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Bill Sniffin

Bill Sniffin: In Debate’s Wake, We Are Seeing The Art Of Wyoming Politics, 2022 Edition

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

As for the debate, here’s my take:

Incumbent Liz Cheney emerged unscathed, her main challenger Harriet Hageman did well, and candidates Anthony Bouchard and Denton Knapp may have gained ground.

That is my reaction to Thursday’s long-anticipated debate among candidates for the U. S. Representative seat from Wyoming.

Cheney has been pilloried across Wyoming because of her strident criticism of former President Donald Trump. Some polls — commissioned by groups backing Hageman — show her trailing badly against Hageman, who has been endorsed by Trump. The former president even came to Wyoming and held a rally in front of 10,000 people in Casper May 28.

But back to the debate.

Cheney, despite offering herself as a big target, easily deflected the very few shots from the others. This was my biggest surprise of the event. And she even launched a few of her own against Hageman.

Hageman was confident. She acted and sounded like she is up for the job. But she chose to build up her own credentials, it appeared, rather than tear down Cheney. She accomplished that well.

Closing statements are critical in such events. Both Cheney and Hageman hit it out of the park. Both were strong.

Did the debate move the needle of the Wyoming voters heading into the Aug. 16 primary?

Interestingly, I believe it did, but not toward either Cheney or Hageman. 

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was strong in his convictions and Denton Knapp presented himself as a confident elder statesman. Their performances were better than I expected and this could be bad news for Hageman. Just about every vote either of them gets will come from Hageman, thus reducing her perceived advantage over Cheney. 

Cheney will get her pro-Cheney votes and just about every Democrat vote in the state. It might be enough for her to win, which would have to be called a big upset.

A fifth candidate, Robyn Belinskey of Sheridan, was a non-factor in the debate.

County Commissioner Mike Jones of Lander thought Hageman won the debate: “Harriet Hageman did the best job relating current policies and failures of the Democratic Party under Obama and Biden to the issues we face in Wyoming. Liz pivoted halfway through to speak more about voters’ current concerns but she did not play to her strengths for which she has demonstrated very in-depth knowledge of conservative issues in the past.”

Pat Henderson of Sheridan thought Liz Cheney won: “The truth matters. Cheney asks Harriet Hageman if the last election was stolen? Crickets from Hageman. Fact: No sufficient fraud or evidence that the last presidential election was stolen or manipulated nationally or in our Wyoming. Not an important detail for Hageman? Probably is not, provided she can ride into Washington DC with a red MAGA hat on her head? Sorry the truth does matter.”

My conclusion is this just whets my appetite for more. The state Republicans are talking about doing another debate. No matter who chooses to hold it, I hope they do.

Outside of the debate here are some other observations that need to be made.

We need more joint appearances by the candidates. In Cheney’s defense, this is hard for the incumbent because she is needed back in Washington D. C. bashing Trump on a full-time basis in the national media.

In a statewide campaign, name recognition, money, and a good organization can win elections, but according to many political experts, the candidate who works his or her butt off the most often will prevail in the end.

Shaking everybody’s hand can get tiresome during a campaign, and yet, if you do it right – it is magical. If you do it wrong, well, it can be disastrous.

During my campaigning in the Republican primary 20 years ago, one of the candidates had a tendency to shake your hand and be looking over your shoulder for the next person. Man, does that make people mad. In those instances, that candidate lost more than he gained.

I will never forget two presidents, both of whom were considered great campaigners. I shook Ronald Reagan’s hand at a White House reception and he made me feel like the only person in the room. I shook Bill Clinton’s hand after a speech he gave in Jackson Hole. He looked me in the eye and made me feel special.

Both guys had reputations as master communicators and based on my limited experience with both, I would agree with that assessment.

In Wyoming, I would rank former Govs. Cliff Hansen and Mike Sullivan as two of the best at this skill, although just about everybody else has been great, too. You have to be in a small state like Wyoming.

Cliff’s long-time aide Paul Holtz used to brag about how many names Cliff could list when he worked a room. It was amazing. Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson would refer to his “3,000 closest friends” around Wyoming. And that remark was true – or maybe it was 30,000.

When it comes to campaign styles, up in Buffalo, Jim Hicks writes: “Somehow I believe that the candidate who can project empathy toward voters and a kinder gentler heart is the one who should prevail.”

He also says: “We create the monsters who use lies and exaggerations to create negative campaigns. We reward them with more votes. And as a result, we elect dishonest and mean-spirited public officials at times.”

I expect this 2022 House campaign to get very dirty toward the end. Let’s all take a deep breath and hope this campaign is based on issues and ability, not smears paid for by millions of out-of-state dollars.

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Bill Sniffin: It’s True – Construction Is Name Of The Fourth Season Also Called Summer

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

We have all heard the expression that our summer season is actually nicknamed “construction,” but what is happening in Yellowstone right now is going to be incredible.

Some estimates said repairs from flooding in the first national park will cost in the billions. But right out of the box, numbers like $50 million and $65 million are being used, just for the short-term fixes.

This column is about travel but I could not start it without writing about my favorite place – Yellowstone.

Cam Sholly will go down in history as one of the greatest superintendents the park has ever seen. He has handled this catastrophe with skill and vigor.

His decision to immediately move a $52 million project, with all the machines and manpower from a Grant Village-Old Faithful project, to repair work in the northern park is a stroke of genius. As he said, “we have one of the best contractors in the country on site with all their personnel and equipment ready to go. This is going to work.” This type of quick thinking is often lost in today’s woke world. It’s called “getting the job done.”  He deserves our praise and our thanks.

I can’t wait to go back to Yellowstone in August and see how far along they have come in repairing that great place. I predict it will be amazing. Now I just have to check whether my license plate number is odd or even.

In other travel news, we recently returned from a 12-day trip to Iowa.

During the trip, I chatted with a couple from Chicago. They were tired and anxious to get home. They had just spent the most fun ever visiting Yellowstone and the Tetons. “Wow, you folks live in the most beautiful place in the country. We just loved it!” This was pre-flood, of course.

This exchange took place at a convenience store under a Dutch Windmill replica in Grundy County, Iowa, on US20. (Note: US20 is the longest highway in the country, but that is another story).

That Chicago guy and his wife and I both complained about the $4.66 per gallon we had just paid for the cheapest unleaded gas on the pump island. And, yes, they said crime-ridden Chicago was going to the dogs. All the news reports are true, she sighed.

We also both commented on the amount of highway construction we saw on Interstate 80. It is constant and endless. Lots of two-lane driving, which is especially frustrating during thunderstorms.

But it was a beautiful day and eastern Iowa was as green as it gets. We parted company. They went east and we went west.

Nancy and I, plus our daughter Alicia Haulman, had been in little Wadena, Iowa, for the funeral of my 96-year mother. She died two years ago in the middle of the COVID crisis. Getting my 10 siblings and me together for a funeral had been a difficult task, mainly because of COVID flare-ups.

The funeral had been postponed twice but this time, we finally were able to get her ashes buried in the old family plot where my dad had been buried 20 years ago. It was fun finally seeing brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and outlaws.

We started this trip a week earlier by attending a Jefferson Award luncheon for Nancy (she won the award for statewide volunteerism in 2011) followed by the Donald Trump rally, both in Casper.

My overall impression is that Wyoming roads, although getting a little gnarly, were among the best we experienced. Iowa, which always had great roads, were the worst.

While in western Iowa, I enjoyed Iowa’s number-one rated pork tenderloin sandwich at a restaurant called Victoria Station. It was located in an old train depot in Harlan.  The sandwich was delicious. It made me wonder who might be serving the best pork tenderloin in Wyoming?

Meanwhile, 320 miles to the east, our family’s old home town in NE Iowa is near Amish country. We saw a farmer in the field pulling a plow with four Clydesdale horses. Lots of folks were driving around in their little black buggies, each pulled by a single horse. My dad always called these folks the “hook and eye” Dutch. These folks believed that a new-fangled invention called buttons were the work of the devil. They clasped their clothes with a hook and a hole called an eye. 

The big news on the front page of the Des Moines Register, which I delivered as a paperboy 66 years ago, was that robot tractors were taking over. Interestingly it was not giant tractors but fleets of smaller ones that were the prediction.

My final crazy note on this trip was driving 825 miles in one day June 7 from Harlan, IA to Lander. We dropped off our oldest daughter Alicia at the Omaha airport at 430am and pointed our car west planning to spend the night at the Red Lion in Cheyenne. 

Despite enduring world-class thunderstorms across Nebraska, we got to Cheyenne at noon. After a nice lunch with Jimmy Orr, Nancy and I looked at each other and said, heck, in four and half hours we can be home. We can sleep in our own bed tonight. 

So we headed out into the wild Wyoming wind and got home about 6  p.m. I just needed a 40-minute nap at the rest stop between Laramie and Rawlins to get rested. Then we continued on our way. 

When tired, one of my tricks is to splash cold water on my face and then go out into the Wyoming wind. This gives you a cool wake-up call. I highly recommend it if you are getting sleepy while driving here in the Cowboy State.

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Bill Sniffin: Fire And Rain, Yellowstone Flooding Disaster Breaks My Heart

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

This is just awful. The flooding in Yellowstone National Park is a national disaster of colossal proportions. Hopefully the federal government will come to its aid soon.

As we celebrate the 150th year of the park, it is stunning to see what is happening up there right now.

During the 150th celebration slightly more than a month ago, Supt. Cam Sholly announced the park was in the best shape ever. As a tourist who has been there every year for 52 years, I totally agreed with him. It was never better.

But now this!

Flooding caused by heavy rains and melting snow has wiped out highways and bridges, contaminated water supplies, cut power, and caused the park to be totally shut down for one of the first times ever in the middle of tourism season. It shut down in 2020 because of COVID and partially shut down during the 1988 fires.

This week, what a nightmare that must have been clearing out all the tourists. Besides all the folks staying at the hotels and inns, there must have been thousands of campers and motorhomes in there, too. Most neighboring towns offered camping sites for folks who could not get into campgrounds.

The north loop in the park will be closed for the rest of the summer. Much of it had been closed for years for construction on the Tower Falls road. Now it is closed again. What a shame.

Although this will mainly be an economic disaster for the towns surrounding the park, there may be some opportunities, too. For tourists headed to the park, perhaps now they can spend more days in towns like Cody, Powell, Greybull, Lovell, Basin, Worland, Thermopolis, Riverton, Lander, Dubois, Pinedale, Rock Springs, Afton, Kemmerer, and Jackson.

The state of Wyoming has promoted four road trip routes through the state all ending up in Yellowstone. There are abundant amounts of attractions in these areas along the way. Let’s hope tourists keep coming.

Those four regional routes offer vast numbers of things to see and do. Tourists can still head to the park but hopefully will spend more time outside the park enjoying our local sites and sights rather than cancelling altogether. Here are those official routes promoted by the Division of Tourism:

Black to Yellow – This route comes from the Gillette coal area and includes Devils Tower near Sundance, Heart Mountain interpretive center between Powell and Cody, and the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lovell.

Park to Park – Two of the big attractions on this route are the Fort Laramie Historical site and the Thermopolis Hot Springs. Casper, with all it has to offer, is on this route, too.

Rockies to Tetons – This route is targeted to folks coming from Colorado and includes the Oregon Trail, Wind River Indian Reservation, the Wind River Mountains, the Dubois National Museum of Military Vehicles, and Historical South Pass City ghost town.

Salt to Stone – Folks coming from the Salt Lake area take this route which includes Fossil Butte National Monument, Flaming Gorge, the Red Desert, Evanston, Rock Springs, Afton, and Pinedale.

As I write this, it appears parts of the park may open June 19 but there is no way the damaged park can accommodate the 780,000 tourists expected during a normal June.

For years there has been discussion of a reservation system. Perhaps now something like that will be put in place.

This year is the 150th anniversary of what has been called America’s best idea – a national park.

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. Fewer than 2,000 non-Indians had visited the place way back then, but the photos by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran had so impressed Congress, that Yellowstone National Park came into being.

It is noteworthy that this occurred 18 years before Wyoming became a state. Another side note is that the Wind River Indian Reservation, which today is about the same size as Yellowstone, was also created by treaty in 1872. Both are about two million acres.

The official celebration of the 150th occurred May 6 in the lobby of the historical Old Faithful Inn. There will also be a series of events scheduled all summer long in Yellowstone and in gateway communities.

A big theme was how the park area interacted with regional Indian tribes, including the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes from Wyoming.

We toured much of the park back in May and it was in amazing condition. As Supt. Sholly said, it has never been better. Alas, the events of this past week changed all that.  

In 2021, Yellowstone set a new all-time-record for visitation with 4.86 million tourists. This shows the surge from across the world to visit this wonderful place.

We have been going to Yellowstone for over half a century and it is my favorite place on earth.

Is it worth going? Are you kidding! I love the place. “Like No Place on Earth” was the official slogan for Wyoming’s tourism division a few years ago. I liked the slogan but thought it referred more to Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else in the state.

We spent a lot of quality time at the most heavily-visited part of the park – the lower loop. 

Norris Geyser Basin is the greatest hot spot on earth. It covers a huge area and can be incredibly dangerous. Once a season you will hear about someone getting burned in Yellowstone and most often it happens there.

During our recent trip we were anxious to get to Norris. We have made many trips to Yellowstone in September and October over the past half century and for most of that time, the tourists were “local” – from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. On last fall’s trip, I finally spotted cars with Montana and Idaho license plates parked together. Finally, some locals. Then we noticed they were penned in between cars from Hawaii, California, and Florida. Oh well.

Norris does not disappoint. It was a windy day, which meant big blasts of sulfur every so often. If you like geysers like I do, the smell of rotten eggs warms your heart.

Traffic was light from Norris to Canyon as we headed for Artist’s Point. It was crowded but we found a parking space. At the Point, two guys talking in a foreign language were beside us.

The road south through Hayden Valley was blocked by a big herd of buffalo. The big bulls were right in front of us and snorting at us. I took a photo through my windshield showing the big bull and the park gal in the distance with her bullhorn. I want to point that out because if you saw the photo, you might think I was being one of those idiots who walk right up to bison. Nope. Not now. Not ever.

Our favorite place is the Lake Hotel and specifically, the big sun room. On that day last fall, it was packed with folks all enjoying drinks and watching whitecaps on the inland sea called Yellowstone Lake.

Back when I reported on the trip, I wrote: “Wow, what a day! Certainly, one of the best days ever. Visiting Yellowstone was like seeing an old friend again. And my friend was in fine form.”

Today, what has happened to the park leaves me feeling very sad. Our old friend has taken one helluva beating. Godspeed on getting healed up, old friend.

And thanks to all the staff and hard-working folks trying to fix our great park.

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Bill Sniffin: Can Liz Cheney Campaign Rise From The Political Ashes?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney is hoping her appearances on the primetime Jan. 6 hearings will boost her reelection chances out here in Wyoming. I am not so sure.

She presented a powerful figure and even looked presidential. Her poise was impressive. Democrats and Independents across the USA were thrilled. Republicans? Again, I am not so sure.

Her main primary challenger Harriet Hageman does not need all the GOP primary votes to defeat incumbent Cheney – she just needs more than Liz gets on Aug. 16.

Hageman will get both pro-Hageman votes and anti-Cheney votes. If polls show the race is close, former President Donald Trump will come back to Wyoming to cheer on his designated candidate. Trump despises Liz Cheney. This is personal. Trump might make two more trips, if necessary. Her actions were a slight to him because of her earlier vote to impeach him. And now with her high-profile role as vice-chairman of the Jan. 6 hearings, the stakes just got higher.

The Jan. 6 hearings

The Jan. 6 Congressional hearings are an attempt to convince the American people that then-President Trump orchestrated the riots where thousands of people attacked and invaded the U. S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

With her anti-Trump stance, Cheney has become one of the most high-profile politicians in America. She is the darling of the mainstream media, which universally hates Trump.

Trump cannot afford to have Cheney win this race.  

Although this is a Republican primary, I can see four distinct types of voters in this race: Pro-Cheney, Anti-Cheney, Pro-Hageman, and Democrats for Cheney.

If the Republican primary were to be held today, here is an early prediction:

Pro-Cheney – 35,000.

Dems for Cheney – 10,000.

Anti-Cheney – 25,000.

Pro-Hageman – 30,000.

This would result in a 10,000-vote victory for Hageman over Cheney.

Although Cheney has raised over $10 million compared to Hageman’s $2 million, her success in this race will come down to one simple goal. She must convince thousands of Wyoming voters over the next two months to change their minds and vote for her. This could be a tough sell.  

Cheney’s job is to move the needle. She recently got off to a good start with a testimonial TV ad featuring dependable Republicans like Jack Speight, Rita Meyer, and John Turner praising her. These are all prominent members of the moderate wing of the state’s Republican party.

Despite her new-found media influence, what hurts Cheney is that she has lost most of her political clout in Washington, D.C. In most things GOP back there, she has become a pariah. She used to have amazing powers in the past but today in the U. S. Congress, much of that has disappeared.

Let’s talk about styles. Politically, Cheney and Hageman are not far apart, except for the Trump factor.

Hageman’s uniform is her black dress, her black hair pulled back to emphasize her flashing eyes, and her turquoise jewelry. Not sure I would recommend that attire to a candidate running for serious political office, but it is her walking and talking logo.

Liz, meanwhile, has adopted an improved Hillary Clinton look. She is all business with slacks, a blazer, and big hair. As a mother of five children, Liz presents a pleasant appearance looking trim and ready to go to work.

Both gals are mentally sharp. If you are taking either of them on, you better bring your “A” game. Their debates will be fascinating. This could have the look of a Heavyweight Boxing Match.  

Liz’s secret weapon will be the 10,000 Democrats, Independents, and other Trump-haters who will cross over to vote in the Aug. 16 primary. I talked with two of them this week, Tom Jones and Alan Culver, who said they are definitely crossing over on election day. A statewide Democrat leader told me that every single Democrat he knows will be crossing party lines to vote for Liz.  

Harriet’s secret weapon is that no matter how hard you campaign, it is very hard to get voters to vote in that mid-August primary. Voters would just about want to be doing anything in Wyoming in late summer rather than stopping what they are doing and going to the polls. Hageman’s supporters will go to the polls. She needs to get 55,000 of them.

Last big fight was 2018

The last GOP contested primary like this was in 2018. Voting were 117,752 Republicans, 19,459 Democrats, and 2,598 independents. Estimates were that more than 8,200 Democrats and Independents changed their party affiliation on election day to help elect moderate Mark Gordon over conservatives Foster Friess, Sam Galeotos, Taylor Haynes, and Hageman.

Harriet spent $1 million and got 25,052 votes in that 2018 GOP governor primary including gaining extensive name recognition. She ran a very efficient campaign spending less than half the money that Gordon, Friess, and Galeotos each spent, yet, she polled well. She was the top Republican vote-getter in five counties in that race, Campbell, Converse, Platte, Goshen, and Niobrara.

That same year in 2018, Liz outpolled Rod Miller 75,183 to 22,045 in the U S Rep race. The total was about 110,500 votes counting write-ins and other candidates.

A recent WPA Intelligence poll of Wyoming Republican primary voters conducted on behalf of Club for Growth PAC from May 24-25, 2022, showed that Hageman led Cheney.

The poll shows Hageman leads Cheney by 30 points and has the support of a majority of Wyoming Republican primary voters.

  • A majority (56%) of primary voters would support Hageman if the election were held today.
  • Just one-quarter (26%) would support Cheney.
  • State Sen. Anthony Bouchard is at 12%. Six percent of primary voters are undecided.

Republican operative John Brown of Lander, who supports Cheney, said: “I’ve seen a lot of Hageman signs, especially up near Buffalo and Sheridan. It looks like that’s her stronghold. However, Cheney signs have just been distributed, and I’ve seen a few in Lander, but I’ve seen more in Riverton, which surprises me! I’m tempted to predict Harriet will win based on what I’ve seen early in ‘sign season.’ However, I suspect we’ll see more Cheney signs than you might expect,” he said.

