a lot of fun with it, but what an expense and what a time suck!

For a long time, I believed that whoever died with the most toys wins.  What a joke! And it really is a myth. I think a better saying would be “he who dies with the most friends wins.”

If I had my life to live over, I would have gotten in better physical shape.  This would have allowed me to better explore this wonderful country we live in.

Sure, I have been all over Wyoming, from the Medicine Wheel to Medicine Bow and from Pinedale to Pine Bluffs and from Evanston to Evansville, but there are places that are unreachable to me because my physical condition is not good enough.

One old-timer once wrote that if she could live her life over, she would have eaten more ice cream and fewer beans. I think I did eat my quota of ice cream and probably should have been eating more beans.

If I could live my life over, I would not have been so competitive in business. I was a holy terror to my competitors and, as a result, they were hard on me, too.  I was even way too competitive with family and friends. 

Bless your business competitors because they make you better. But it took me way too long to learn that I could get much more done through cooperation than through intense competition.

Faith in God should have played a bigger role in my life. I sort of found that out later in life, but thankfully, I did find it out.

I liken my life to a baseball game where we get to play nine innings. If so, I am hoping this is the middle of the seventh and it is time for a stretch. Maybe time to sing the song Sweet Caroline. I sure hope it is not the bottom of the ninth.

If I had my life to live over, I would find more joy in everything that I did. And I would strive to provide joy to others as a main goal of my life.

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Bill Sniffin: Some Ideal Wyoming-Themed Christmas Gifts: Jams, Beef, Sausages, Honey

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The experts said shop early this year for Christmas, so in that spirit we offer our annual list of Wyoming-themed gifts. 

We do not have to worry about supply chains or products being stranded off some California port – these gifts are available here in our own back yard.  

Plus, buying local helps the Wyoming economy in the best way possible. 

I love doing this because it also gives a boost to our Wyoming artists, craftsmen, and retailers.  We are really recycling our own money in the best way possible. 

Pete Illoway of Cheyenne suggests folks check out the Made in Wyoming Directory on the state’s web page, which lists some 120 items made here. 

Here is a compilation of my favorite Wyoming things, plus some suggestions offered up by my friends. 

Like most towns across the state, Lander hosted a nice craft fair this past Sunday, which was organized by Amy Federer.  My favorite item was a set of jade knives made by G. W. Stone Knives, here in Lander. There were many other wonderful items, all made here in Wyoming. 

Former long-time Wheatland rancher Ray Hunkins suggests Foothills Cellar jams and jellies by Henry Poling, a paraplegic rancher who obviously has great taste.

Queen Bee Gardens of Lovell sells amazing honey candy items according to Darin Smith of Cheyenne.

Former long-time Wyomingite David Kathka loves Serendipity Confections of Laramie.  “Wonderful chocolate caramels and fudges,” he says. 

A lot of folks rave about Maven products of Lander. This outfit was founded by Cade Maestes, Mike Lilygren, and Brendon Weaver. They sell the best binoculars I have ever seen and just came out with a line of spotting scopes and rifle scopes. Amazing optics.

Jerry Kendall of Hudson says here in Fremont County, Jess Forton makes pine furniture, Cleve Bell builds metal sculptures to order and Dubois artist Marty Dorst paints custom Christmas bulbs. I believe Jerry produces some amazing walking sticks, too.

Dean McKee says: “Once again I mention Wyoming Whiskey owned by Brad and Kate Mead. It is now distributed  internationally, and in most of the states in the US spreading the Wyoming brand.

Central Wyoming College President Brad Tyndall recommends Farmer Fred’s Famous Sauerkraut sold in Lander and Jackson.

Cody Beers of Riverton recommends Wonderful Wyoming Honey, as does Tony McRae of Lander.

Jim Hicks up in Buffalo raves about the wonderful sculpture of D. Michael Thomas. Most recently, he did the wonderful statue of the late Chris LeDoux, on display at Frontier Park in Cheyenne. 

Penny Merryfield, publisher of the Pine Bluffs Post, recommended: “Allwayz Manufacturing is a local company, and they do so much with metal and metal art. Check them out at allwayzmfg.com The cross with the Wyoming flag is awesome. Dean and BJ Bowman, have it.”

Nancy Guthrie of Jackson recommends David Fales’ Wyoming Gourmet Beef of Cody.  Tom Satterfield of Cheyenne likes buffalo products from Terry Bison Ranch. The Miller family sells fine honey products in Dubois, too. Tom Cox of Lander suggests honey and Indian fry bread. 

Amy Surdam raves about Alexis Drake handbags, belts and jewelry made here in Wyoming. Jean Haugen recommends beadwork by Shoshone and Arapaho tribal members.  She especially like works by Tom Lucas.