Pat Henderson of Sheridan felt women would put Cheney back in office because of their disdain for Trump. He said: “I met my bride in college, married very shortly after. We have a daughter. We have grand-daughters. The ladies that I know in Sheridan and statewide are mostly married, have daughters, and now granddaughters like us. They do not support Hageman in large part because of her association and fawning to Trump as well as his vulgar actions. I do not support Trump or Hageman nor do many women and men friends and colleagues that I know in considerable part due to these severe character flaws.”   

This is shaping up to be the most expensive political campaign in Cowboy State history. If Hageman spends $2 million for 55,000 votes, it would be $36 per vote. If Cheney spends $10 million for the same number, it would be $181 per vote.

Two months during a primary season can fly by quickly. Hageman will now be caught up in parade season. Cheney has confined most of her campaign appearances to more intimate groups.

Cheney has the money and Hageman has the momentum. Unless there is some bombshell scandal coming, it looks to me like this race is Hageman’s to lose. Stay tuned.

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Bill Sniffin: Reflections On The Force Of Trump At Ground Zero Wyoming

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Photo by Matt Idler

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Could it be that Donald Trump must have sold his soul to the devil many years ago? It appears he may have traded his soul for eternal youth.

Why? Because a man of his age and physical build should not have his energy. He behaves like an athlete 20 years younger than his 75 years. In three weeks, he will be 76, my age. I know something about how a man should act at this age, even an active man. A great many 76-year-old men act a lot more like our current president Joe Biden (79 years old) than act like Trump acts.

Trump is a physical anomaly and he was on full display last Saturday at his political rally in Casper with 10,000 of his closest friends.

One hundred minutes of listening to Trump at a live event is a political experience that I have not experienced in my long life of watching politicians light up crowds.

It was one hell of a speech. A one-of-a-kind speech. With barely a note, he railed against his enemies and touted his successes.

Photo by Bill Sniffin

He is aggressively endorsing candidates and he is putting his money where his mouth is. He is flying all over the country holding Save America rallies to promote support for his designated candidates.

Here in Wyoming, he has endorsed Harriet Hageman in her race against three-term incumbent U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the 2022 GOP primary.

Hageman gave a fine 12-minute speech using the theme “we are fed-up.” It was well-crafted and well-received. But she was just a warm-up act. Trump is the greatest political showman of a generation. He had the crowd screaming and jumping out of their seats. It was part pep rally and part rock concert. Surely, there has never been an event quite like this before in Wyoming political history.

As he asked the crowd: “Is there anything more fun than a Trump rally?” Hard to argue with that.

The crowd agreed with Trump that our current president is both a disaster and an embarrassment. Trump screamed it is time to take the country back from Joe Biden and his incompetent progressive schemers and dreamers that are destroying our country. Trump yelled at the crowd: “Wasn’t it better a few years ago?” 

My wife Nancy and I had planned to also take in some events on the periphery as Cowboy State Daily sent political reporter Leo Wolfson to handle the hard news coverage. Photographer Matt Idler was charged with taking spectacular photos of the events. (Note: The combined coverage by the Cowboy State Daily staff was extraordinary.)

My job was going to be hanging around the fringes and report on the interesting things that popped up in front of me.

I had applied for both press passes and general admission passes. I never heard back on the press passes. Both Leo and Matt received theirs. 

The plan was they could cover the big event inside on Saturday and I would hang around the outside with the expected 10,000 overflow crowd, which could be even more interesting.

The press tent opened at 10am and it seemed that it might be worthwhile to appeal my case. Surprisingly, they had my name in the database and very nicely invited Nancy and me into the building with our passes around our neck. This was going to be great! I was going to be a live witness to this amazing event.

Photo by Bill Sniffin

This was a lucky break because the folks waiting outside for those general admission tickets did not get in until after 1 p.m. Some folks paid as much as $500 to get “expedited” entrance. Plus, the majority of the folks were in the longest line I have ever seen – was it a quarter mile long? It went on forever.

So, we joined other members of the press in a comfortable press area and I pondered what this was going to be like?

In an earlier column, I had predicted this could be the biggest political crowd in Wyoming’s history. It needed to surpass the estimated 16,000 by Barack Obama in 2008 during a visit to Laramie. Some preliminary estimates were that 20,000 might attend this Trump rally, including by me.

Although Trump was only there for a brief time Saturday afternoon, Wyoming Republicans were busy from Friday morning on. We got to Casper Friday and attended one of these warm- up events.

We drove all over Casper Friday afternoon and saw three big Trump stands selling tee shirts, hats, banners, flags, and other paraphernalia. I am sure they sold lots of stuff but I did not see anybody visiting the stands in the 40mph winds.

Our Friday activities included attending the special premier of a pro-Trump movie called “2000 Mules.” 

Kim Praeuner, a banker from Newcastle, sat next to Nancy and me during the screening of the movie. Kim said she is a big Trump fan because she worries about her grandkids’ future.

The documentary offers some compelling evidence that there were irregularities during the 2020 presidential election. The film showed endless examples of stuffed ballot boxes and middle of the night activities in the contested states.

The Rialto Theatre in Casper was sold out by enthusiastic Trump fans and the electric-powered reclining seats were just fantastic. The movie was a little dry and it was tempting to take a little nap – but I didn’t.

The loudest reaction was a chorus of boos when Liz Cheney was featured in one opening scene.

GOP State Chairman Frank Eathorne introduced the movie to the audience. He said he had met with the movie’s producer Dinesh D’Souza and arranged this exclusive premier showing in Casper. Eathorne believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. “This movie shows the smoking gun. I hope as many people as possible can see it,” he concluded.

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Bill Sniffin’s Advice To Grads: Follow Your Dreams But Keep Your Day Job

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Holy cow, where do I start?

I have been writing these “advice to graduate” columns for almost four decades and each year some of the main points remain constant.

For example, go find some mentors.

Also, if you fail, move on.

You are young – that can be your advantage. And so on.

But this year? It has taken me a few weeks to put this message together. We are living in the strangest times.

At my current age, I could never have imagined living through a worldwide pandemic that killed 1 million Americans. Or watch as Russia pounds a perfectly innocent country into submission while threatening the rest of the world with nuclear annihilation. Or watch our federal government fumble and bumble on every conceivable serious issue.

Yes, these are strange times, indeed.

I worry a lot about this generation of graduates, that is, until I spend some time with them. The ones I hang around with are just wonderful. But these young people are way different from their parents and grandparents. They are among the first of the digital generation to graduate from high school and college.

It has been widely speculated that because of social media, these human beings are wired differently from previous generations. Their attention spans are smaller compared to the rest of us. Their faces are buried in their phones for countless hours of the day. A great many of them are paranoid because they have spent their whole lives barely avoiding being ruined socially by social media.

All of us, when we were in junior high and high school, walked through our days worried that someone would start some awful gossip about us. But that was child’s play compared to what the internet can do to a reputation of this generation.

My advice to grads today is to do what you love. I have long promised to write a booklet of advice to my grandkids called: “Follow Your Dreams – but keep your day job.” It is a work in progress.

In 1964 when I graduated from high school, the last thing we worried about was finding a job. Good-paying jobs were everywhere. It has taken 58 years for a similar time to come along. It appears that today’s grads have it made when it comes to finding a job.

Lots of jobs – but there is a catch

A young Cowboy State Daily reporter Leo Wolfson begged to differ with my above conclusion about the easy job market today. When I sent him a draft of this column he responded: “When I graduated college, it took me four months to get my foot in the door in journalism and another four months after that to find a halfway decent full-time job.

“There are lots of jobs out there no doubt, but due to the skyrocketing inflation and housing shortages, there are many jobs people aren’t taking because they simply don’t pay enough. A lot of employers are firmly against giving out overtime as well, which is self-detrimental, because those who are willing to work it are some of the best employees.

“I completely see eye-to-eye with your ‘do what you love’ argument and I think young people are taking it more seriously than ever before these days to chase their dreams. I’ve got a friend who is basically living out of his car and staying with friends to pursue his dream of working in the film industry. He works every chance he gets and doesn’t want to be tied down to a high-priced rental that cuts away from his financial freedom to pursue those job opportunities. I’ve heard of a lot of people doing similar things.”

My grandson-in-law Taylor Barnett, who has a degree in history but most recently managed a very nice pizza restaurant said: “As someone who has hired, managed, and worked alongside many from this younger generation I can tell you it’s hard to generalize. I knew kids who were lazy, but also plenty who were some of the most dedicated and hard-working people you will ever meet, and still more somewhere in the middle. Today’s grads are just like any other group. 

“The mainstream thinking is that America is in desperate need of labor. There’s a plethora of think pieces from corporate media that has proclaimed a ‘worker shortage.’ As if labor was just another broken link in the massive supply chain destruction witnessed over the last few years.

“Certainly, there is ample data to back up this theory, however, I think the better way to look at this situation is that while jobs are plenty, good jobs are scarce. How many stores, gyms, restaurants, daycares, movie theaters are now hiring? A lot.

“How many of them are offering a wage that keeps pace with inflation, benefits, a clear path to advance one’s career? A sparse few. A job is certainly a noble and just thing, but not all of them are made equal. This is not necessarily a dig at small businesses, rather Americans’ collective experience with the pandemic has changed everything.

“I think this is abundantly clear with the recent announcement from Airbnb. Their CEO just came out and said his company will stay remote ‘forever.’ As a result, over 800,000 people visited the company’s career page.

“The labor landscape has been disrupted and young people are leading this charge. I think the days of accepting less-than-ideal working conditions are long gone. Heck, it would not surprise me one bit if many of these grads first major interview is held over Zoom from their bedroom for a company thousands of miles away. 

Young people learned to be nimble

“Ultimately, I think the best advice I could give a young person is that they need to stay nimble and adaptable. After spending their formative years witnessing one major earth-shattering event after another (school shootings, global pandemic, toxic politics, Afghanistan withdrawal, etc.)  they are used to rolling with the punches. They will need that spunk and spirit going forward more than ever. The world is a tumultuous place, and the only constant is change.

“In addition, I would also say if you are going to go to college, please for your own sanity, pursue a degree with a job in the title. Nursing, engineering, teaching, criminal justice, etc. After spending a ludicrous amount of money on a post-high school education it will make the transition from student to professional much easier.”

Up in Sheridan, Pat Henderson, who manages the fabulous Whitney Benefits, offers this advice for grads: “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If you believe in your idea – stick it out. Exhaust every opportunity to finish what you have dreamed. Remember that your words always matter. 

“These students have seen so much in their short lives. They should treasure and hold close the things that count – Family, God, Country, Friends, and Community. Be gracious and grateful. Have courage – ‘You can choose courage or you can choose comfort. You cannot have both,’ is one of my favorite quotes from Brene’ Brown.  

“Go to church. God is a good listener. Really, really value, appreciate, and love your future spouse. Say you are sorry when you need to. You will know when that is. My last item – as my kids say – ‘Don’t sweat the petty stuff and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.’” 

Retired Miliary Leader Bob Tipton of Lander still advises young military men and women. He offers up these observations: “I am afraid we have young people who lack the skills or tools to deal with failure. They fail to understand that through failure you have the opportunity to get stronger.

“As someone that still mentors young Army Officers entering the work force (or Army), I don’t believe this generation is as well prepared to handle failure. I believe we, as the generation who raised them failed them in this area out of love. We protected them in such a way that their opportunities to fail in the formative years means they may be less equipped to handle disappointment or failure as they enter the workforce.

“Failures we can’t protect them from and failures that will happen are a part of life. I believe that when a failure occurs there is an opportunity to not only learn from that failure but it makes us stronger and more resilient to handle future adversity. I believe there is a connection here to our increased suicide rates in recent years of our younger population and while certainly not the sole cause, I strongly believe it is a contributing factor.

Fear of failure

“Instead of being able to recognize that we can not only recover from our failures but become better and stronger, many who are not exposed to failure when they are younger and experience such a blow that they truly believe they cannot recover and instead of getting stronger they tailspin into destructive behavior with some even taking their life. 

“I have grappled with trying to understand why this is happening for some time (of course traumatic events such as we see in the Army further drive this issue).

“So when I speak to young people about life skills when entering the work force, I speak at length about the significance and opportunity that failure brings and the importance of how we view failure as we cannot and should not always win . . . and as young parents they need to raise their children to not fear failure and not over protect them to shelter them from an acceptable level of failure.”

Thanks Leo, Taylor, Pat, and Bob for that additional advice.

To wrap up, my last piece of advice concerns seeking a job. It is important to follow the latest trends – will this job be necessary in the next 10 years? Today’s employers know that these young people have strong social values and they will cater to them. Many of today’s young people are not willing to put in the extra time like most of my generation. I loved my work and couldn’t get enough of it.

Just remember this when you go to an interview. Look your future employer in the eye. Be prepared. Answer questions truthfully. Dress appropriately. And for God’s sake, leave that damn cell phone in your pocket.

Good luck and Godspeed.

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Bill Sniffin: Promoter Now Says Green River Water Transfer Is Good For Wyoming?

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Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Aaron Million insists he is not a bad guy. And above all, he claims he is not a “water thief.” This is the guy who has been working since 2003 to suck water out of Wyoming’s Green River and pump it to cities on Colorado’s front range.

“I am just a family guy doing my job. The seven-state Colorado River Compact allocated that water to my state and, up to now, we have had no way to get it,” he says.

Now he thinks he has figured out how to get the water. And he believes that Wyoming people will be happy to hear this newest version of his plan.

Million is tired of Wyoming people being mad at him. He points out that by the time he gets access to the Green River water under his new plan, it has already completely passed through all of Wyoming. He implies that if Wyoming wants to use that water, then go ahead and use it.

His new plan involves installing a headgate on the Green River in Utah that captures the water just south of the Flaming Gorge dam and diverts it through a 325-mile pipeline. Most of  the pipeline will go back through Wyoming, ultimately showing up in Denver and the thirsty cities on the Colorado Front Range. The pipeline route follows what is called the Kinder-Morgan right of way that currently includes natural gas pipelines. It is an audacious plan.

Million touts this as a $2.5 billion construction project for Wyoming that creates jobs and will provide never-ending property tax revenues to the counties and to the state.

I have been one of Million’s biggest critics ever since he originally unveiled the plan about pumping water out of Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge back in 2007. He originally had his eureka moment about this water diversion back in 2003, while working on an advanced degree at Colorado State U.

Although I am still skeptical, it is appearing that Million is now pushing most of the right buttons to convert his opponents into supporters with his new plan.

Here are a three of his important points:

First, if successful, his plan would only take 1.3 percent of the water out of the Green River, which flows 4.2 million-acre-feet per year. He wants 55,000 acre-feet. Recently, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it is taking more than 10x that amount, 500,000 acre-feet of water out of Flaming Gorge, and sending it downstream to the imperiled Lake Powell in Arizona.

Second, this could be a big economic development project for Wyoming, with construction jobs and tax revenue. Cost could be over $2.5 billion, most of which would be spent in Wyoming. Million thinks the Cowboy State economy could use a boost like this. He said he has a Fortune 500 pipeline company on his team plus the endorsement of the two biggest pipeline unions in the USA, including National Pipeline Union 405, which has a local presence in Wyoming.

“We saddled up the horse again and put together a new management team. We are ready to go.”

Third, there still is a possibility of Wyoming cities and towns along the way getting some of the water. This could be a boon during times when access to potable water is getting scarcer in some places. His pipeline would enter Southwest Wyoming south of Rock Springs and travel across the state to the Cheyenne area where it would turn south toward Colorado. There are already seven natural gas and other fuels pipelines that follow that route. It effectively follows Interstate 80.

Million’s project is also timely because of actions being taken on three gigantic reservoirs on the Colorado River and its tributaries.

From north to south, they are Flaming Gorge in Wyoming-Utah, Lake Powell in Utah-Arizona, and Lake Mead in Arizona-Nevada.

The dams at Mead and Powell generate electricity and water levels have fallen so low, their ability to generate has become threatened. Million says the reason the levels have fallen so low has very little to do with a supposed drought. It is because of too much over-use of the water by the lower basin states, he says emphatically.

The surface elevation at Lake Powell is now at 3,522 feet, which is the lowest since it was originally filled in 1966. If its water level falls to 3,490 feet, its power station would cease to function.

Flaming Gorge, which was completed in 1964, on the Green River, will release half million acre feet of its water this spring as a way to provide more water for Lake Powell. The water level at Flaming Gorge could drop 10 feet by August and 15 feet by the end of summer. This will not affect fishermen but could put stress on marinas and recreational users.

Meanwhile, Lake Mead near Las Vegas, which is the largest man-made reservoir in the country, is also near its lowest point. It was created by Hoover Dam in 1935. This reservoir was named for pioneer Wyoming water allocation legend Elwood Mead of Cheyenne.

Also, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) wants to balance the water usage between the upper Colorado River Basin states, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico and lower basin states, Arizona, Nevada, and California, to make sure electrical generation can continue for the LeChee Navajo Indian Nation and for the town of Page, AZ.

Officials from the seven states decided recently that things needed to change. This came from the Colorado River 2019 Drought Contingency Plan.

Million says the original 1922 compact provided for contingencies like a drought. He also says that lower states have used up the water with reckless abandon. These wasteful bad practices have ended, he says, thankfully. He said those states treated Colorado River water like they were at a fraternity party and just kept drinking and drinking. The actions of the 2019 agreement have now ended those wasteful efforts, he says.

He predicts that both Lake Mead and Lake Powell will continue to see increases in the amount of water in the reservoirs due to the new rules in place.

Million grew up around water projects in an arid area of Green River, UT. He says his family has been involved in four generations of water projects around that area.

“Nobody I know had to haul water for their drinking water like my family did back in the olden days,” he recalls. “We learned conservation when I was four years old and beyond. We do not waste water. I had four siblings. We drew straws to see who got to get into the tub first. You never drained that tub until five kids bathed in it. I know a lot about how not to waste water.”

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Bill Sniffin: 52 Years Ago, Yellowstone Was An Ill-Defined Place Compared To Today

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Imagine a place where wild bears eat treats out of the palm of your hand? Or a place crawling with elk and bison unbothered by predators.

Welcome to Yellowstone National Park in 1970. The great park 52 years ago was also applauded as an amazing tourism economic engine that drew millions of people to Wyoming each year.

The money flowed into the Cowboy State and the cash registers were clanging. Ka-ching.

Heck, the park couldn’t be improved, right?

My first trip to Yellowstone was in the fall of 1970. The most memorable experiences were people feeding the bears from their car windows. The park was almost like a drive-through petting zoo.

Our best friends were cuddly brown and black bears. Nary a grizzly in sight. It was both somewhat thrilling and frightening to feed a bear food from your fingertips. They were like big dogs.

The park was over-run with elk and bison. It was a Serengeti here in the continental USA. There were so many animals that did not fear any predator.

Over the past five decades, things have changed. This fact was celebrated this past week at Old Faithful Inn. In 2022, the park is now 150 years old. President U. S. Grant signed a law in 1872 creating the world’s first national park.

In the last 50 years, grizzly bears were aggressively re-introduced. Bear feeding was eliminated. Then, in 1995, wolves were re-introduced into the park, having been exterminated in the early part of the 20th century, according to YNP Supt. Cam Sholly. He gave the featured remarks at the 150th celebration.

Today both the elk and the bison are nervous. The 120 wolves in the park are deadly predators as are the grizzly. Park officials are proud they have restored the balance of nature to Yellowstone.

I am literally one of a handful of people still alive who also attended the park’s centennial celebration in Cody in 1972. Publisher Lee Myers of the Cody Enterprise got us tickets. Lee is still alive as is former tourism director Gene Bryan, who was probably at that event.

It is significant to note the differences in tone over a half century. Back in 1972, that Cody event was a huge party celebrating what a tourism money-maker Yellowstone Park was for Wyoming. Over a million visitors were coming and one of the main tourist highlights was feeding those ubiquitous brown bears from car windows.