The State Museum in Cheyenne is loaded with Wyoming products, according to Tucker Fagan. 

Pat Henderson in Sheridan sent me the following: “Legerski Sausage gift box. – Fabulous tasty and such a unique product. Koltiska Distillery –  Sampler gift box of locally made crafted alcoholic beverages.  King’s Ropes – Ropes, Ropes , ropes.  

“And hats, winter stockman caps, western gifts and much more, plus Tom Balding Bits and Spurs – state of the art bit and spur designs backed by industry leading technologies innovation for horse-back riders.,” Henderson continued. “Special shout-outs to Bill Sniffin on his beautiful work including our picks of My Wyoming – 101 Special Places and Wyoming at 125: Our place in West – a great gift for all who love our Wyoming.” Thanks, Pat. 

Kim Love touts the SAGE Art Gallery in Downtown Sheridan, which has a wide selection of the works of local artists.

Best gift you can give, though, is to reach out and help the needy.  Support your local food bank programs and reach out to people who have suffered big losses this year.  A kind word or an invitation to a lonely person means a lot this time of year. 

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Bill Sniffin: Amazing Temperatures, Casper And Cheyenne Looking Good, And Memories Of Thyra

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

It was 63 degrees, sunny, with little wind, in Casper on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.  Nancy and I were there walking around without jackets. The grass was still green in many of the places near the Summit Hospital where I was getting a steroid shot to relieve some back pain.

My poor back is another story. 

But wow, is this winter weather remarkable or what? I tend to be as skeptical about the shrill theories of extreme Climate Change as Weatherman Don Day, but it is also easy to remember just how cold and awful November used to be here in the Cowboy State.

Although we have not seen the cold and snow lately, that famous Wyoming wind has been omnipresent.  We were dealing with 60 mph cross winds at many locations around during our recent travels.

Wheatland folks are especially tough.  The wind really knows how to blow in that area. Anything that isn’t tied down or nailed down, just is not going to be there the next time you look, in these kinds of winds. You can always see semi-trailer trucks turned over and other  kinds of trailers, on their sides spilling their contents out to the wind along Interstate 25.

While putting gas in my car at Wheatland, I commented on the wind to a guy next to me.  He said “Here in Wyoming we do not just say Wyoming blows, we say Nebraska sucks. Okay.  

We should also clarify some seasonal definitions.  Although Sept. 21 is the first day of “fall,” across the country, it signals in Wyoming the beginning of a time that can feature some of the most wintry weather we will experience all year.

A few decades ago, I recall a heavy snowfall on Oct. 1, followed by subsequent bitter cold weather.  Our streets were icy and never melted until the following spring.  We published a story in the our local newspaper about the great many broken wrists, arms, legs, and ankles from folks slipping on all the ice.  That was how it used to be. Not so, today, at least not this year, yet.

The winter of 2019-2020 was the mildest winter I had experienced in 50 seasons in Wyoming.  We usually spend some time in Las Vegas to get out of the Wyoming cold, but last year, we cut that trip short on three different occasions because it was warmer in Lander than in Vegas.

Now remember, I am talking about winter here.  Our springs were just as wet, snowy, cold, and unfriendly as normal. 

But the months of October, November, and December (in most places, these are fall months), out here in the Rockies have always had the potential of being nasty.  Lots of early snows which caused the roads to be icy for months at a time. Since Lander is one of the least windy places in the country, it tends to get very cold.  And November could easily see some -20 temperatures. Four years ago saw that kind of experience. Not lately, though.

We spent some time driving around Casper and WyoCity looked good. The massive new Thyra Thomson State Office Building will be a wonderful addition to the downtown area. 

Thyra was an icon in Wyoming for decades.  She was one of the first female secretaries of State in the country and she reigned for  24 years. From 1963 to 1987. Thyra died in Cheyenne in 2013 at the age of 96.  She was glamorous to the end. Always dressed to the nines, she always was perfect with big hair, a wonderful scarf, and often dainty white gloves. But don’t let those gloves fool you. She was tough and one of the smartest politicians in the state.  

She entered politics herself after her husband Keith Thomson died shortly after being elected to the U. S. Senate.

It is very appropriate to have a building named for her.  She was a champion of getting wages raised for women.

The whole David Street Station and Yellowstone area, including an art district, looks like a fun place to hang around all year around.

Later in the week, we headed to Cheyenne, our state’s largest city.

Lots going on in the Capitol.  There is an energy around Cheyenne, a real self-confidence. 

 Cheyenne is sharing in the boom of the Colorado Front Range.  Plus it already has a lot going for it with the railroad and two Interstate highways passing through it.

On Monday, Nov. 15, Cheyenne set an all-time record for the warmest “low” temperature of 53 degrees breaking the old record of 47 set way back in 1896.

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