Today, the park service is singing an entirely different tune. During last Friday’s celebration, Supt. Sholly talked about climate change, working with area Indian tribes, and made the pronouncement that the park is in the best shape it has ever been.

Sholly is worried about the future ecosystem of the Great Yellowstone Country. He offered up a cautionary tale about climate and wondered what the park will be like 150 years hence.

He celebrated that regional Indian tribes have been in the area for more than 10,000 years. Arguably, the park was theirs when our Congress made Yellowstone the first national park in the world. Sholly was amazed at the foresight of those gentlemen in Congress, none of whom had ever set foot in the Yellowstone area.

To celebrate the 150th, the Wyoming Division of Tourism set up 30 interviews on morning shows with TV stations across the country.

Gov. Mark Gordon and Tourism Director Diane Shober handled the first spate of interviews, which started at 6 a.m. to accommodate TV stations in the eastern USA. Riverton artist Robert Martinez appeared later with Shober talking about Native American Art.

The 150th celebration was at Old Faithful Inn and included a first for me. I was able to climb up to the Crow’s Nest outside the very top of the 120-year-old structure. It was windy and spitting snow. Nervous, yes, I was nervous. But what a view! And what an experience!

After visiting that building for 52 years, this was a lifetime highlight. Yellowstone guru Rick Hoeninghausen lined this up for a group of much younger journalists, tailed by a much older one. My legs were a little wobbly going up all those very old wood stairs but the view was worth it. Thanks Rick!

Another first for us on this trip was driving through an empty Yellowstone National Park. The south entrance was closed but folks driving up to the 150th anniversary celebration were allowed through.

For 80 miles, we just met a couple of plow trucks. It was empty, quiet, and eerie. We were disappointed not to see any animals but what a treat. I sort of worried if AAA could find me if we had a breakdown.

One of the biggest differences in Yellowstone over 52 years is that traffic has almost tripled. It is now super busy from May to November. We locals used to believe we owned the park in early June and September and October. Not anymore.

I also believe that Xanterra is the best concessionaire the park has ever had. They do a fabulous job under trying circumstances.

So, who owns Yellowstone? The 380 million people of the USA own it, but I am of the feeling that it owns us. It definitely owns me.

Author Joseph Campbell suggests people find a place where they feel “centered.”  To me, that place is the sun room in the Lake Hotel in Yellowstone. Coincidentally, entertainer Dan Miller of Cody told me that was his special place, too. I wonder how many people feel that way?

It is a big oval room with windows all around. It can be blowing and snowing outside and it is totally calm and quiet inside this room. For years, someone would be playing a grand piano in the background. It is a perfect place for reflection.

Most folks know how much I love Yellowstone. It is my favorite place on the planet.

This past weekend, I visited four of my favorite park places: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Norris Geyser Basin, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone grows on a person.

In my case, it has been a 52-year itch that I keep trying to scratch.

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Bill Sniffin: With Trump Coming To Wyoming, Will This Be The Biggest Political Crowd In State’s History?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Here he comes!

Is former President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to Wyoming going to generate the biggest political crowd in the state’s history?

Over 20,000 people are expected. The event will be held outside in the parking area, rather than inside, which has a limited capacity of 10,000. The rally is Saturday, May 28 in Casper at the Ford Center. With that size crowd, it will be the biggest political event in our state’s 132-year history.

Much to Republicans’ chagrin, up to now, the existing records for political turnouts in the state belong to Democrats.

On March 7, 2008, Barack Obama talked to a huge crowd at the Arena Auditorium in Laramie. I tried to find out how many people were there but could not. The place could hold 16,000 people back in those days. Since 2014, the reduced capacity is 11,600.

Incredibly, Obama left Wyoming and spoke to 84,000 people at Mile High Stadium in Denver at his next stop.  

Former Sen. Al Simpson, former Gov. Mike Sullivan, and former UW History professor Phil Roberts all had trouble recalling if they had seen a crowd that large before in Wyoming.

The biggest events that I have seen were huge crowd in Casper for Sen. Ted Kennedy promoting Teno Roncalio in 1972. Roncalio was in the fight of his political life against Bill Kidd. Roncalio ultimately won that race.

I attended another huge Casper crowd supporting George W. Bush naming Wyoming’s Dick Cheney on July 26, 2000, as his vice-presidential running mate. Coincidentally, I spent most of the time in the press area chatting with newsman Britt Hume, who loved coming to Wyoming.

Dick Cheney also hosted a big rally early in this century at the Casper Events Center that would have neared the 10,000 mark.

Perhaps the biggest rally up to now was on Sept. 25, 1963 at the fieldhouse in Laramie with President John F. Kennedy. The young president who barely had a month to live, talked about conservation to the crowd of 13,000.

Worland author and historian John Davis attended that Kennedy rally. He recalled how funny it was for Wyomingites to hear JFK tout the benefits of “soderash” to the chuckling crowd.

Jack Speight of Cheyenne was head of the Young Democrats for Kennedy in 1963 when JFK spoke at the old fieldhouse. It was a packed house celebrating Kennedy and Sen. Gale McGee. Speight later was chairman of the state Republican Party in 1973-74.   

Kennedy’s remarks at UW focused on the importance of education and technology to protect the environment.

“Our primary task now is to increase our understanding of our environment to a point where we can enjoy it without defacing it, use its bounty without detracting permanently from its value, and, above all, maintain a living balance between man’s actions and nature’s reactions,” the President told the audience.

President John F. Kennedy and Wyoming Sen. Gale McGee

Although the trip was Kennedy’s only visit to Wyoming as President, then-Senator Kennedy attended a fundraiser in Cheyenne in 1958 and returned in 1960 while campaigning for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

Jim Hicks of Buffalo was a cub reporter in Casper when he covered that 1958 AFL-CIO event which featured Kennedy. Hicks says he cannot recall how many people were there. “It definitely was a sell-out,” he said.

Prior to that, Hicks also attended a visit by President Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, but said it was a short stop-over.

Gov Mike Sullivan, President Bill Clinton, Sec of State Kathy Karpan

Former Gov. Mike Sullivan recalled a crowd of about 5,000 that attended an event for President Bill Clinton during his “western swing.” It was at the Cheyenne airport.

“My recollection was Clinton’s appearance was a significant increase from the 40 who showed up when Kathy Karpan and I announced our support for Clinton about 6 months earlier!” Sullivan recalled.

Greybull native Diana Schutte Dowling says Trump’s upcoming visit reminds her of a 1954 event: “Big Horn County Republicans announced Vice-President Richard M. Nixon, would pass through Greybull at 8:45 Saturday morning Oct 23. Nixon would be traveling between appearances in Cody and Worland and had agreed to halt briefly at Greybull’s stoplight and wave to any well-wishers who might gather there. If that political gathering was the biggest in the history of Greybull no one reported it,” she said.

Wyoming Republican Party officials have spoken about this month’s Trump appearance in Wyoming since December, although the details have been slow to emerge. The time and exact venue were announced Monday by the former president.

Trump has endorsed the campaign of Republican Harriet Hageman in her GOP primary race against U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

“It will be a tremendous honor and incredibly exciting to have President Trump visit with us and it will no doubt be the largest political event in Wyoming history,” Hageman said in a prepared statement. “I am grateful for President Trump’s support in my campaign and I look forward to seeing him in Casper.

According to an event listing on Trump’s website, people wishing to get tickets for the event may register by cell phone. Only two tickets will be given per cell phone.

Doors for the event are scheduled to open at 11 a.m. and the rally is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

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Bill Sniffin: The Wind – My God – Why Has The Wind Increased So Much?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

No doubt about it – we are getting more wind today than ever before in history. Right. I heard people saying that all over Wyoming, in Utah, in Nevada, and even in Dallas, Texas during this long windy spring. 

No matter where we have been over the past few months, local winds have almost blown us away. 

My topic today is about traveling all around the Wild, Wild, West by car and by motorhome, and let me tell you, the wind is blowing everywhere. And blowing hard!

Wherever I was at, I was blamed for bringing with me that notorious Wyoming wind. 

We saw semi’s on their sides on both Interstate 25 and Interstate 80 in Wyoming.  North of Las Vegas, we saw a motorhome and large fifth wheel camper in the median, blown over. On Interstate 40 in New Mexico, we saw semi-trucks backed up for 20 miles near Gallop because a semi had jackknifed in the winds. In Arizona, traffic was stopped by blistering sandstorms. Everywhere we went – the wind blew and blew and blew some more. 

It seems everyone everywhere was complaining “the wind is blowing a lot more nowadays than it used to.” I totally agreed. It sure seemed windier to me whereever I was in recent months. 

Superstar Cowboy State Daily weatherman Don Day shrugs all this off with a chuckle, when someone complains to him about how much more windy it is this spring. “I politely tell them, no, this has not been the worst year for wind. Don’t you remember last winter/spring?”

Day says: “I have encountered a phenomenon with people and weather. People seem to remember the most recent major weather event(s) and seem to forget what happened with the weather just one or two years ago.”

So, has this winter/spring been windier than average?

Day says the answer is yes, but it has been the last 5 weeks of wind that has pushed people over the edge — not so much the wind between November and February.

He reminds us that March/April on average is one of the windiest times of the year in this region.

Day offers up a logical explanation: “Back to why it is so windy – I know folks are tired of me saying ‘La Nina’ but La Nina (which has going on for more than two years now) is a major culprit in our high winds. La Nina is when the subtropical Pacific Ocean (along the equator) is cooler than average, especially for long periods of time. It has nothing to do with climate change, it is the colder water that helps induce the high winds and dryness. It sounds counterintuitive but colder water in the subtropical Pacific usually means warmer, drier, and windier weather in western North America.”

I always thought that if the four seasons of Wyoming were siblings in a family, spring would be the family member the others would describe as a passive-aggressive nut case. Or as someone who has no idea where he’s been, where he is now, or where he is going.  

Spring could also be called that crazy aunt whose unpredictability means she will always rock the boat and upset your applecart. Whatever you have planned for Wyoming in spring, well, you always need a back-up plan.

Did I say that spring in Wyoming was unpredictable? Looney, wild-eyed spontaneous is a more reliable description.

I like to say that Wyoming has three normal seasons, summer, fall and winter. Spring is another story. A better name for this crazy season is SPRINTER. If a season could be schizophrenic it would be Wyoming’s spring. Sometimes it can be like an early summer. Sometimes it can just be a continuance of winter. And more often than not, it is a hybrid season full of mud and occasional rains and sometimes massive ice flows in some rivers.

The first time I heard the Wyoming term “mud season” it conjured up images of the sloppy dirt roads that I had to drive on growing up in the Midwest far country a long time ago.

But here in the Cowboy State, mud season means the sloppy mess you get when snow and ice freezes and the sun comes out and warms it all up.  Then it melts and freezes again and warms up and then melts again for what seems like an eternity.

Some places are more muddy than others.

It would seem that Cheyenne and Laramie are not so muddy.  Lander, Riverton, Worland, Buffalo, and Sheridan are messy because they get so much more snow. Jackson can be almost always a muddy mess, as can Pinedale and Afton.

It might be pertinent to mention that mentions that in the winter of 1935, a rancher was killed by a flying sheep. Now that was a big wind. 

I’ll let Don Day have the last words when it comes to all this wind:

He says: “When this state and region get hit with high winds it is usually from two types of patterns.

“First, strong west to east jet stream winds that run perpendicular to the Continental Divide – this causes the wind to be squeezed through the mountain gaps (i.e. Elk Mountain, Muddy Gap, etc.) causing strong wind events. La Nina helps to form very fast-moving jet stream winds. This is one reason for the drought, storms, and fronts move through fast, not having time to drop good amounts of rain/snow.

“Second, intense winter/spring storms that move on top or just north of the state. This pattern (the blizzards in ND/MT) has been responsible for the high wind. When strong low-pressure systems form in the region and pass to our north, the big difference in air pressure bring intense wind that can go on for days. This is common, especially in the spring. So, this spring, the high number of intense storms moving through the Pacific NW, MT, ND, NE WY brings very strong winds to the rest of WY, UT, CO, NE, NM, TX, OK. 

“This spring the number of these intense spring storms is higher, which is ultimately good news for our friends to the north (moisture), while the rest of the region gets pummeled by the wind. When storms pass to our south (CO, NM) we don’t get the high winds.”

He concludes: “By this time next year, La Nina will be gone but I can guarantee you someone will walk to me and say: ‘I swear this is the worst year of wind I can remember. It’s been awful!’”

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Bill Sniffin: In World War III, Cheyenne Becomes Biggest Bulls-Eye In The World

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

A nuclear bulls-eye is focused smack on Wyoming’s state capital. Today, when madman Vladimir Putin is talking about sending Russian nuclear missiles to the USA, it can make you wonder about what you would do in such a scenario?

This is one of those “what if” columns. I want to believe that what I am writing about here is just not realistic . . . but? Sorry if this is so pessimistic, but I think Putin has gone off the rails. If he has, that could be very bad news for Wyoming. 

You can run, but you cannot hide during a nuclear attack. If Putin launches, the world as we know it could cease to exist. 

Because Wyoming is the home base to 150 sites of ICBM nuclear-tipped missiles around the F. E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, our state capital would be one of the main targets of Russian missiles. 

The prospect of world-wide Armageddon becomes real when folks realize Putin is becoming more paranoid as his ill-fated invasion of Ukraine looks worse all the time. If his own people rise up against him, could he set off a nuclear war as a last desperate act of a delusional dictator?  This could be the awful outcome of Putin’s horrible actions. Peaceful people all over the world are being drawn back to a Cold War time when such a conflagration was on most people’s minds. 

World leaders and Putin experts worry the Russian leader is leaning toward using nuclear weapons in his war with Ukraine. Once that tipping point occurs, the fear is that it could escalate to World War III.

And if such a nuclear war ensued, Wyoming could be one of Putin’s first targets. 

Recently Putin ordered his country’s deterrence forces to a special regime of duty. He warned the West if it intervened in the Ukraine war, “the consequences will be such as you have never seen in your entire history.” The message was clear. He has nukes and he is ready to use them. 

Russian Expert Fiona Hill said about the threat: “So, if anybody thinks Putin wouldn’t use something that he’s got, that is unusual and cruel, think again. Every time you think: ‘No, he won’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would.”

Hill says mutual deterrence has kept the world safe for 70 years. But the flaw with a nuclear deterrence theory is that it depends on the people who possess nuclear weapons acting rationally. Hill says: “With Putin, there is evident visceral emotion in the things that he said in the past few weeks justifying the war in Ukraine. His pretext is completely flimsy and almost nonsensical.” 

In summary, the whole theory and practical application of deterrence (also called Mutual Assured Destruction) goes out the window when one of the players is not rational.  

The states of Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, and North Dakota are called ‘sponge sites,’ for their ability to absorb a nuclear attack. According to Tom Collina of Ploughshares Fund, the five states ability “to absorb a nuclear attack from Russia” is factored into the country’s ability to survive a nuclear attack. He says “while high population centers with huge cultural impact may seem like obvious choices, a smarter nuclear attack would focus on countering the enemy’s nuclear forces.”  This means the missile system at Warren AFB will be a main target. 

Some decades ago, we had our Lander newspaper cartoonist draw an illustration showing a map of the United States with a bulls-eye located in Cheyenne. This gave us an idea of where the former-Soviet Union (Russia) was aiming its missiles. It was assumed the Russians would want to cripple the ICBM (InterContinental Ballistic Missile) headquarters as a pre-emptive start of a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR. The message of that cartoon was that the rest of Wyomingites would bear a big brunt of that onslaught. 

Today, all those Cheyenne-based silos and those 150 missiles are getting a serious upgrade. The current facilities are decades old.

There are three sites, each with 150 launch silos. They include Warren in Cheyenne, Malmstrom in Great Falls, Montana, and the Air Force base in Minot, ND. 

Yes, it is time to re-boot this entire program and it looks like the price tag it will take involves eleven digits at $86,000,000,000. The project is now in the environmental review stage and the upgrade is hoped to be finished by 2030. Warren will be the first of the three bases to get the upgrade. 

Meanwhile, the threat of a pending nuclear war, thanks to Putin, are on peoples’ minds. 

To folks of a certain age, such a prospect brings back memories of our childhood when we had weekly Cold War drills in our schools. We were either shown how to hide under our desks or how much time it took to rush home. 

Charlie Smith of Lander recalls: “I lived in Richland, Washington, from 1946-53. Richland was the home of the Hanford nuclear plant–originally a town of about 300 that grew to 25,000 during the war.  

I very well remember bomb drills–crouching under desks and/or against walls–burying our heads between our knees. It was serious stuff for a child, and we knew it from an up-close and personal level.  My father had a high-level security job at Hanford, one that was a civilian continuation of his military job during WWII when he was assigned to the Manhattan Project.  

“My memory is even stronger when we learned in 1949 the Russians had stolen the atom bomb secrets. My parents’ conversations were solemn and serious. Even at age six their words were so alarming and frightening to me they became a permanent fixture of worry in my memory. Security was a huge deal in Richland.  

“Every time my father’s security clearance was up for renewal, we would have FBI agents parked down the block watching us. And all our neighbors were interviewed.   We knew with certainty spies were in Richland — perhaps in greater numbers than we suspected.   

“I thought it was cool for a kid, though, to see my father come home from work and take off his suit jacket and see he was packing heat–a revolver tucked away in a shoulder holster. It is because of that history, the bomb drills might have seemed goofy to many kids and adults elsewhere; to us they reflected reality.   We knew if there was an attack, we would be an important target.” 

Back in the 1950s, the Strategic Air Command Base in Omaha would have been the #1 target for the old Soviet Union. My wife Nancy lived in Harlan, Iowa, which was downwind from Omaha. She recalls school officials timing the students on how long it took them to rush home after during a missile drill. 

I grew up in eastern Iowa and my dad would round up me and my brothers and take us to huge silica mines near Clayton on the banks of the Mississippi River. We would work with other folks storing huge barrels of fresh water and cases of a product called survival crackers. This would be the best place to hide in that part of the world during a nuclear attack. The mines were huge with a capacity to hold 44,000 people. It was 60 acres in size and had 14 miles of tunnels.

Out here in Wyoming, I assumed our whole state would be toast because of F. E. Warren, but not so. Maps created by Survival Freedom shows a big area near my home town of Lander that could be among the few places in the country that might provide a survivable habitat. 

I guess that is a puddle of good news amidst a whole ocean of bad news in the world right now. 

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Bill Sniffin: Fashion Commentary On Holsters, Fanny Packs, Pocket Protectors, Nose Rings

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By Bill Sniffin

Believe it or not, this column is about fashion trends.

My first story is about a time a few years ago when I was in the bar area of the Lander Community Center during a charity fund-raiser to benefit disabled veterans.

“Are you packing?” 

I did not think the question was meant for me. I kept minding my own business. 

“Are you packing?” the voice to my left continued.  

I looked over and here was a nice-looking female. She was the one asking the question.

When my look back at her was obviously a confused one, she asked me a third time: “Are you packing?”  She pointed to the holster attached to my belt on my right side. 

I turned and showed her it was just my cell phone. 

“Oh,” she said, “I thought you were packing a gun, wearing a holster like that.”

“No, it’s just my cell phone,” I answered. 

Now, I pal around with a lot of guys who are armed most of the time. Some carry guns in their boots, some in hidden holsters, and sometimes, right on their belts. Several have loaded hand guns in the glove compartment of their cars.

Dave Simpson of Cheyenne of column writing fame had this to say: “I don’t pack my .44 special because I’m afraid I’d drop it and shoot myself.”

I have not gotten into the habit of packing a firearm. Crime is very low in Lander and I have not felt the need to “pack.” My wife thinks we own too many guns but that is another story. 

My friend Tom Cox credits my holster with helping to keep the crime rate down in Lander. “I suspect that you may have contributed more than you may realize about crime being very low here.” 

Another friend Ben Freedman says: “My cell phone will never be confused with my 9mm strapped to my belt. Instead, my cell phone is stuffed into my left front pants pocket. Now since I’ve retired 10 years ago, stuffing my wallet in my right front pants pocket and my cell in the left front pocket seems quite sensible. 

“Since my butt left me long ago maybe I should consider stuffing my back pockets rather than my front pockets. I know I’m not fooling anyone with the front pockets.”

But that woman’s question about my cell phone holster got me thinking. Am I out of fashion? Does wearing a cell phone on my belt make me an old fogey?

So, I started looking around and observed that just about anybody under the age of 60 does not pack a cell phone in a holster. They either keep them in their pockets or stuck somewhere else. That holster that I have fondly used for 25 years is decidedly out of fashion flavor.

Thus, the reason the woman asked if I was packing was that no doubt nobody in her immediate circle used a cell phone holster. And probably never had.

John B. Brown chimes in: “The holster for cell phones is much harder to find these days. The Verizon store on Main Street mainly sells protective cases, usually made of shock-resistant plastic. 

Has the cell phone holster gone the way of the pocket protector?

To young folks who have no idea what I am talking about, when I was in school back in the 1950s and 1960s, every teacher and most professional adults wore a plastic pocket protector that fit inside a shirt pocket. That was where you kept your pens, pencils, paper clips and whatever. It was handy. 

About the end of last century, the pocket protector went out of fashion for good. You never see them. Like my holster, they broadcast a certain fashion statement that is not a compliment.

Greybull native Diana Dowling says: “My dad, Art Schutte, was a railroad conductor and ALWAYS had his pens in his shirt pocket protector.”

During my research of cell phones, I noticed that every little girl, aged 8 or higher and older gals, too, packs her cell phone in the back pocket of her jeans. The phone sticks halfway out and apparently is jammed into an unbreakable case called an Otterbox ™. It is strong as iron and the phone would never break even when you sit on it, which happens a lot.

As an aside, can I say that I hate this new style of nose rings that is suddenly popular with females (and some males). It is because I spent so much time as a young reporter writing about pig farmers in Iowa. All their big old hogs had prominent nose rings. Sorry gals, but your new look makes me cringe. 

But back to cell phones: there are an inordinate number of women of all ages who pack their phones and car keys around and stack them somewhere in their immediate vicinity when they are drinking coffee, having a drink, or practicing yoga, etc. 

Seems to me that I need to get back on the fashion track. Not sure how I will replace my cell phone holster – my holster is too small for any of my handguns. 

I am not ready to put my phone into an Otterbox and sticking it in my back pocket. I know one young robust woman in her 30s who claims she sticks her phone in her bra – no kidding.  

Ron Gullberg of Cheyenne (also of the Wyoming Business Council) shares this fashion observation: “My kids still tease me about my fanny pack I wore for a while some years ago. Hey, it consolidated my keys, wallet, Copenhagen, and Razr phone.”

Recently, I passed an age milestone, which caused me to write the following: “Am I finally at that age when I can wear my pants with the belt up around my chest?”

Perhaps the more meaningful question was: “Does this mean I can finally wear black socks and formal shoes with my walking shorts?”

Folks, I am just trying to keep up with appropriate fashion trends. It looks like my cell phone holster is toast. However, I am definitely not ready for a nose ring. 

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Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Was Prehistoric Land Of Beasts, Rock Art, Mysterious Places

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By Bill Sniffin

Just about everything about Wyoming over the last 180 million years has been BIG. Although it is vast today, the Wyoming of 180 million years ago sure looked different from today. Most everything was truly gigantic.

Even the geography was different. Instead of high plains with semi-arid desert lands and towering mountains, that earlier place was wet. Very wet.

Some of the biggest animals that ever lived, both reptile and mammal, lived in Wyoming in earlier times.

Wyoming is also a land of giants today. It truly was a land of giants back in its earliest days.

Dinosaurs roamed Wyoming as much as anywhere on earth. Literally thousands of dinosaur specimens can be found in museums all across the planet that were found here in the Cowboy State.

Locally, fantastic dinosaur displays can be found at the Knight Museum at the University of Wyoming, the Tate Museum in Casper and the Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis.

And to show just how long dinosaurs dominated our planet, it is interesting to note just how long dinosaurs lived here. One way to reveal dinosaurs’ long dominance of this place is to consider that the arrival of modern man today is closer, time-wise, to a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which disappeared 65 million years ago than that same Rex is to the lumbering Brontosaurus that was pounding the turf here 150 million years ago.

Wyoming is home to Como Bluff, a relatively nondescript outcropping just off Highway 30 near Medicine Bow. That area has yielded a treasure trove of dinosaur bones over the past 130 years, or during the time that Wyoming has been a state.

There are wonderful sites all over Wyoming for people to experience sites formerly occupied by extinct dinosaurs and giant mammals and get involved in real archeological digs.

Besides the pitfalls of evolution, super volcanoes wreaked havoc on those ancient creatures. Wyoming has been home to the famous Yellowstone Supervolcano during most of these years. Three of the most recent explosions occurred two million years ago, 1.1 million years ago and 650,000 years ago.

It is due to explode again and could blow, give or take, in a millennium. Scientists are watching its every move. Books, movies, and TV specials in recent years have fostered this notion of imminent catastrophe.

And yet for 180 million years, Wyoming survived as a land of dinosaurs and then giant mammals.

Early man arrived here 13,000 years ago. Most experts think these were Asian people who crossed the Bering Strait on a land and ice bridge.

From the time man arrived in our space known as Wyoming people have wanted to record their personal stories.

Long before writing was developed, ancient people recorded tales of their daily lives on Wyoming’s rock walls.

Perhaps these were holy sites where people would study in hope of receiving a vision to guide their way into their uncertain futures. Wyoming is full of these wonderful places, which can inspire both awe and mystery to present-day visitors.

The ancient tribes of hunter-gatherers traditionally recorded their stories by scrawling messages on rock walls and creating eerie rock monuments. Were these sites created or built to honor some long-forgotten god or celestial celebration?

When they first arrived, it is assumed they hunted ancient mammals to extinction. These included the mammoth and other giant beasts, which had evolved into super-large versions of their kind because of no natural enemies – until man, arrived, that is.

The Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn Mountains is often called America’s Stonehenge because of the mystery it portends. It is thousands of years old. Although its purpose is unknown to us but it definitely lines up with certain bright stars, solar solstices and constellations in the sky.

Without horses, those early tribes used natural features of the landscape to provide food and skins for their survival. Two of the most famous are the Vore Buffalo Jump near Sundance and the Wold site near the Hole-in-the-Wall between Moneta and Kaycee.

Other sites exist where earlier Wyoming residents trapped and killed the gigantic mammoth, ultimately driving it to extinction. The Tate Geologic Museum in Casper has one of the biggest skeletal specimens of these giant Wyoming mammoths.

Native peoples dominated Wyoming until about 1720 when it is speculated Spanish invaders barely touched the southeast corner of present-day Wyoming.

This had been a glorious time for these hunter-gatherers before the onset of the European invasion of their vast homelands.

Once the white man arrived, life would never be the same again.

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Bill Sniffin: Masters Golf Is This Week; Here Are Some Memories of Wyomingites Who Have Gone

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Like Jim Neiman of Hulett and Tim Joannides of Cheyenne, I have been among several Wyomingites to attend the Masters Golf Tournament week activities in Augusta, GA.

This week, excitement is brewing as the Masters will include Tiger Woods playing. Big concern is how well the five-time winner will play after suffering terrible injuries in a car wreck 18 months ago. 

Most folks call the Augusta Masters course “golf heaven.” 

Neiman, who operates one of the country’s largest timber harvesting operations, described it: “I was lucky enough to get invited when Sergio Garcia won a few years ago in 2017. The place is unbelievable and beautiful. We were not allowed to take pictures. Not one stem of grass was out of place. It is maintained better than any place I have ever been.”

Joannides says: “I attended in 2009 and 2011 on a press pass from a good friend. The course is the best I have ever seen. Most surprising is how much up-and-down hiking a pro golfer has to walk during a typical round.

“I bought lots of souvenirs and ate my share of $1.50 sandwiches. The people who run that tournament really know what they are doing. They take wonderful care of their guests and the place is unlike any other golf venue in the world. I would love to go back.”

Two years ago, Joannides turned over ownership of the Halladay network of car dealerships in Cheyenne to Jim Casey. Tim said, at the time, he was not going to retire but “refire.”  He said “I have a lot of things to do. I’m going to work on my classic car collection, manage family properties, and work on the family foundation. I feel truly blessed.” Plus, he plans to continue to play golf, which was the impetus for his first trip 12 years ago to the Masters in Augusta.

Long-time readers of my column know that I am fond of golf. My work and family schedule really doesn’t allow that much time for golf, though.          

But for a few days in 2001, this might have been the most fun I have ever had on a golf course – and I wasn’t even playing.

For I visited Golf Heaven and walked these famous grounds. My three brothers and I spent April 2-3, 2001, attending practice rounds at the Masters Golf Tournament at the August National Golf Club in Georgia.

I had always heard that a ticket to the Masters was the hardest ticket to get in golf – not so. That is, if you are willing to settle for attending a practice round.

The tickets for the final four days of the actual tournament are as hard to get as a season ticket to the Denver Broncos. But not the practice rounds.

My brother Pat is the true golf fanatic in the family. He found out how to get tickets to the practice round. Back then, you sent in your $84 for four tickets ($21 each). They held a lottery in Augusta, and if you are drawn, you get in.

All four brothers sent in requests and my older brother Tom, who happens to live 80 miles from Augusta in Columbia, SC, was a lucky winner. Thus, we put together a quick trip down south to the most famous golf course in America.

We dressed in shorts and polo shirts but packed some heavier clothing just in case the weather turned bad. We were glad we did.  It was sprinkling when we got out of the car and there in the parking lot, we put on rain gear, and unloaded our umbrellas.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me the most when we first got to the golf course was how “green” everything was. When you think of the severe winter Wyomingites endured in 2000-2001 – this was a welcome change. Flowers were blooming everywhere and you got the feeling you were walking into a big garden.

As a golfer, the biggest surprise was how steep the fairways were and how much up and down walking a person would do to play this course. There is hardly a level spot on the fairways, which made me appreciate even more the way these pros can make shots in this place.

We saw Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Notah Begay, Vijay Singh, and David Duval on the practice tees. The practice round had been suspended for three hours because the rain had started to fall even harder.

Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara were scheduled to tee off at 8 a.m. but were nowhere to be seen. Speculation was that when they heard about the three-hour rain delay, they jetted off to Florida or somewhere, so they could get in some practice, rather than just sitting around the clubhouse.

We took a lot of photos and bought a lot of souvenir merchandise. This is the only place on the planet where you can buy Masters stuff and I ended up with a hat, a shirt, some logo golf balls, some ball markers, and a new umbrella – as my old one was destroyed by a burst of wind during one of the frequent Augusta rainstorms.

While most people were complaining about the rain, in the same breath most said they would rather see the rain early in the week than later.

Once the practice round of golf started, we saw some incredible shots. As the PGA television commercial proclaims: “These guys are good.”  Yes, they are.

Meanwhile I joined the rest of America’s golf fanatics in watching this amazing Masters Golf Tournament on TV later in the week and what a show it was. Tiger Woods won but did more than that.  I believe that Tiger winning four consecutive major tournaments ranks with the most outstanding achievements in any sport in USA history. What a moment. 

But back to Augusta. I would encourage anyone who is a golf enthusiast to consider taking in one of these practice days of golf at the Masters.

It is fun. It is unique. It is historic. And it IS hallowed ground (for golf).

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Bill Sniffin: Everybody Wants Wyoming Water; How Do We Keep Colorado From Stealing It?

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Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Corbis via Getty Images

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

In Wyoming, whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over.

Never has that old saying been more fitting than today.  

Worldwide, the next great shortage crisis will involve water. And Wyoming has an abundance of water.

Our most important unclaimed water resource is the ample Green River, which streams down from its headwaters in the Wind River Mountains near Dubois. It flows down the western side of the state exiting the state in the 91-mile long Flaming Gorge Reservoir south of Green River.

Since 2002, the biggest threat to Wyoming water stored in huge amounts at Flaming Gorge has been posed by a Fort Collins entrepreneur. 

Aaron Million lusts after that water and has promoted plans upon plans to get it to the Front Range of Colorado.

For years, he touted a pipeline that would run across southern Wyoming. A tiny amount of the water would have been allocated to Cheyenne and Torrington. Despite that token gesture, the project was fought hard by just about everyone in Wyoming. A survey on the project once showed 79 percent of Wyomingites opposed it.

Recently, Million has proposed moving the project to Utah, but officials in that state have also spurned his efforts.

And even more recently, he proposed his project as an energy generation project, similar to hydropower projects across many western states.  No takers on that plan yet, either.

The guy dreamed up the project while doing a thesis at the University of Colorado. He deserves credit for his persistence. His well-heeled backers appear to keep paying him with the remote hope that someday the project will work its way through all the regulatory hurdles and divert Wyoming water to Colorado.

Million seemingly rolls his eyes at the opposition to his project. He claims it would only use 1% of the water in the Green River. Skeptics disagree.

Historically, the Colorado River compact was flawed. Seven states, including Wyoming, tried in 1922 to divide up the water that flows down that river. The biggest single tributary flowing into the Colorado is the Green River. It joins the Colorado near Canyonlands National Park in Utah.

When they divvied up the water rights, officials from the states had no way of knowing that they were emerging from some very wet decades and entering dry times. 

Especially in recent times, when population growth has been been high and precipitation levels have been low, a crisis has loomed. States like Colorado want the water that was allocated to them. Hence, the efforts to harness water currently flowing in the Green River and stored in Flaming Gorge Reservoir. Other states in the compact were Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California.

Other canal projects come to mind. After almost 50 years of effort, the Central Arizona Project now drains billions of gallons of water away from the Colorado River to keep golf courses in Phoenix green.

Although most of the unallocated water is located in Wyoming, Colorado is the thirstiest place north of Las Vegas, which draws its water from the over-allocated Lake Mead.  Lake Mead is the biggest reservoir in the United States but its water levels are dropping at an alarming rate. It now contains less water than when it was first filled. 

Super strict water restrictions in Sin City have resulted in a city with few green lawns. Yards everywhere are landscaped desert designs and cactus gardens.

Back in Colorado, some 80% of the people live east of the continental divide and 80 percent of its water is west of the divide. The state was been a model of water creativity, especially with trans-basin movement of water. In some cases, it even involves tunnels through mountains crossing under the divide.

Today Colorado leaders are aghast because Nebraska is proposing a new canal to draw water from its South Platte River. This 500-mile project would take water away from the already parched Front Range but the plan is legal based on long ago regional water compacts. 

Nebraska officials are smug about their chances while Colorado officials are apoplectic about the very mention of them losing any more water.

An underground lake? In Greeley, city leaders are working on a project where they would store water in an aquifer, which is similar to a lake – except it is underground.

Called the Terry Ranch project, it is located under 10,000 acres of land near Carr, Colorado, just south of Cheyenne. It would reportedly hold 1.2 million acre-feet of water. This is almost 50 times more water than what is being used now by Greeley. Now, that is an example of some real creativity.

Meanwhile, this is not the end of water squabbles between states in this region. As temperatures continue to soar and rain and snow totals drop, the only thing guaranteed to happen will be future battles over this limited natural liquid resource.

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Bill Sniffin: The Richest Man In The World Lives Here In The Cowboy State

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

We have all seen this Wyoming guy.

He doesn’t look rich.

But if you examine his life and measure his level of happiness, there is a compelling argument he could very well be the richest man in the world.

This is a man who loves the outdoors. He loves to hunt and fish. He loves to explore. He just happens to have a few motorized off-road vehicles around (his wife calls them “toys”), which are not necessarily new, but he keeps them in good repair. He loves tinkering on them.

This rich man lives in Casper or Sheridan or Worland or Cheyenne or Laramie or Rock Springs or Evanston or Riverton or any other Wyoming city or town. He gets up early each morning to greet the day with a big smile because he is in total control of his universe.

The day starts off with coffee with his buddies. They meet every morning, rain or shine, and spend an hour telling tall tales to each other and occasional off-color jokes.

Let’s call this guy Joe. With all due respect to the University of Wyoming, we might even call him Cowboy Joe because he is a big fan of UW and is rarely seen without brown or gold apparel that reads WYOMING or COWBOYS.

Joe does odd jobs and is in control of his own schedule. His wife has a good steady job with good benefits and good retirement. They are frugal and have saved up a little money. They enjoy Wyoming’s outdoor experiences together.

It is well-known that Joe married “up,” which means he found himself an ideal life partner. People say his wife should not put up with all Joe’s hobbies, but she accepts them with a smile, because she likes them, too. They are active in their church and people can count on them to help during times of need. They are there for others at such times.

These folks like Joe are among the richest people in the world’s history.

Someone like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or some Arab sheik may think his life is better than Joe’s, but do not try to convince Joe of this.  He would not trade his place on the planet with any of them.

He and his wife encouraged their kids to study hard and qualify for scholarships because extra money was hard to find. The kids qualified and they also worked during their years at UW. They graduated almost debt-free. 

Joe and his wife taught their kids to be thrifty and to appreciate the finer things in life, such as the joys available in Wyoming’s great outdoors.

Joe and his wife are the best grandparents in the world. They take the grandchildren fishing, hunting, and camping. They have lots of time to spend with them and are never in a hurry. They listen to the grandkids’ problems because often the kids’ parents are too busy trying to make a living to do so.

At some point, one of Joe’s kids will lecture the old man about how if he had worked an extra job or invested in the stock market, he probably would have ended up rich. And when he turned 70, he would have time to do all the fishing and hunting he might want to do. 

Joe will look at him and shrug. You can almost tell that he is thinking “It’s time to go fishing.”

The Cowboy Joe described here is characteristic of a lot of people I know in Wyoming. I wish that I could have been more like him. In business, my wife Nancy and I have tried to get it all done but I missed out on a lot because of pressures associated with running and growing several businesses. I would have liked to have spent more time hunting, fishing, and camping.

Perhaps the closest I ever came to the perfect life was when I aspired to be a newspaper publisher at a young age. I made it at age 24 here in Lander, which was sort of incredible.

A friend back in those days invited Nancy and me to dinner where a third man showed up and gave us a pitch about how we could make all this extra money with a multi-level marketing sales scheme. I think it was Amway.

“Just think, Bill,” the man exclaimed. “If you make all this extra money, you can be whatever you ever wanted to be!”

My answer to him was: “Sorry, but I am what I always wanted to be.”

Now that is what Joe would have answered had he been asked that question.

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Bill Sniffin: Mark Miller Tells The Sordid Story of Big Nose George Better Than Anyone Else

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Okay, so who was Big Nose George?

This legendary character from Wyoming’s formative past has been written about extensively for the past 141 years, but never has anyone really put the whole story all together until now.

Dr. Mark E. Miller’s new book “Big Nose George, His Troublesome Trail” is the best telling I have seen of this famous character’s real story.

I featured a version of this story, along with some crazy photographic images, in my third coffee table book, “Wyoming at 125,” back in 2015. We included the tidbit that after George’s lynching, his body was skinned, and a pair of shoes was made from the remnants.

Lynched? Was he ever lynched! Not sure any Wyoming outlaw endured what poor George Parott, a train robber and confessed murderer, had to put up with as an angry mob put an end to his worthless life in Rawlins in 1881. And George’s body endured an ultimate indignity after he was dead. Miller tells these tales in more detail and in a more entertaining way than I have ever read before.

That colorful tale always begged for more information. I always wanted to know more about this amazing story and Miller’s book comes through. 

Noted historian Phil Roberts of Laramie says Miller’s book “is a well-told story about an event previously shrouded in the mists of time. The book will serve as an important corrective to the jumbled mythology and folklore surrounding the tale of crime and execution in Old West Wyoming more than a century ago.”

Miller has a personal family tie to the story. The sheriff of Carbon County back in 1881 when the lynching occurred was his great-grandfather.

The author is retired from teaching at the University of Wyoming. In his preface, he writes:

“It seems fitting for me to write this brief history of nineteenth-century outlaw Big Nose George Parott, whose criminal exploits spanned 1876–1881 in Wyoming Territory. After all, four generations of Millers grew up telling his story because parts of it hit close to home. My great-grandfather, Isaac C. (Ike) Miller, was Carbon County Sheriff when a Powder River Gang member sat in jail after his turbulent criminal trial in Rawlins. Sheriff Miller was legally required to carry out the sentence imposed by the court on the prisoner.

“I was born in that railroad town seventy years after Parott’s death. Every kid my age grew up wide-eyed, hearing similar har­rowing accounts of the Elk Mountain incident and the outlaw gang who perpetrated it (when Parott and his gang killed two lawmen near Elk Mountain). Most out-of-town visitors to Rawlins heard it as well. In fact, the event is still, at this writing, prominently featured in our community at the county museum and on a large billboard near the railroad depot.

“Parott’s final years in Wyoming Territory produced savage events that led to his ultimate death more than two years after the August 19, 1878, Elk Mountain incident. Hopefully, the behavioral model presented here accurately reflects Parott’s criminal life and the events that followed his death. While gaps in our knowledge still exist, many others were filled in with inferential arguments that present the reader with a more complete flow of probable actions. Future research undoubtedly will expand our discovery of new facts, taking us closer toward truth and further from legend.”

The book opens with a well-written description of the killing of two lawmen by Big Nose George’s gang near present-day Rawlins. Here is how Miller describes it:

“Two horses stomped the firm ground, cutting through bent grass around the smoldering campfire. The tallest rider dismounted, walked over to feel heat from the fire’s embers and said something to his partner on horseback. Suddenly, the sound of a rifle shot rang through the mountain air. A large caliber lead bullet ripped through the aspen leaves into the clearing, struck the standing man in his eye, and blew away half of his face. He dropped dead on top of the warm coals.

“His partner galloped away only to be knocked out of his saddle by a powerful gunshot in the back. This second man died while pointing his revolver toward a group of surly gunmen who had moved out of their forested concealment near the fire. Afterward, Rattlesnake Canyon quieted down once more as the soft breeze fluttered through the leaves dangling from a thousand aspen branches.

“These grisly murders produced the apex moment in the early history of Carbon County, Wyoming, and helped define the social character of Rawlins for over a century.”

The back cover contains the headline “The most outlandish Old West true crime story you will ever read!”  Amen to that.

The 159-page book is $35 per copy for hardback and $19.95 for paperback. I would strongly recommend that clubs and organizations invite Miller to give you a program about this subject and hold a book signing. This is an original Wyoming work and one of its most compelling.

Thanks, Mark, for writing this excellent book.

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Bill Sniffin: Despite War Worries, Are We Headed To Another Energy Boom?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Frankly, this invasion of Ukraine by Russia has me nervous as a cat. There is just no good way for this to end.

And as gasoline and natural gas prices rise, the country is reeling from inflation. This rise in energy prices is caused by the administration of President Joe Biden. His band of amateurs started this assault on American energy independence on Day One of his presidency.

Meanwhile, out here on the frontier, there could be a silver lining to all of this.

Let me tell you about an old teeter-totter adage believed by a great many Wyoming leaders. In this theory, it’s believed the Wyoming economy operates in the opposite way of the national USA economy.

It goes like this: When the country is struggling, Wyoming is thriving. When Wyoming struggles, the country thrives.

The obvious answer to this is everybody’s reliance on fossil fuel energy. Thus, when national energy prices are high, Wyoming booms, and the country struggles. When prices are low, the country booms and Wyoming struggles. Is there more to it than this simple formula?

Or as the old bumper sticker read: “Please God, give me one more boom. This time I promise not to piss it away.”

Wyoming is a commodity state, which means that its economy booms — or busts — based on the prices that are charged for energy in the form of oil, natural gas, coal, trona, and uranium.

Out here on our isolated island, we sometimes think we are immune to the economic calamities happening elsewhere in the country and the world. Not true. National and international events are affecting our economy in a big way.

It seems like the last three boom-bust cycles in Wyoming and the U.S. appear to be two ends of the aforementioned teeter-totter. The Cowboy State’s economy has been counter-cyclical to the economy of the rest of America.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the USA was booming. Wyoming was hurting. Then-Gov. Stan Hathaway said when he took office in 1966, he discovered the state had just $80 in its general fund. You may have to go back to some dustbowl states of the 1930s to find state governments in that bad of a fiscal shape.

Then Wyoming’s economy took off in the 1970s and peaked in 1981. Then it tanked in the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Generally, the U.S. was doing well from 1985 to 1998, while we struggled to get back on our feet.

From 2002 to 2012, our statewide economy soared as energy prices spiked to all-time levels. At the same time the national economy slipped partially under the burden of those same high energy prices.

In 2008 the economy was the biggest single issue in that national presidential election. Everyone was saying the U.S. was in a recession. Here in Wyoming? We had $11 billion in the bank and things were going very well. We have a lot more than that in the bank today.

Thus, the theory – as the U.S. economy goes down, does Wyoming’s economy go up?

Are there other factors that contribute to our economic well-being?

 The Cowboy State reportedly has more government workers per capita than any state, even more than Alaska. Those jobs usually are bulletproof. When one in 10 of your employees works for government, does this indicate a lack of economic viability? Is it easier to be economically successful in states where most folks work for private companies?

Last year, I wrote a column about how odd it was that Wyoming was the only state in the country without a major city. Even Montana, Idaho, and Alaska have large metro hubs that spawn innovations, create jobs, and keep young people in their home states.

We pointed out that 40 years ago, Casper and Cheyenne were on par with Boise, Idaho, Fort Collins, Colorado, Billings, Anchorage, and Sioux Falls. Today, our two leading cities do not reflect the growth of those other regional centers.

So why did this happen?

Most often given, as a reason, is the lack of a major university in either Casper or Cheyenne compared to those other cities. Apparently, a major college is a huge economic driver. 

Cold, windy winter weather was also given as a reason, which I tend to discount.

Let’s look at the 2022 economy in Wyoming. Douglas is booming with oil and gas development. Cheyenne and Laramie are doing just fine, thank you, because of huge numbers of state workers and aggressive job development.

Jackson is in a league of its own as the most expensive place to live in the country. Cody, Sheridan, Evanston, Buffalo, and Lander are holding up fine with a combination of tourism, outdoor recreation, and lots of retirees moving in.

Gillette and Rock Springs have been two of our most vibrant small cities over the past three decades. Leaders there are working hard to keep things going up, despite efforts by international forces to reduce fossil fuel dependency.

 A few years ago, a panel was held in Cheyenne to talk about Wyoming’s endless boom-and-bust cycle. It made me recall that former University of Wyoming Professor Phil Roberts has documented 13 of these busts over the 132 years since 1890 statehood. This is a bust every decade. That many busts could make a state and its citizens somewhat gun-shy, I would think.

Speakers at that Cheyenne program also repeated the oft-quoted comment from UW Professor Anne Alexander, where she said the state’s economic situation was “not going to get better unless we make it better. There’s no cavalry on the way. We’re the cavalry.”

It was fascinating that when famous economic expert Art Laffer told a group of Wyoming legislators and state leaders recently that it might just be okay to be so single focused as Wyoming is – on energy, for example.

As a local businessman for over 50 years, it seemed like we were always working on economic development. People in all cities and towns in Wyoming are working their tails off.

The Wyoming Business Council has done very well in my opinion, especially during the pandemic.

And yet, here we are in 2022 asking the same questions that I recall being asked at the Wyoming Futures Project 37 years ago during its organizational meeting in Ucross. NBC commentator Pete Williams was our moderator, as I recall.

Discussing and “cussing” economic development is one of my favorite topics. Sometimes it feels like we are chasing our tails. Creating jobs and keeping your town viable is not getting any easier.

But hold on to your hats over the rest of 2022. As energy prices soar across the country and across the world, there is a pretty good chance this will be good economic news for Wyoming.

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Bill Sniffin: UW Fans Out-Yelled UNLV Fans As Team Snaps 19-Game Losing Streak In Vegas

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

LAS VEGAS – Wyoming fans literally raised the roof of the Thomas and Mack Center Thursday afternoon as their UW Cowboys defeated UNLV, 59-56. And boy, were these fans ever having a lot of fun!

Although the building was far from filled, it was obvious from the start that Wyoming had more fans on hand than their opponent, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, which was playing on its home court.

“Ragtime Cowboy Joe” was played repeatedly and the stands vibrated with the enthusiasm of the Cowboy State crowd. The win was very emotional for most of the fans.

Tears were streaming down his cheeks as Bill Beardsley of Cheyenne celebrated the big win. He had the loudest whistle in the huge auditorium and constantly cheered the Cowboys as the game ebbed and flowed in the second half. He and his wife Sherrie love the Cowboy teams and follow them all season long. “Sorry, but this is just so emotional,” he said, wiping his cheeks, while sporting a big smile. “We have lost so many games to these guys. What a relief!”

On Friday night, the Cowboys play Boise State in the next round of the annual Mountain West tournament here in Las Vegas. Boise State won their game, 59-57 over Reno.

Cowboy fans Dave Bostrom and his wife Marilyn were happy to be in the 52-degree weather of Sin City. “It is cold back in Wyoming, he said.”  He reminded me that they live in “Worlando Beach,” rather the county seat of Washakie County named Worland.

My hometown of Lander was going to dip to minus 8 on this night, so, yes, the Vegas weather was welcome.

Paul Hickey and his wife Jeanne were enjoying a meal when I talked to them prior to the game. The Cheyenne couple was enjoying the Vegas weather but said their daughter lives in Pasadena so they get out of the cold as often as they can in the winter. Folks our age compare grandkids and the Hickeys said they enjoy hosting two of theirs as often as possible. They live in Denver.

Craig and Gay Wilson are big Cowboy fans. They live in Cheyenne and have season tickets. Before this big game, they admitted to being apprehensive about how well their favorite team would play in these unfriendly confines. This was especially so when their opponent was playing on its home court.

Wyoming sports is unique in having its very own Barrel Man. Ken Koretos of Cheyenne (“That’s a Greek name,” he says), shows up at football and basketball games wearing cowboy boots and only a big barrel. He was posing with fans after the game and shouting to the heavens about how proud he was of the Cowboy team, which is now 25-7. This team has more wins than just about any basketball team in UW history.  

The game, itself, was a barn burner. UNLV had the game sewed up leading 56-52 near the end of the game. UW rallied and scored the last seven points, emerging as victor over their long-time nemesis. The big play was a three-point shot by Xavier Dusell with 29 seconds left, giving UW a 57-56 lead.

 The Cowboys had lost 19 straight to UNLV in Vegas. Not since 2003 had they won. New coach Jeff Linder has found the right combination in the current team. Go Pokes!

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So You Think It Has Been Cold Lately In Wyoming? How Does -66 Sound To You?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Up until the recent cold snap, tough-minded Wyomingites had been quietly snickering when national news reports showed below-freezing temps in Texas, blizzards in New York and folks shivering in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Although we truly sympathized with folks enduring something called a Polar Vortex, we also knew what cold weather is really like.

This got me thinking about what were the coldest temperatures in Wyoming’s recorded history?  A lot of folks sent me anecdotal stories, which I will mix in here with a few facts.

Personally, I recall the winter of 1978-79. Again, here in Lander, I think the entire month of January was below zero. Amazingly dangerous and bitter conditions.

What is the official coldest temperature ever? Historian Phil Roberts from the University of Wyoming: “I think the record is still -66 recorded Feb. 9, 1933, at Moran. I heard the temperature was actually colder, but the thermometers didn’t have the capacity to register a lower reading!”

The late Clay James, who operated Jackson Lake Lodge at Moran for decades, recalls -54 one cold winter day in the mid-1970s. 

“Thankfully we woke up as the power went off. We called all our employees to turn on the faucets and start the fireplaces. The power was off for several days. Never have I been so cold,” he recalled.   

Former Cheyenne, Torrington and Sundance publisher Mike Lindsey recalled the blizzard of 1949, which history generally considers  the worst ever in the state.

“Up in Sundance, cattle froze standing up. Wind blew drifts into buildings through keyholes in doors. Machinery would not start. Kids who stuck their tongues to the door handle did not get thawed until their junior year!” 

Not sure about that last fact, which was reminiscent of the famous scene from the movie “A Christmas Story.”

The late Jim Smail of Lander once told me about snowmobiling with a group that included Charlton Heston at Togwotee Lodge in 1964 where the mercury dipped to -64. No, they did not go sledding that day.

Former Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau of Gillette recalls playing Laramie in football when the wind chill was -65. 

Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody recalls: “It was New Year’s weekend of 1979 when Jackson Hole went -60. Friends from Meeteetse had gone to ski there but came back with horror stories of busted pipes, bone-cold motels, blackouts, everything closed, no skiing opportunity at all. Nothing fun except sharing beds for warmth and drinking a lot. Consolation prize I suppose. Was there a spike in babies born in September-October?”

Jody Coleman, formerly of Riverton says about that same ski trip: “I was in Jackson that New Years of 1979. The power was off and we woke up at the Antler motel with the walls inside covered with frost. We went outside and started our pickup every hour. The next day we spent the day jump-starting other people’s cars. My mom bought me a ski suit. But urged me to move home to California.”

Worland can get pretty cold. Former resident Debbie Hammons recalled: “That super-duper cold winter of 1978-79 was when the weather was sub-zero. I moved home to Wyoming in September 1978. Best New Year’s Eve ever was Jan. 1, 1979. All the young singles in town packed into the Three Bears Bar downtown and kept their cars running into the New Year. We knew if we shut off our vehicles, we might not be able to start them again until March!”

When current Cheyenne resident Pat Schmidt was publisher of The Lovell Chronicle, folks there arranged a hay bale mission to rescue the poor wild horses in the Pryor Mountains. 

“The BLM and others organized a hay drop from a helicopter to bands of horses stuck on mountain ridges. I recall taking a picture with one hand as I was dropping a bale with the other. The effort only compounded the problems, we learned later, as the horses’ digestive systems were not used to the rich protein in the hay. Their systems compacted, causing a quicker death. Only around 75 survived.”

Jim Hicks says “I know a bunch from Buffalo were riding snow machines in Yellowstone in the early 1970s and it was so cold it froze their whiskey into a solid block.”

Greybull native Mke Schutte has a story to tell: “My Karen and I were Married on Dec. 22, 1962 in Emblem, took a three-day honeymoon to Red Lodge and headed back to Laramie and moved in to student housing. On Jan. 12, 1963 the temperature dropped to minus 50 degrees. I will never forget going outside that morning. So quiet, thought it was the end of the world. Nothing moving that we could see or hear. It was a little scary. Finally heard a vehicle that was driving around and trying to jump start some vehicles.  

“Student Housing was built with cinderblocks, with a lot of leakage around doors, windows, and other places. Couldn’t get much heat in our small unit. Needless to say, we stayed in bed most of the day with extra blankets.  Sadly, one school teacher who walked to work, frostbit her lungs and died!  Never experienced cold like that since.  Brrr!”

Then there is this old joke about the weather:

         “My feet are cold.”

         “Well, all you have to do is go to bed and have a brick at your feet.”

         “I tried that.”

         “Did you get the brick hot?”

         “Get it hot? It took all night just to get it warm.”

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Bill Sniffin: Cheyenne Skyline Looms Over Wyoming In A Big, Positive Way

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Cheyenne is such a terrific western cowtown. Even despite the wind.

We just spent four days in the Capitol City and this place and its people are just so doggoned wonderful.

Let’s talk about three monumental buildings – the State Capitol Building, the Union Pacific Depot, and St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral.

After $300 million spent on the Capitol complex, the building is now refurbished and stands as one of the most beautiful state capitol buildings in the country. 

Mike Moser and Jonathan Downing gave us a brief tour and I am eager to go back and see even more. This place deserves an entire column, but let’s just say this amazing building belongs to all of us – and it is doing us proud.

The Union Pacific Depot building mirrors the State Capitol and the two huge buildings are bookends on Capitol Avenue. For most of our history the people in these two buildings truly guided the economic fortunes of our state.

The Depot also houses the offices of Visit Cheyenne, where Dominic Bravo and Jim Walter make sure Cheyenne is promoted everywhere. Last year was the city’s best-ever for tourism revenue. It was also announced that Frontier Days did $40 million in local economic impact in 2021, compared to the 2018 figure of $27 million.

We attended Ash Wednesday services at the cathedral and heard Father Tom Cronkleton say he was giving up cigars and limburger cheese for Lent. And he doesn’t smoke! He was joking, of course and then gave us an inspirational message.

This Cathedral is so spectacular. The woodwork is as good as I have ever seen. Bishop Steven Biegler was not around on this day.

We were staying in the massive Red Lion hotel, where Jennifer Walker took good care of us. It sits high over Cheyenne. Every day when we left the hotel we could take in what would be called “The Skyline.”  Big bank buildings and old restored buildings like the Plains Hotel show progress. I love the Tivoli Building, which was restored by former Gov. Matt Mead and his wife Carol, and is now owned by Sam Galeotos. Sam’s restaurant The Metropolitan in downtown Cheyenne is terrific. 

I normally use Thermopolis transplant Pat Schmidt as my Cheyenne tour guide, but we did not catch up on this trip. We finally went out and looked at the NCAR super computer site and the Microsoft server center. Not a lot of employees but it sure is futuristic.

Cheyenne was hosting the Governor’s State Tourism Conference and we got to see folks from all over the state. Wyoming was bursting at the seams in tourism with 2021 the best year ever, by far. We think 2022 might be even a little better.

Casper Hotelier Renee Penton Jones won the BIG WYO Award this year, the top honor from the hospitality industry. Congrats to her. Other past winners include author Chuck Box of Saratoga, John Johnson and Pat Sweeney of Casper, Dave Freudenthal and Darren Rudloff of Cheyenne, Ted Blair and Rick Hoeninghausen of the Cody-Yellowstone area and yours truly – we all posed for a photo with the newest winner. 

Former Gov. Freudenthal claimed he is somewhat retired and says he “is just an old country lawyer from Thermopolis.” Yeah sure. His wife Judge Nancy Freudenthal looked dazzling at the event.

Gov. Mark Gordon presented the honor to Renee and was in fine form. He and wife Jennie sure make an impressive First Couple. I teased him that he is not going to have any formidable competition in this year’s GOP primary. It is because of what he went through in the last four years that was so awful, nobody wants the job!

Debbie Disney Pummel of Casper hosted us at the banquet. She is a hero of Wyoming hospitality, always working unselfishly for the industry.

Saw a lighter-weight version of State Sen. Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, during the events. He has lost over 125 pounds. From 360 to 235, well done.

A few of the other statewide tourism leaders attending the conference were Ken Patel of Laramie, Paula McCormick, Florian Hermann, and Owen Sweeney of Lander, Shawn Parker of Sheridan, Ken Barkey of Gillette, Leslie Jefferson of Rawlins, Jenissa Meredith of Rock Springs, Ryan Hauck and Tim O’Leary of Cody, Anna Olson and Alex Klein of Jackson, and many, many others. Sorry if I omitted some key players.  

I can’t write about tourism with a big shout-out to Chris Brown and his crew for organizing the private sector and also to Diane Shober, who heads the state Division of Tourism.  Both are causing the industry to reach its potential.

When not attending the conference, we roamed all over Cheyenne and put both the Veterans Hospital and F.E. Warren Air Force Base on my bucket list for future tours. Both are amazing facilities.

Can’t finish a column about Cheyenne without mentioning the Wyoming State Museum. We did not get there on this trip, but it is a wonderful resource to the state. The State Archives are there, too, and with proper clearance, you could spend weeks there.

In all, visiting Cheyenne was a terrific experience. Only downside is that we did not have time to see everything. We plan to go back later this year. This place belongs to all Wyomingites and we are sure proud of how it has evolved over the years.

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Bill Sniffin: There’s A Lot To Celebrate With Yellowstone’s 150th!

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Today marks a big day in Wyoming history!

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. It is one of the best ideas ever hatched.

Fewer than 2,000 non-Indians had visited the place way back then, but the photos by William Henry Jackson and paintings  by Thomas Moran had so impressed Congress that Yellowstone National Park came into being. 

It is noteworthy that this occurred 18 years before Wyoming became a state. Another side note is that the Wind River Indian Reservation, which today is about the same size as Yellowstone, was also created by treaty in 1872. Both cover about 2 million acres. 

The official celebration of the 150th will occur May 6 in the lobby of the historical Old Faithful Inn. There will also be a series of events all summer long in Yellowstone and in gateway communities. A big theme will be how the park area interacted with regional Indian tribes, including the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes from Wyoming. 

We visited the big park for one very long day last September and here are some of my notes: 

In Yellowstone, the voice of authority is a young gal with a bullhorn telling people to move along. We ran into them on three occasions during our 11-hour drive through the park.

The first two times, the gals had gotten the traffic moving by the time we got to the offending place. The third time, we stopped and rolled down our window, and asked: “What’s going on?”

“There’s nothing here. Get out of here!” said the seemingly pleasant looking but serious traffic mover. OK, OK. And away we went.

We have been going to Yellowstone for 51 years and it is my favorite place on earth. We love going in the fall as a way to avoid the summer tourist rush. 

Alas, this year mid-September of 2021 felt like July 4. If you are going, you better be patient.  And congratulations to the park service for installing those traffic-moving gals with the bullhorns as they were effective in moving traffic along.

Although some new highways in the park will finally be open after two years of construction, other construction projects will slow down traffic at different times and in different places inside the park in 2022. Travelers need to budget lots of time and also monitor construction bulletins.

Using Cody as a base, we left early and took the spectacular Chief Joseph Highway to connect with the Beartooth Highway and enter the Northeast gate. Traffic was moderate and the smoky haze was gone. It was a nice day that topped out at 66 degrees in the park. 

At Tower Junction, the road south was closed for the season as it was getting a major repair. We headed on over to Mammoth hoping to see some elk roaming the streets.  

Parking spaces were hard to find. It was a busy place. We had to wait in line and wear masks to get into the Horace Albright Information Center.  The poor Park Service gal, who was in charge of enforcing the mask rule and maintaining proper social distancing, was not having a great day. One of the most unpleasant jobs in the park, I would assume. She was standing outside wearing her mask while everyone around her was not. 

Xanterra is the outfit in charge of running just about everything in the park as its concessionaire. They are the best in the business.  But 2021 year was tough.  Like just about everyone in the hospitality business, they have had a struggle hiring staff.  

Lately, they have even had trouble getting food into the park. One of their staff people strongly suggested that we pack in our own food, which we did. Thus, I have no idea about how service was, although there appeared to be lines everywhere. 

I assumed a lot of the park’s staff are college students who had to quit and go back to school. It put them in to an impossible position. 

Yellowstone set a new all-time record for visitation in 2021 with 4.86 million tourists. This is 1 million more than 2020, which shows the surge from across the world to visit this wonderful place. 

Is it worth going? Are you kidding? I love the place. It is my favorite place. Just go prepared to be surprised at the large number of fellow tourists there with you this time of year.

We are hoping to attend the 150th festivities. We also attended the 100th anniversary party in 1972 in Cody. Did I say I have had a long relationship with this wonderful place? Yes, I have. But I digress.

“Like No Place on Earth” was the official slogan for Wyoming’s tourism division a few years ago. I liked the slogan but thought it referred more to Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else in the state.

We spent a lot of quality time at the most heavily-visited part of the park – the lower loop.  We skipped Old Faithful because of time constraints but were looking forward to some hot water elsewhere.

Norris Geyser Basin is the greatest hot spot in earth. It covers a huge area and can be incredibly dangerous. Once a season you will hear about someone getting burned in Yellowstone and most often, it happens here.

During our trip we were anxious to get to Norris. We have made many trips to Yellowstone in September and October over the past 51 years and for most of that time, the tourists were “local” – from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. On this trip, I finally spotted cars with Montana and an Idaho license plates parked together. Finally, some locals. Then we noticed they were penned in between cars from Hawaii, California, and Florida. Oh well.

Norris did not disappoint. It was a windy day, which meant big blasts of sulfur every so often. If you like geysers like I do, the smell of rotten eggs warms your heart.

Traffic was light from Norris to Canyon as we headed for Artist’s Point. It was crowded but we found a parking space.  

At the Point, two guys talking in a foreign language were beside us, so I asked them where they were from.  They said Venezuela originally, but they had lived in Miami for many years now. They bemoaned what had happened to their country but were loving their first visit to YNP.

The road south through Hayden Valley was blocked by a big herd of buffalo. The big bulls were right in front of us and snorting at us. I took a photo through my windshield showing the big bull and the park gal in the distance with her bullhorn. I want to point that out because if you saw the photo, you might think I was being one of those idiots who walk right up to bison. Nope. Not now. Not ever.

Our favorite place is the Lake Hotel and specifically, the big sun room. On this day, it was packed with folks all enjoying drinks and watching whitecaps on the inland sea called Yellowstone Lake. Everybody was required to wear a mask to get in but they all had them off as they sat, drank their drinks, and enjoyed both the view and the company. The line to the bar was more than 12 people deep.  

As we left the park headed back to Cody, we entered a surreal world called Wapiti Valley.  This is such a strange place with huge mountains, deep valleys, and a beautiful river.  The HooDoos were amazing, as was a giant rock formation, which I call the Bear’s Ears looming over the whole area.

Sleeping Giant Ski Area has expanded and looked impressive.  The Buffalo Bill Reservoir was drawn down somewhat as we approached the famous Buffalo Bill Dam. When it was built in 1912, it was the tallest in the world.

The Smith Mansion is a six-story relic that looms over part of the valley as you head toward Cody.

When we passed the Cody Rodeo Grounds, we had been gone for 11 hours and had travelled over 300 miles. 

Wow, what a day! Certainly, one of the best days ever.

Visiting Yellowstone was like seeing an old friend again. And my friend was in fine form. 

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Bill Sniffin: I Drive Truck – Truckers Complain About Interstate 80 In Winter And Discuss Options

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

“My name is Bill Kardell. I drive truck.”

My new neighbor Bill reached out a giant hand as he introduced himself. The way he said “I drive truck” might have sounded odd to me back there in 1970, but I have heard it dozens of times since.

It was always odd to me that the guys telling me this did not say “I drive A truck.” It was simply “I drive truck.” 

Bill was a big guy, over 300 pounds, and drove those really big rigs down the highway.  He was a long-haul trucker and would sometimes be gone for a week at a time. He was a good neighbor and an all-around fine fellow. 

I was thinking of Bill recently with all the discussion of trucks and truck drivers both in this country and in Canada. 

He would have enjoyed the conversation that erupted on Facebook concerning my recent column about building an alternative Interstate 80 along U.S. Highway 30 through Medicine Bow and Bosler. 

On Facebook, that column generated 2,100 likes, 761 comments and 602 shares.

No doubt my column was shared far and wide, when you looked into where all these folks who commented were from. 

Here are a few of the comments:

Helena Linn wrote: My father, Philip Marincic was a State Highway Commissioner at the time Interstate 80 was built. He and the others commissioners tried to get it built on the US30 route. They were ignored so now everyone knows why they and the engineers knew what they were talking about.

Cody Fransen: “It’s always funny to see the tourists and travelers reaction when they realize they are stuck in Laramie or Rawlins or any of the other towns along 80. I when I worked at Flying J, I would always suggest that they budget an extra $300 at least when traveling through Wyoming in winter.”

Fransen also writes about the wrecks, “It’s NOT THE ROAD’S FAULT! Never had wrecks like this before! Before you had all these inexperienced drivers out here! We all had CB radios and drove a lot slower! Fix the drivers not the road.”

Randall Wiegel:  In Illinois it’s called I-88. You don’t have to get too much further west of Cedar Rapids in Iowa and US30 is four lanes. US20 also looks like an Interstate highway — 4 lanes, concrete.” He drives a semi for C. R. England. 

Nick Hancock who drives for UPS writes: “Take I-90, I-70, or I-40 when the weather is bad. They really don’t add a lot of time or miles really.”

Hancock says he has been doing truck driving a long time. “Yes 17 years of sleeper team runs. KC to Portland, Richmond, and LA mostly. We take 90 to Portland a lot and it adds 185 miles and is three hours  longer. We take 40 to Richmond and it adds 168 miles and three hours longer. We only take Interstate 70 if it’s not snowing, but Colorado does a much better job clearing the snow — just hate the slow mountain passes.

Mike Schmid of LaBarge wrote: “It (Interstate 80) should have followed US30 originally, but that idea was nixed. I-80 has been on this route since it was built. The problem is more about the 8-week wonders they put behind the wheel of these big rigs. Plus, there are probably more trucks. Maybe a more economical fix would be add another lane or two. It’s that ‘want’ attitude. We ‘want’ a pretty route rather than a safe and economical route. So here we are, decisions based on want rather than need are rarely the best decisions.”

One of those Facebook comments was Dan Hudson who wrote: “Well, let’s see. Just because the buffalo went where US30 is, because it was more out of the wind and snow, and the Indians went there on their trek to the Saratoga gateway because it was more out of the wind and snow, and the Union Pacific went there, uh . . .” 

Getting back to my big neighbor Bill Kardell. He and I had a sad ending. His wife Faye called me in the middle of the night and she said he had had a heart attack and could I come over quickly? I did and there was Bill, lying there sort of bloated, his face was blue, and he was not breathing. 

I rolled him over and tried to do CPR while Faye called the ambulance. I could not revive him. He was gone. He was just 37 years old.

Damn, that memory is from 52 years ago, but it seems like it happened just the other day. Safe travels, Big Bill, wherever you are. 

Godspeed to him and all the truckers driving these lonely highways. 

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Bill Sniffin: An Alternate I-80 Could Save National Economy $1 Million A Day If Road Stays Open

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Did you know that when Interstate 80 is closed for weather, that US 30 next door is automatically closed, too?

This is to prevent the 8,000 semi-trailer trucks a day from storming that more narrow, more local highway as an alternate route. The resulting crush of giant rigs would be a disaster.

Those frequent closures create a national financial disaster when goods are no longer moving to their destinations.  

Del McOmie Jr. pointed out this fact out when he was asked about the creation of an alternate Interstate 80 highway that would follow the current US 30 road through Hanna, Medicine Bow, Rock River, and Bosler, enroute to Laramie.

McOmie knows all about Interstate 80 or as it is nicknamed Snow Chi Mihn Trail. He worked for Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) for almost 36 years. He also was chief engineer for 15 years. He knows these roads.

So why not build an Interstate 80 alternate route on the current route of US30? It would be good news for national economy.

In an excellent article in Cowboy State Daily by Wendy Corr, the current director of WYDOT, Luke Reiner, thoughtfully suggested the federal government consider spending $6 billion by re-routing Interstate to the US 30 route.

 Reiner said the agency has made a unique proposal to the federal government – rerouting I-80 to avoid the part of the interstate that closes most often.

“If you look at a map, you’ll see that the old highway, Highway 30, goes further to the north, and then sort of comes down from the north into I-80,” Reiner said. “Rumor has it that when they went to build I-80, that the initial route followed the route of Highway 30. And somebody made the decision, ‘No, we’re going to move closer to these very beautiful mountains,’ to which the locals said, ‘Bad idea,’ based on weather. And it has proved to be true.”

Reiner said if the interstate could be shifted to the north, many weather-related closures could be avoided.

“Our suggestion to the federal government is to say, ‘If you want to do something for the nation’s commerce along I-80, reroute it. Follow Highway 30 — it’s about 100 miles of new interstate, the estimated cost would be about $6 billion,’” he said. “So, it’s not cheap, but our estimate is that it would dramatically reduce the number of days the interstate’s closed, because that’s the section that kills us.”

When it came to the topic for this article, my idea to McOmie was not to move the designated road, but rather build an alternate route with a different number like Interstate 280 or Interstate 680?

McOmie agrees with Reiner as far as using US 30 in concerned. He said he thought building an alternate route would cost less than $6 billion, maybe as little as $3 billion, if you followed the old US30 roadway.

But the exciting part of this proposal, McOmie said, is that if there was a viable alternative route for all those trucks, the effect on the national economy would be very positive. He thinks based on all the lost revenue caused by closed Interstate 80, it could more than justify building a second Interstate Highway north of the current route.

McOmie said to get a different designation requires national action.  AASHTO, the American Association of State Transportation Officials, has to make that designation. “You have to have the right designation to get it approved,” McOmie said. This is to maintain continuity with the rest of the highways across the country.

McOmie says Interstate 80 is a heavy truck route. It is often very busy. It is one of the busiest truck routes in the USA, he said. It moves a lot of goods from the three biggest ports on the west coast.

From a purely capacity standpoint, the number of vehicles is not extremely high compared to metro areas. However, it feels congested, due in a large part, to the number of trucks. “When we talk about highway capacity, there is a term called ‘side friction,’ where one truck equals nine cars,” he says.  So those 8,000 trucks equates to what 72,000 vehicles would feel like.

It always feels worse on Interstate 80 because of the up and down grades, the constant unpredictable weather, the high winds, the large volumes of trucks versus cars, and the constant starting and stopping, McOmie said. “And then you have some trucks going 65 mph and others going 80.” 

Reiner said that essentially, I-80 all the way across Wyoming is a mountain pass.

“I mean, it’s 6,200 feet,” he said. “And so that brings its own trouble, and then of course the drastic wind events, the high wind events and blowing snow that we have in Arlington, around Elk Mountain, really caused a lot of trouble.”

According to staff at WYDOT, in February of 2021, I-80 was closed to commercial truck traffic almost 12 percent of the daytime hours that month; in December of 2021, the highway was closed to commercial traffic almost 16 percent of the month due to inclement weather.

“(I-80) is closed more to high profile light vehicles then it is closed to all traffic,” Reiner said. “And that’s an important distinction, because we cannot control the wind events.”

Beyond the impact on Wyoming traffic, Reiner pointed out that closures on this particular stretch of interstate affect the whole country.

“That wind event negatively affects the economy of our nation, because it stops the trucks,” he said. “I-80 is a route of national commerce. And when we shut it down, we’re all just very aware that it’s a big deal.”

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Bill Sniffin: An Old Twisted Tree Taught Me An Important Valentine Lesson

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

We all have favorite Valentine’s Day stories. This is mine.

There was a twisted, ugly bushy tree in our back yard. It was next to Big Dickinson Creek and had all kinds of limbs that shot out in all directions.  

In a word, it was a tangle.

I found some real lessons of life as exemplified in that ratty old tree. This year on Valentine’s Day, this tree brings back some warm memories. 

We hired some guys to help clear out that brushy area one fall and one of them attacked that messy tree with relish. He came to me with a big smile on his face to tell me that he had trimmed it up but had not eliminated it entirely.

Instead, he showed me how he had found two strong limbs pushing upwards. He had trimmed away all the rest and there, standing proudly, were two vertical limbs of this tree.

As I touched the limbs it became obvious, they had twisted together and seemed to almost be holding each other up. I thanked the guy for his good work and watched that tree bloom over the next year as it really grew over the following summer. 

By fall, the two trees were standing tall. Then we got one of Lander’s rare windstorms. This one wasn’t a real cyclone but maybe 40 miles per hour. When I next looked at that tree, it looked remarkably different.

Now, just one limb stood tall. 

The other was drooping. It was leaning over so much, perhaps it was broken? I got out my small chain saw and decided that this would be best for the lone standing tree if we got rid of this other weak tree and left it alone.

Then another thought struck me. Perhaps the wind had just untangled the trees? All along the two limbs needed each other to stand tall like that.

I pushed the weak tree back up beside its mate and took the belt out of my jeans and wrapped it around the two trees so they were, once again, bound together. 

After stepping back and looking at my handiwork, it again looked splendid. The two parts together made a much more handsome tree than the one lonely limb could have looked.

We watched that tree over the next few months and it just grew stronger and stronger. The limbs became fully entangled with each other again and soon there was no longer a need for my belt.

As I looked at that tree, I saw some symbolism that people can use in their own lives.

In this case, out of all the different branches, two emerged on that one day. They were already relying on each other to stand up strong. 

Perhaps this is how a man and a woman can come together and become one from their varied roots. Yet sometimes things can go wrong with one partner or the other. It can be a physical or mental ailment or any number of different things.

Maybe this is how married couples can live a long life together. When one is weak and falling down, the other holds up its partner as long as he or she can.  And when they finally can’t hold on any longer, maybe an outside force — in our case, the Good Lord and his blessings — comes along to help them stay together. And in the end, they are standing tall together for a long, long time.

These tangled limbs are still standing just outside my home office window. I look out there a lot and see a strong tree.

And when I think of how strong my wife Nancy always was in our marriage – there is no doubt she held me up all these years. And in February of 2000 during Valentine’s Day when she was in the middle of awful chemo treatments from breast cancer, I was at her side, holding her up during her difficult time.

We spent two years with chemo and radiation getting through this amazingly difficult time. Finally, she was cancer free.

For the next 22 years she has been fine. We are standing together stronger than ever.

There was a lesson in that old twisted tree. I think I understand.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Nancy, and to everyone else out there in Wyoming with similar stories to tell.

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Bill Sniffin: Frontier Airlines Expansion Could Be Good News For Wyoming Air Travelers

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Big news for Wyoming! Frontier Airlines merges with Spirit Airlines. 


Once upon a time, this would have been big news. But lately, neither Frontier nor Spirit have had any flights in or out of the Cowboy State. 

But it is still a big deal since that newly created airline is based out of Denver, just a stone’s throw from our capitol city. With the Denver airport so close to the Cowboy State, flying Frontier might be an obvious choice for a great many Wyoming fliers. 

Both Frontier and Spirit are known as cheap, no-frills airlines. I call them the “lawn chair airlines” because the seats are small, hard and uncomfortable.  

Do you want legroom? Sure, they will sell you a few more inches of space. Want to check your bags? Sure, for a price. Do you want to carry on a bag? No problem – just keep the credit card handy. 

I am always amazed as how a low-price $69 fare on one of these cheap airlines can balloon up to $250, about the same as for a United or Southwest flight. Oh well.

Wyoming old-timers have lots of stories to tell about Frontier Airlines. It was the major airline for the Cowboy State for almost half a century. And with its current 24 years of being headquartered in neighboring Denver, proximity counts. 

My history with Frontier goes back over 50 years. Our first trip to Wyoming was in August of 1970 and was on a huge Convair 580 powered by a prop jets, a combination propeller and jet engine.

Their routes were known as “milk runs” because, much like the neighborhood milkman who stopped by every house, the plane left Denver and seemingly stopped at Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, Riverton, and on to Casper, Cody and Sheridan. 

Their reservation system somehow kept track of passengers getting on and off at all the various destinations. 

Folks back then complained about this service and yet it might have been the best air service in the history of the state. The planes were big, the seats were comfortable, there was even a friendly stewardess to shepherd people in and out of the plane at all those various stops. 

Airline service to rural states like Wyoming was subsidized by the federal government. That went away with deregulation back in the 1980s and everything changed. 

Before that happened, at one time, we could board a 737 jet for a once-daily flight from Riverton to Denver. It was super comfortable but not so reliable. If you missed your flight, you got in your car and drove to Denver. 

The original Frontier was founded in 1950 and went out of business in 1986. A new airline was founded in 1994 and took the name Frontier. Their logo and tails featuring animals was a wonderful marketing ploy. This airline still had a tumultuous history until its owners made it into a cheap, no-frills airline in 2014.  

Spirit, meanwhile, was founded in 1992 in Boston. In recent years, it emerged as a low-frills competitor to Frontier. It is very logical that they merged to form the country’s fifth largest airline behind Delta, America, United, and Southwest. 

Wyoming has a big history with commercial airlines. United Airlines was originally based in Cheyenne. It was originally known as Boeing Air Transport, which was founded by William Boeing. He also founded the aircraft company that carried his name. As he bought more and more small airlines, they all came under the umbrella of United. 

The first Boeing Air Transport flight that featured a stewardess landed in Cheyenne in 1930. Ultimately, United’s stewardess school was established in Cheyenne in 1947 and operated there for almost two decades.  

The flight attendant school for United remained in Cheyenne for a long time after the airline moved on to Chicago. Wyoming suddenly became a magnet for attractive young women from across the country who wanted to fly the friendly skies. 

There is a side door into the downtown Plains Hotel in Cheyenne called Peacock Plaza where men would ogle the stewardess school attendees who hung out there.

An excellent book about those early stewardess days is “Wyoming’s Friendly Skies: Training America’s First Stewardesses” by Starley Talbott and Michael Kassel. 

Besides its obvious main topic, the book is a history of commercial aviation in the United States. Lots of good material there with most of it occurring in the Cowboy State. 

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Bill Sniffin: What Kind Of Political Stew Will Occur In Wyoming In 2022?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

This year 2022 was once upon a time shaping up to be one of the most fun political years in memory.

The last big election year like this, back in 2018, was a doozy, with three governor candidates spending over $2 million each, plus we got to see over 10,000 Democrat and Independent voters cross over on election day. Wow, what a series of events.

It is beginning to look like the performance this year may fail to live up to the potential for drama we had earlier anticipated.

For example, here are three races I was foreseeing this year:

First, I thought incumbent Gov. Mark Gordon would be seeing GOP primary opposition from Harriet Hageman or Sam Galeotos or perhaps even some others emerging to take on the battle-scarred incumbent. By battle-scarred, I mean I have not seen a governor in the last 50 years deal with the crazy monetary and COVID-fueled crises that confronted Gordon. The assumption could be that he might be vulnerable.

So far, no such scenario has developed. Gordon is facing just token opposition, I believe, because of the general belief that he really did a helluva job. But news value? This might end up being one of the most boring governor’s races in history.

Second, observers are licking their chops over incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s fight to save her job in Congress. Not since her father Dick Cheney was vice president, U.S. Sen. Al Simpson was Majority Whip, or how Sen. John Barrasso has achieved a high GOP position, has a Wyoming politician become such a media darling. Liz is everywhere. 

While her stock is rising nationally, her support back here in Wyoming is evaporating. 

Her battles with former President Donald Trump have reached legendary levels and their back-and-forth sniping is everyday national news.

Then Trump anointed Cheyenne attorney Harriet Hageman as his choice to run against Cheney. Poof, there went a contested governor’s race from Hageman. And boy, Hageman has jumped into this fray with both feet. This is nasty and getting worse.

Now, I have long predicted this fight was not going to happen. Liz Cheney is a very smart person. If she runs for re-election, she has almost everything to lose and almost nothing to gain. She has raised a boatload of money which she can use for a 2024 presidential race and to also bolster other moderate Republicans across the county.

And then, recently, Cheney told 30 members of the Wyoming Bankers Association that, yes, she is going to run. If so, that Hageman-Cheney fight, with Trump hovering over it, will be a classic. As a political observer, I hope it happens. She has until May to make an official decision. We are waiting with bated breath.

Former U. S. Sen. Al Simpson called me recently and said if there is a Hageman-Cheney race, he sees little difference between the candidates except that one hates Trump and the other loves Trump.

“Otherwise, they are the same!” he exclaims. 

He says he is surprised that he has not seen any ads, billboards, or bumper stickers for Hageman.

He was in a car headed to Laramie to watch a UW basketball game with his wife Ann, son Colin and Colin’s wife Deb. He said the vote was 3-1 in the car that Liz would not run again.

A third race to talk about:

A month ago, out of the blue, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow bolted from her Wyoming job to take a similar high-profile state education job in Virginia. We are proud of her. That is a big job and she will be performing under some seriously bright spotlights. I think she will do great things and Wyoming’s loss is Virginia’s gain. You cannot begrudge her jumping at the opportunity.

The last time a sitting state superintendent resigned was when Trent Blankenship left in 2005 to move to Alaska, where he had a career in education there. One of his notable achievements was to get an artificial turf football field built up there in the tundra at Barrow. Sports Illustrated even ran a feature about it.

The Wyoming GOP submitted three nominees to Gov. Gordon recently for his selection to succeed Balow and he picked Brian Schroeder, who runs a small private school in Cody called Veritas Academy.

Schroeder will run for re-election. Two others expressing strong interest are former legislator Dave Northrup of Powell and Megan Degenfelder, a former official in the Department of Education.

It is hard not to love election cycles. But as stated above, this one has the potential to turn into an impossible burger compared to the Filet Mignon we had hoped to see.

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Bill Sniffin: Lander Lil Predicts Early Spring In Wyoming; We Hope!

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

For the past 38 years, a prairie dog in Lander has been predicting the future of winter weather for Wyoming. This year on Tuesday, Feb. 2, she did not see her shadow, which means an early spring in 2022, according to Mayor Monte Richardson.


Had she seen her shadow, Wyoming would have had six more weeks of winter. Let’s see, in six weeks it will be March 15. Now that might be spring in most parts of America but here in Wyoming, that date often signifies our heaviest accumulations of snow. Sub-freezing temperatures can occur throughout the rest of March and even into April.

Famed Lander sculptor Bev Paddleford sculpted a larger-than-life bronze statue of Lander Lil, which stands lookout from her perch on the grounds of the local Post Office. This year, she is wearing a mask, due to the COVID pandemic.

Back in 1984, some Lander folks felt that too much attention was being paid to Punxsutawney Phil, a ground hog, in Pennsylvania. It seemed that the Rocky Mountains needed its own weather sentinel.

Local businesswoman Mary Ann Atwood and local economic developer Alan O’Hashi, came up with Lander Lil. There really was a real Lander Lil who lived in a prairie dog town located on the site of the Post Office, hence the bronze replica that now stands there.

The sun rose but was obscured by clouds on Tuesday, Feb.2, in Lander and there were shadows everywhere. 

Despite Lander Lil’s prediction, it is pretty normal for Wyoming to have six more weeks and more of winter weather, says veteran meteorologist Don Day.  

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Bill Sniffin: Was This Poacher Pincher The Tallest Submariner In History?

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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.   

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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 

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 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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Bill Sniffin: ‘Taking Chance’ Is Wonderfully Sincere Movie About The Death Of Wyoming Marine – One Of My All-time Favorites

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

If you live in Wyoming and are a patriot – how can you not love the movie “Taking Chance?”

We watched this 2009 movie the other night on HBO and, boy, does it ever hit home. It is an emotional roller coaster. We loved it when it first came out but had not watched it since.

It is the story about a young Marine from Dubois named Chance Phelps, who was killed on Good Friday, April 9, 2004, in Iraq. The movie is about Lt. Col. Mike Strobl’s journey in bringing the young man’s body home to Wyoming.

Kevin Bacon is simply outstanding as he portrayed Strobl doing this solemn solitary job of escorting the remains of an American soldier on his long and final journey home.  It makes you proud to see how serious this country takes such a job.

By movie standards, this is a small little movie, only 77 minutes long. It does not include any expansive scenes but the director does an excellent job of showing the emotions connected with the premature death of a young man, cut down in his prime.

On the IMDB movie database, the film is rated 7.5, which is very good. It originally was a TV movie and later because of its popularity, it has been elevated to frequent showings on the cable movie channels. And for good reason.

Chance Phelps has definitely not been forgotten.

The new Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois has a special room called the Chance Phelps Room, which has items telling his story. Museum founder Dan Starks was emphatic about making sure the young man was remembered.

Chance’s dad, John Phelps, is a famous sculptor.  In Lander, the spectacular Veterans Memorial at Veterans Park next to the Fremont County courthouse is highlighted by a larger than life image of a soldier, with his head down bearing the brunt of war. That sculpture is by Phelps and he used the image of his son. 

Wyoming is home to some of the best veterans memorials of any state. The most recent one was the magnificent Native American Memorial in Fort Washakie, which was just recently dedicated.

I wish I had written this column a week ago as a way of honoring all veterans on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.  This film does a spectacular job of honoring all vets.

The TV movie stars Bacon and is based on a short story Marine Lt. Col. Strobl wrote after escorting Phelps’ body across the country in 2004 to his funeral in Dubois.

Coincidentally, the military had banned all coverage of the return of soldiers remains since the 1991 Gulf War until April, 2009.  The military did offer assistance to the film makers on this project, however.

Wherever he went, Strobl wrote in the story, people greeted him with tremendous hospitality, respect and, often, teary eyes. Strobl kept a 20-page journal of his experience which later was widely circulated among members of the military.  It was discovered by HBO and quickly green-lighted as a movie project.

While most of the feature was filmed in New Jersey, the script also called for scenes from the funeral and the funeral procession in Dubois.

Phelps’ family and Dubois residents were largely supportive of the project and thrilled when HBO location scouts visited the area. Town officials sought help from then-Gov. Dave Freudenthal and worked with Union Cellular to have a temporary cell tower erected, former mayor Mike Harrison said. Most of the western scenes ended up being filmed in the Bozeman, MT area, however.

Harrison said Dubois residents were in favor of a positive story about one of their own who made a commitment to his country and followed through.

Harrison said local filming would have helped the town of about 1,000 in Fremont County find closure and would have further expressed its connection with Phelps and his family.

Phelps was 19 when he was killed in an ambush west of Baghdad on Good Friday in 2004.

“Chance was a great young man and came from a wonderful family,” said Harrison, who choked up as he expressed his thoughts about the loss. “And that’s really the basis for why this whole story was even told.”

But what matters most, Mayor Harrison said, is that the nation learned the story of the Marine from Dubois, his family, and the proud town that helped raise him.

“The good news is that it’s being told,” Harrison said.

An excellent news story about the movie written by reporter Jared Miller contributed to this column.

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Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Has 20 Seasons Or More

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Recently we have been enjoying one of Wyoming’s more pleasant seasons, a time known as Indian Summer. 

Temperatures have been in the 60s and there is very little snow to be found.

Although the wind blows through Wyoming like a cyclone during this time, the roads are usually dry. That is one of the big secrets about the Cowboy State – our roads in the winter are almost always open and almost always dry. 

We give big kudos to the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) for hard working employees and good systems in place. 

Note: On the best innovations in recent years are those digital message boards across the state foretelling what kind of weather you can find ahead of you.  I also think weather forecasting has become an exact science these days.  If it says it’s going to snow six inches, you can pretty much expect a half foot of the white stuff. 

Of course, I listen to Ace Weatherman Don Day for most of my forecasts but using the various forecasting sites on the internet seem to be accurate, too.

I like to divide our different weather cycles into 20 different seasons. I am not the first to do this, but after a lot of thought and half century of experience, these 20 seasons seem to make the most sense. Here is my list of annual Wyoming seasons, starting with now: 

  1. Indian summer
  2. Early winter – early snow
  3. Near winter
  4. Winter
  5. Dark winter
  6. Arctic Freeze
  7. January thaw
  8. Third winter
  9. Spring of Deception
  10. Semi-Truck leaning season
  11. Sprinter
  12. Actual spring (lasts about two days)
  13. Torrential downpour season
  14. Construction season
  15. Cheyenne Frontier Days Hail Season
  16. Hot summer
  17. Blue sky drought season
  18. Cool summer
  19. Fake Fall
  20. Real Fall

Both in the movie business and the book business, there is the concept of “false ending,” where you as the viewer or reader think the story is over. Not so. Later the ultimate ending arrives. Just about every movie or book uses this device.  

This also applies to Wyoming’s weather during this time of year.

As part of our recent travels during this wet and crazy fall, I heard an expression by a weather reporter, who kept referring to their all-time record cold weather as coming after they had had a “false” Autumn. 

I like that term for fall. I used to describe Wyoming’s four seasons as: almost winter, winter, still winter and construction. But then I realized it is more complicated than this. 

Despite the pandemic in 2020, we had scheduled an extended motorhome trip crossing the southwest part of the USA from Las Vegas to Flagstaff to Albuquerque to Santa Fe to Oklahoma City and onto Dallas. The trip worked out well and we saw many relatives and friends. But this wacky weather was not limited just to Wyoming. Flagstaff had blizzards. Dallas had hail and near freezing temps. Golf ball-sized hailstones pummeled the car I tow behind our RV.

At one point in the spring of that year we were stranded in Cheyenne, spending the night in our motorhome at the Terry Bison Ranch RV Park. It sure was windy. This was during the season I call Semi-Truck Leaning Season.

Three semi-trucks and a camper were on their sides just south of Cheyenne as the winds roared 75 mph for a direct hit on high profile vehicles on Interstate 25. Some reports said 88 mph gusts were blowing over these rigs on Wyoming Hill. More than a dozen rigs were over tuned statewide.

Blizzards and rainstorms are troublesome issues for me when driving a 13-foot high motorhome, but crosswinds are the biggest hazard.  It is just too dangerous. We are at a time in our lives where we would rather wait a day than “have to” get somewhere.

I really like the Wyoming Department of Transportation weather forecast maps, which showed most roads “green” on this day, which would normally be welcomed. But not when driving a vehicle that is quite susceptible to toppling over.

We always need to keep in mind that Wyoming is the windiest state in the country. A Prius works much better than a motorhome on a typical day. 

Maybe there are more than 20 seasons. If so please let me know so I can get the word out. 

Also keep in mind, that Wyoming people drive more miles per year than people in any other state, so be cautious.  

Bill Sniffin: On A Clear Day, You Can Even See An End To World Pollution

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

On Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, I looked northwest from the airport on a bluff overlooking Lander and could clearly see the Washakie Needles, almost 100 miles away.

From that area in my hometown called Capitol Hill, the view was pristine. It was so clear, these snow-capped 12,500-foot high mountains in the Washakie Mountain Range glistened.

In a world obsessed with climate change and power plant emissions, would you not assume that our skies would be polluted and such a view would be impossible?

With the whole planet consumed with the notion that we need to shut down fossil fuels and “save our world,” it has always bothered me that activists want to destroy the U.S. energy economy when, frankly, we are leading the world in cleaning up the environment already.

CNN host Fareed Zakaria had an amazing show a couple of weeks ago where he addressed this subject.

He quoted an international organization that had compiled a list of the 29,000 fossil fuel power plants in the world. One of the group’s main conclusions sure got my attention.  And it made me wonder why is this conclusion not common knowledge?

That report contended that 5% of the world’s power plants caused 73% of the world’s CO2 pollution.  Just 5%!

Zakaria’s report begged the obvious question: Why is the world not working on a plan to shut down or convert these 1,400 plants, instead of putting strict controls on all of these other power plants, too? 

President Joe Biden is leading the world in the foolish quest to kill off all fossil fuel power production in the world while without dealing with the so-called climate change crisis in the way that a prudent business person would act – why not fix the worst plants first?

Sure, you can clean up all the plants, but a much more prudent plan would be to take some of those billions of dollars and close or clean up the 1,400 worst offenders.

I’ll bet you will not hear one peep about such a practical plan.

One of Biden’s first acts as president was to rejoin the China-favored Paris Climate Accords.

Our U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney just can’t get a break lately back here in Wyoming. She is not very popular after her vote to impeach President Donald Trump.  And now she has joined Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a committee to find out the root cause of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

I do not think she will run again for her House seat. She will move onto the national stage to represent the moderate wing of the national Republican party and run for president in 2024.

But while she is our representative, she had this to say:

 “The Paris Accord is a bad agreement based on flawed science,” Cheney said. “It subjects the United States to unattainable requirements that will destroy jobs in Wyoming and across the country, while allowing other nations with terrible environmental track records to continue to operate without consequences.”

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 parties in Paris in December 2015 and took effect in November 2016.

Its goal is to limit global warming during this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius (about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — and preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius— compared to pre-industrial levels.

Former President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement in 2017, a controversial move that made sense to practical people.

When President Biden was sworn into office in January, he signed an executive order to rejoin the agreement, which became official late last week.

Meanwhile, a recent Cowboy State Daily news story featuring Wyoming’s star weatherman Don Day quoted him as saying that most climate change news stories are “heavy in anecdotes and light in any data.”

“June and July (of 2021) were hot, but did not break records, as it was hotter in 1988 and 2007,” Day said. “August in Sheridan was cooler than last year and 2019. It is really easy to cherry pick weather data to prove hot or cold.” 

He added that while October 2019 in Sheridan was the coldest on record, that fact is not evidence of global cooling. 

Day said “climate click-bait” stories follow a formula with six main points:

1.   Shocking headline.

2.   Claim that recent observed weather is the worst ever recorded, likely using cherry-picked or misleading data.

3.   A quote from a scientist whose specialty likely is not atmospheric science saying this is worst and more is to come.

4.   Quote from another article or link to a paper some environmental group has written.

5.   Another claim of impending doom.

6.   A final statement that while there is time to reverse the trend, that can only be accomplished by following the directions of the people quoted in the story.

“You will see this pattern over and over again in the media/press, watch for the pattern,” Day said.

Day said peoples’ perception of what they see in weather is frequently based on what they are experiencing now rather than any kind of historical perspective.

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November Fund Drive Will Keep Your Cowboy State Daily Coming To You Every Morning!

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

It is so exciting to announce our November fund drive to finance the continued operations of Cowboy State Daily.

We are reaching out to the 21,000 readers in our subscriber database for financial support. No media in Wyoming has grown like this. And thanks to you, we continue to grow!  Our motto is “Don’t just watch us grow – join us!”

These are critical times as we raise money to continue to grow and to continue to cover the news of Wyoming in the best way possible. We are a non-profit, 501 C 3 charitable corporation. We do not have stockholders. We are owned by YOU.

Cowboy State Daily is not yet three years old. And yet we are sending out over 100,000 newsletters to subscribers per week. We have more than 650,000 visiting our web site each month. And on Facebook, we have more then 25,000 followers.

After holding fund drives for the past three years, as publisher, I think we can identify three kinds of donors:

First is the small, loyal donor. These folks see their donation almost like a subscription or a membership. These donations come in ranging from $20 to $300. I just love getting them because so many of them include comments about the Cowboy State Daily and how much it means to them to get their unbiased Wyoming news every morning. 

We save all those comments and just relish reading them again and again. It keeps our staff fired up. Even if you donate by credit card, please email me with your comments at or

A second kind of donor is the kind of dedicated citizen who sees the importance of keeping an independent, unbiased news source alive in this state. These folks will write checks from $500 and up. There are not very many of these folks but they have the means to make a huge difference. These donations always come at a good time and mean so much.

A third kind of donor are what I call the “heavy hitters.”  Wyoming, surprisingly, has a number of these folks. Their net worth often are in the hundreds of millions and sometimes even billions, such as the late Foster Friess.  These folks are careful with their money and often support big national causes with big checks.  

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of heavy hitters who have supported Cowboy State Daily but we thank them and welcome even more consideration in the future.  Their donations can often make the difference when it comes to setting long-term goals and even adding new programs.

And yes, we thank all our donors. From folks sending in $20 to those capable to literally changing our future operations.

So, with that introduction ,we are launching this fund drive as our readers pick up the slack and keep this news organization alive.

Cowboy State Daily is 100 percent virtual. We have no offices. All the money raised goes into paying for the services of the best reporters in Wyoming. We do not even have assistants to send out thank-you notes. Just please accept thanks from us for your past donations. And your future ones, too!

Cowboy State Daily has an incredible staff:

Jimmy Orr is our executive editor.  Jim Angell is our editor. Ellen Fike is a full-time reporter while Wendy Corr and Jen Kocher fill out the staff. We have a best staff of regular columnists with Dave Simpson, Rod Miller, Dennis Sun, Jonathan Lange, Jim Hicks, Tim Mandese, Jimmy Orr, and myself.  Plus, we have the best weatherman in America in Don Day and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez.

Today, nobody is covering Wyoming news like Cowboy State Daily. But it costs money to provide a daily digital newspaper six mornings a week.  Thanks in advance for your checks or credit card donations.

We love it when people tell us how much they like Cowboy State Daily. Here are some examples:

Scuy and Beatrice Wallace of Cheyenne sent in a nice donation and wrote: “Thank you for publishing a true Wyoming regional newspaper. We look forward to reading it every day. Thank you so much!”

Mary Paxson made a nice donation and said: “I love the Cowboy State Daily. I love the writing especially. I think you are the last stand of journalism in Wyoming! I do enjoy the news along with the humor of the delivery.”

Janice S. of Jackson heaped a bunch of praise on Cowboy State Daily. Part of what she said was: “I have enjoyed the daily briefings of happenings around the state, which helps me feel more connected with the goings-on in Wyoming. I also enjoy the bit of humor and lightheartedness that each report bring – the daily bears and the daily dancing men. I‘ve recommended that friends and family sign up to receive the Cowboy State Daily!”

Joe Glode in Saratoga says: “I sure like your daily news feed.  It sure beats Cable!”

During tough times like 2020 and even most of 2021, it helps to have someone to turn to. In the past year, Wyomingites turned to Cowboy State Daily in record numbers of subscribers.

Our staff anticipated your questions and provided the answers. You asked us about COVID-19 vaccines, hospital capacities, school issues, government tax proposals, remote learning, the changing economy, and yes, elections, too. 

Our staff published over 2,000 stories, photos, videos,  and providing a daily newsletter to thousands. That journalism helped thousands of people better understand how our state’s policies would impact their lives. 

Thanks to our donors for helping us continue our mission of keeping Wyomingites informed. In a year when information literally saved lives, we came through. Your loyalty means so much. 

Cowboy State Daily is owned by YOU.  And with ownership comes responsibility.  We are reaching out to our 21,000-plus names on our subscriber list and asking you to donate now.  It is tax-deductible on your IRS return.

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Cowboy State Daily continues to grow.  We have been adding 1,000 new subscribers per month for the past year.

Our motto: Don’t Just Watch Us Grow – Join Us!” Whether you can chip in with a donation or with your continued attention, we’re so grateful for your support

Shauna Roberts of Cody sent a beautiful card with the inscription: “Thank you for the Wyoming News – just the facts – no spin!”

Marianne Bidart says: “Thank you for all the bear stories I am looking forward to hearing more about 399 and her four cubs.  How about a feature on Wyoming Ranch dogs at work or being silly?  This all makes me smile and have a laugh – we all need it. Many thanks to all at the Cowboy State Daily.”

Up in Buffalo, Brenda Bayliss writes: “Thanks for the news and keeping me in the loop!”

And finally, Linda Sue Golding of Dayton writes: “Keep up the good work!”

We hope folks will respond to this request for donations. It will raise money, which helps us bring you the news every day in three big ways:  First, we send you this daily newsletter which we like to call Wyoming’s Morning News and second, with our big web page, which is updated all day long with statewide stories. Plus, third, we now have 25,000 followers of our Facebook page.

Please click on the donate button and donate by credit card or send your check to: Cowboy State Daily, Box 900, Lander, WY 82520.

Thanks so much!

Please click on the donate button and donate by credit card or send your check to: Cowboy State Daily, Box 900, Lander, WY 82520.

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Bill Sniffin: October Is Breast Cancer Month – Here Is A Story That Is Up Close And Personal

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

I will never forget the way we celebrated the arrival of the Millennium on Dec. 31, 1999. 

At midnight, I was standing outside our home with the dog watching the fireworks over the golf course hill. I was sipping a glass of Spumante.  Our kids had gone to a party and I was babysitting my wife Nancy and our granddaughter Daylia, both of whom were sleeping.

October is breast cancer awareness month and it is in that spirit that I write this.

My wife Nancy had been diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 1999 and had been very sick as a result of chemotherapy.  She ended up in the hospital with the flu and I had just gotten her home in time for New Year’s.

Our grown children  were off to New Year’s parties and I stayed home to watch over my two sleeping girls.

When midnight struck, I quietly sneaked into Nancy’s bedroom and gently woke her up.  She was really groggy.  “Happy New Year, sweetie,” I said, and I gently let her take a sip of my wine.  Then she rolled over and went back to sleep.  I walked back to the center of our darkened house and rather ominously pondered what kind of year we were going to have in 2000?

Now, over 21 years later, I can report it was quite a year. Let me tell you about it.

It was in the fall of 1999 at this time when we found out my 52-year old wife had a cancerous tumor in her left breast and cancer in one lymph node. Nancy’s oncologist is a good man with an honest sense of irony.  “I’m going to use some terms with you today,” he said, at our first meeting, “that will sound strange to you. Believe me, by next year, they will become very common to you.”

And, so our journey started.

Thank God we had sold our newspapers in Fremont County and on Maui.  When we got the news, we also still owned interests in five businesses, but all had capable managers, which meant we could fight this thing with all our energy. And the Lander community was wonderful.  We had an unbelievable amount of support and prayers from all over.

Have you ever had someone cook dinner and bring it to your home?  At first, I really fought against this idea. After all, I was healthy and could either boil an egg or run to McDonald’s with little problem.  But then you realize that your friends are reaching out and they want to help you out. So, we relented. And the food was great, by the way.

During the following year we learned a lot about those things the oncologist talked about, such as Cytoxan, Adriamycin, Taxotere, neutropenia, Leukopenia, Zophran, Neupagen, CBC and thrombocytopenia, etc.  These are chemicals, medicines or medical conditions related to the effort to cure breast cancer.

After chemo, she also needed radiation. She rode a bus to Casper for 30 days. She called it “the cancer bus.  It was full of folks, like her, needing to get their dose of radiation.

Sadly, a great number of the people who rode that bus with her are no longer with us. But Nancy was blessed and we still have her with us today.

As for surgery, Nancy had a procedure called a lumpectomy. She came through it very well.

Her oncologist said that after her chemotherapy, if she does the radiation her chance of getting breast cancer again is three percent.  Without the radiation, it is 30 percent.

Those are 20-year old statistics. I am sure they are much today, especially with all the new cancer-fighting techniques and technologies that have been developed since then.

After that first surgery, she had a port surgically installed into an area above her right breast, just below the shoulder. All her blood testing and her chemotherapy were done directly through this port.

The chemotherapy was as bad as people said it would be.  There are now drugs, which prevent much of the nausea that occurred in the past, but it sure wreaked havoc with her white blood cell counts. Of course, she lost all her hair.

She got through her chemo sessions in April, 2000 but developed a bad infection in her leg, which was the result of the low blood count and accidentally bumping it on an open desk drawer.  This led to a quick trip to Casper to meet with an infectious disease specialist and then a deep surgical procedure to drain and repair her thigh.  She didn’t walk for a month.

Finally, we got the word from the oncologist that she could start radiation. 

On Oct. 13, 2000, we got up at 4 a.m. and went to Casper for a treatment and then headed to Cheyenne where Gov. Jim Geringer and his wife Sherri were hosting a reception for breast cancer survivors.

It was fun and it was fun watching Nancy mix with the other women there. I was the only man present and I quietly excused myself, saying, “I was a thorn amongst all these roses.”

As I departed, I looked back and I did think one rose stood out from the rest, though.

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Bill Sniffin: If We Live In A Little City, Then, This Must Be Wyoming

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Everything’s the same, back in my little town.
– Simon and Garfunkel song

Why does Wyoming lack a small city of significant population?

This thought first occurred to me while traveling through Boise (235,684).  Most recently, while visiting Anchorage, with its 282,958 people, this question again came into my mind.

Our largest cities, Casper and Cheyenne, are wonderful places.  Both were similar in size to Anchorage and Boise 60 years ago.  Not so today.

It might be easy to conclude that there were unique things that contributed to the growth of Anchorage and Boise. But what?  And why? They are isolated places in frontier-like states just like Wyoming.

One thing I noticed about both places is the obvious signs that big corporations are based there.  Years ago, big oil companies had a large presence in Casper and a big airline had its headquarters in Cheyenne. But they moved on.

Anchorage grew because of the energy explosion in that state. But has not Wyoming seen the exact same thing here over the past 60 years?

It is also significant to note the difference in the ages of the populations of Alaska and Wyoming.  While we are among the oldest in average age, Alaska is perhaps the youngest.

Today Casper and Cheyenne are 58,763 and 65,035 while Anchorage tops a quarter of a million and Boise tops 235,000.

Before going farther, I admit that I love our small population and am not yearning for big increases.  But it seems odd that somehow Wyoming has avoided developing that one major-sized city that would be an economic incubator for the state.

The statistics of some other neighboring small cities are even more interesting.

In 1960, Fort Collins was a little city, as was Rapid City. Today, they are 169,810 and 78,956. Four other Colorado cities that were just little towns 60 years ago include Longmont 98,885, Loveland 76,378, Grand Junction 65,560, and Brighton 40,083.

Over 60 years, the growth of Casper from 38,665 to 58,763 and Cheyenne’s growth from 43,380 to 65,035 are quite respectable. But neither showed the explosive growth of these other regional cities.  Billings, for example, doubled from 52,249 to 109,843.  Bozeman was just 13,361 in 1960 and today is 52,619.

Over in South Dakota, Sioux Falls is now 192,517.  In 1960 it was 98,946

Wyoming leaders commented on this situation:

Kim Love in Sheridan asked five questions: Who is Wyoming’s JR Simplot? What has Wyoming ever done that was the equivalent of the de-regulation of banking South Dakota did to recruit Citicorp’s credit card business? What was the relative size of Wyoming’s energy industry compared with Alaska’s North Slope development?  What would Wyoming look like if the economic impact of Wyoming’s energy was concentrated in one city such as Anchorage as opposed to five or six? What would Jackson look like if it had the same ability to grow as Bozeman has and also had a four year university?

Cowboy State Daily editor Jimmy Orr: “I would agree that investing in communities makes a big difference. Personally, I love that we don’t have any big communities and hope we keep it that way. Weather will keep Cheyenne and Casper’s growth in check. Keep an eye out on Lincoln, Sublette, and Crook counties.  The natural beauty of these counties will spur a lot of growth.”

Former Wyomingite Debbie Hammons writes: “Now that I live in a thriving Colorado community, I understand far better what residents like about living here. Longmont, for Pete’s sake, has grown to be bigger than Casper and Cheyenne during the past 10 years!   But they had a community effort to renew their downtown, and people from all over the region go there. It’s become a ‘cool’ place — attracting people who now not only visit there, but want to move there. Yes, you have to have jobs, educational opportunities, attractive outdoor attractions, but the town shouldn’t look like just a truck stop.”

Former Wyoming journalist Joe McGowan: “I believe the -relatively high elevation and the accompanying cold, snowy weather discourage people from moving to Wyoming. Some years ago, I knew a fellow whose doctor told him to find a lower elevation because of a medical problem he had. 

“By the way, all those years ago I was on the UW swim team and we had a real advantage when other conference teams came to Laramie. Often their distance swimmers had trouble finishing and a few had to be pulled from the pool!”

UW Historian Phil Roberts sees politics as the problem: “Hate to say it, but it’s Wyoming’s increasingly reactionary ideology, perceived as antithetical to new ideas and innovation. Unless you are already rich, there is little in the way of opportunity–at least, that’s the outside perception. We do little to counter that narrative, especially in this era of Trumpism. Something has to change.”

Lander entrepreneur Cade Maestas says: “Wyoming is a one-trick pony. Our extraction-based economy is heavily impacted by boom and bust cycles. We need more mid-size companies to flourish here, this will build a larger talent pool to recruit even larger companies.

“Or we need a homegrown favorite to flourish to the point of becoming a Coors, a Dell, an Oracle, or any of the other large businesses in smaller communities that helped lift their towns to the next level. Four-year colleges are going the way of the dodo. We need more tech schools, more tech infrastructure, and we need a stable economy to let businesses grow.”

Several folks blamed weather for lack of growth in our two largest cities. The late Steve Mossbrook, who was CEO of in Riverton said: “In both Wyoming cities the wind blows all the time, frequently so hard as to make it uncomfortable to be out of doors.  Additionally, Wyoming people are not exactly fond of change.”

Randy Bruns, who headed up LEADS economic efforts in Cheyenne, told me his thoughts about eight years ago on this subject: “Anchorage, Fort Collins, and Boise all are university towns and they all invested heavily in quality of life amenities two decades or more before Casper and Cheyenne started to wake up. Communities that invest in themselves become attractive to others. In Wyoming we thought things were good enough, thank you very much.”

My personal theory is that both Cheyenne and Casper do have weather considerations that come into play. 

Also, Wyoming is both the windiest state in America and has the highest average elevation of any state.  It is high and cold here.

But the biggest reason for the lack of a major growth was the 20-year bust that Wyoming endured from 1982 to 2002.  Wyoming truly languished during this bleak period with a “make do” attitude.

We lost our momentum and it’s been difficult all these years later to get it back.  

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Bill Sniffin: Here was the time when I missed The Best Part of America the most

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The rain was falling in sheets. The wind was howling. The temperature was 40 degrees and I could see my breath. My raincoat was soaked through and my umbrella was inside out. It was late at night and I was standing on a street corner in Cardiff, Wales, waiting for a bus. 

And I was thinking about The Best Part of America.

Those Wyoming mountains in my mind were looking mighty good about then. Wyoming’s low humidity and bright sunshine were only distant a memory — but in between shivers, it kept me going.

That was 35 years ago this month.

My visit to the Centre for Journalism Studies at the University of Wales was about over. And although it had been a great experience, it was time to leave. The Cardiff faculty had invited me to join their mid-career Master’s program in the fall of 1986. The program included journalists from all over the world. 

There were newspaper editors, television newscasters, magazine editors and government media people. They came from as far away as China, Malaysia, Korea, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Qatar, New Zealand, the United States and other countries, too.

While there, my duties also included serving as a guest lecturer to grad school students from the United Kingdom. 

But that night in the rain, all I could think about was my Wyoming.

These people wanted to know about America. They liked America and they liked Americans.

My philosophy has always been to be polite when visiting another person’s country.  I rarely bragged about my home and always complimented them on everything.

Once you get beyond the politeness, inevitably the conversation would turn to my part of the country.  They wanted to know about this mysterious place called Wyoming? Cowboys, Indians and mountains fascinated them. I told them about the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express and Yellowstone National Park and Frontier Days.  

And how Wyoming was just one of 50 states and how our state had 23 counties. And how Fremont County was larger than Wales. And despite all that land, just 39,000 people lived there. And how there were 40 places in my county over 13,000 feet in elevation.  

I also told them about incredible mountains like the Grand Tetons and Devils Tower. And our vast distances and how Wyoming was the least populated state in America — about the same population of Cardiff.

And they were surprised to hear about how the sun shines 300 days per year and the humidity is so low, the sky is always blue.  And how you can’t count all the stars in the sky at night.  And how easy it was to see more than 100 miles on a clear day.

And then there was all our wildlife plus our wonderful fishing.  And I raved about the Red Desert with its wild horses and shifting sand dunes. And how just a century ago, cavalry and buffalo were roaming these valleys. 

Now remember, I believe in being polite when in a foreign country.  It took a lot to get me to talk about my home.  But they wanted to know more.  They just couldn’t get enough information about this land called The Best Part Of America.

I couldn’t help smiling when talking about our clean air and clean water or even how wide our streets are. And the great condition of our roads and highways along with all the walking and hiking trails. And our tax situation was almost non-existent compared to theirs.

Hearing about public lands that were available to everybody surprised them.  I told them about my spread, the three million-acre Shoshone National Forest that was just 10 minutes from my home.  And how our family shared that spread with millions of other Americans.

My tales of the Shoshone and Arapaho Indians drew a rapt audience.

And I talked about my family back there in 1986. And how most Americans are friendly and Wyoming people are the friendliest of all. And how Americans always believe in the “American Dream” — that if they work hard and don’t give up, they will almost always come out on top. Americans believe the best in people and in situations and how optimism is a national disease in our country.

And as I was standing there in the rain that chilly night many years ago, I thought about all those things.  It was then that I realized that I really did live in The Best Part of America. 

It was good to know that. 

And it was time to go home.

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Bill Sniffin: Travel During The Time Of COVID And Fall Foliage

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Travel times can be nervous times in the time of COVID.

We were anxious about going to a wedding and then going farther, but what about the booster shot?

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Pfizer vaccine’s long-term protection against COVID was not quite as potent, over the long run, as the Moderna shot.

As recipients of the Pfizer vaccine back in January, both my wife Nancy and I were eligible for the booster shot.

We were headed to our grandson’s wedding in Grand Junction and this seemed a good time to get the booster. We loaded up our old motorhome (nicknamed Follow My Nose) and headed south. Our ultimate destination on this trip was Las Vegas, where we store the coach during the winter months.

But before we left, we were concerned about COVID.

Three elderly Lander friends, all of whom were vaccinated, recently had gotten sick from COVID.  Although none died or were even hospitalized, this got our attention. They reported severe headaches and the need to sleep for about five days.  One friend says he is still very tired after two weeks.

A story in the New York Times reported on this:

“Roughly 221 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been dispensed thus far in the United States, compared with about 150 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. In a half-dozen studies published over the past few weeks, Moderna’s vaccine appeared to be more protective than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the months after immunization.

The latest such study, published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, evaluated the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing symptomatic illness in about 5,000 health care workers in 25 states. The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had an effectiveness of 88.8 percent, compared with Moderna’s 96.3 percent.”

Ryan Hedges, the CEO of the Lander Medical Clinic, set up procedures for those wishing to obtain the booster shot and we were able to get ours before we left on the first leg of our trip to Grand Junction. We experienced no side effects at all.

Weather guru Don Day said that if we left on Sept. 23, the conditions should be perfect for driving a 13-foot high rig across a stretch famous for brutal westerly winds. He was right. Outside of incredible construction between Baggs and Craig, Colorado, the trip was uneventful.

Aspen trees in Carbon County were just starting to turn. That excellent paved highway from Saratoga to Baggs features perhaps the best Gold Aspen viewing in the state. I have never seen so many Aspen trees as on Battle Mountain. 

The famous Aspen Alley is located in that area. Cowboy State Daily recently published the best photo ever taken of Aspen Alley by noted Cheyenne photographer Randy Wagner. It is a spectacular photo of a brilliant site.

The entire state is showing great color.  The Wyoming Black Hills up by Newcastle and Sundance are amazing.

Mountain ranges from one end of Wyoming to the other are showing off this time of year. If you can, get out and drive the Big Horn, Wind River, Wyoming, Teton, Owl Creek, Sierra Madre, and many other mountain ranges.  The canyons are wonderful, too.

After Baggs we drove down the Yampa River Valley in Colorado through Meeker and Rifle.  Color was just coming out there, too.

As I write this, we are still feeling fine and we got through the wedding ceremony, reception, and various other gatherings in excellent shape.

From Grand Junction, we again checked with Don Day and he said weather should cooperate. He was right until we reached that long stretch from Mesquite to Vegas. It was windy but we managed.

We are spending a few days in Sin City before putting our rig in storage for a few months. We hope to go back in February for some time. More than $1 billion was wagered in Vegas in August, and while that total is below pre-pandemic levels, it still shows that business is coming back.

When it comes to COVID, Nevada is California Junior with everybody ordered to wear masks just about everywhere.  It was common to see folks wearing masks outside and even while driving. It was frankly a little shocking after enjoying Wyoming’s pretty much mask-free environment.

We are looking forward to our trip home, especially through some of our favorite towns like Evanston, Kemmerer, and Fort Bridger. I am pondering taking a route which would feature a stop at Flaming Gorge. The road from Fort Bridger to the Flaming Gorge dam is a scenic gem that few Wyoming people have traveled. If they do, they are in for a gorgeous trip.

Fall is my favorite time of year in Wyoming. In recent years it stretched to the end of October before winter snows.  We can only hope.

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