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Bill Sniffin: Today Brings Back Memories of the Great Wyoming Native Son Chris LeDoux

in Bill Sniffin/Column
3282

By Bill Sniffin, publisher of Cowboy State Daily

“Take me back to old Wyoming, I’ve been away too long. I want to hear the meadowlark singing this cowboy’s favorite song. I want to saddle up old paint and just ride him out across the hills. I belong in old Wyoming and I reckon that I always will.” – Lyrics by the late Chris LeDoux.

       On March 9, 2005, Wyoming lost one of its favorite sons when singer and rodeo star Chris LeDoux died from complications of liver cancer at the age of 56.

         Gov. Dave Freudenthal proclaimed the next Saturday as “Chris LeDoux Day,” as a way for Wyomingites to celebrate his life and honor his achievements. “Chris LeDoux has meant a lot to Wyoming, from his earliest days of riding bareback to his later days of making music,” Gov. Freudenthal said. “Cheyenne Frontier Days, when fans of both would gather, seems like an appropriate time to honor his memory.” His proclamation also contains the line: “Whereas, Chris LeDoux was a cowboy in the truest and best sense of the word.” Couldn’t say it much better than that.

         LeDoux had a love of Wyoming that came through his singing and his actions.  A champion rodeo cowboy, he worked just as hard becoming an entertainer as he did to be a champion rodeo athlete.

       Former Wyoming Tourism Director Gene Bryan has fond memories of Chris from his many years of involvement with Cheyenne Frontier Days:

       “I first remember Chris when he played defensive end for the

Cheyenne Central football teams, coached by former coach Jim McLeod. I first met Chris when I was exec for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Committee and he was pedaling his 8-track tapes out of a booth at Frontier Park. 

       “He would call me and the question was always the same, ‘Gene, what do I have to do to perform at the Night Show?’ and my response was always the same: ‘Get famous.’ Well, he did (boy, howdy, did he!). I think another Acts Chairman John Tabor, who was a close friend of Chris’, would echo the statement that he was the most popular entertainer to perform at the CFD concerts, even more than the star who helped launch him, Garth Brooks.

       “He was a cowboy’s cowboy–always polite, always a gentleman.  He never forgot his roots.  He’s gone, but I can guarantee he won’t be forgotten. Terrible loss to the Cowboy State without question.”

        LeDoux personified the “Wyoming way,” in both his actions and his lifestyle.  He lived by a handshake and felt a commitment was a commitment.

      Bill Lewkowitz of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort recalls the late singer fondly.  “Many people at our resort learned what many cowboys across the country and many people in Wyoming already knew — that Chris was a great musician, performer and just a really nice guy!  We invited him back to play a concert to help celebrate our 30th anniversary of the resort and he played to a very enthusiastic audience. 

       “Chris played both of these concerts for much less money than he was being paid at the time, but did the concerts for less to help a Wyoming neighbor with their events.  Chris brought his family back to ski several times.  He never wore a fancy ski suit, just a Carhartt one-piece work suit, that as he told me was suited for any winter chore from birthing calves to skiing in Jackson Hole.

       “After struggling along with his record label in Nashville to get permission to use Chris’s music for a promotional video, we finally got hold of him directly and he granted us permission to several of his songs.  As long as we were working on a project that helped promote the great state of Wyoming, using his music was fine by him.

       “I also worked with Chris at the Teton County Fair.  A concert that Chris was scheduled to perform one July was rained out due to a powerful thunderstorm, but Chris did everything in his power to get the show complete. The weather never did cooperate, but Chris let us know he wanted to come back to play again.  Our entire local rodeo crowd, of course, loves his music and people travel from all over the state to listen to him.  Interestingly, Chris’ band played the Rancher Bar in Jackson back in the early 1980s.”

       Chris LeDoux loved Wyoming and had a great way of writing about and singing about his home state. Here are some lyrics from one of his songs:

 “You ain’t lived until you’ve watched those Northern Lights, sat around the campfire and hear the coyotes call at night. Makes you feel alright, so guess I’ll stay right where I’m at, wear my boots and my cowboy hat. But I’ll come and see ya once in a while. I gotta be where I can see those Rocky Mountains, ride my horse and watch an eagle fly. I gotta live my life and write my songs beneath these Western Skies. When I die you can bury me beneath these Western Skies, Yippee.”

Bill Sniffin: Coronavirus – Greatest Plague – Or Biggest Overreaction Ever?

in Bill Sniffin/Column
3269

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily publisher

As of right now (Sunday afternoon, March 8), Wyoming has not had a recorded case of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and that is a huge relief.

A news report on TV Sunday predicted that 100 million people in the USA could be “affected” by the virus. What does that mean?

If you are over 65 and have a medical condition like a bad heart, high blood pressure, diabetes, or some other chronic disease – well, you better be careful. By the way, that describes most of my buddies at the Fox News All-Stars coffee group, which meets every morning in Lander. It probably describes the Benchsitters in Buffalo and even the crowd at the Cheese Barrel in Casper.

Two years ago, a young, vibrant friend of ours, Leslie Blythe, died at the Casper hospital from complications of the flu. That was a wakeup call for all the thousands of Wyoming people who knew her. If Leslie could die from the flu, then we were all vulnerable.

So how does that compare to the Coronavirus?

By now everyone has read about it and heard about it on TV.

Not hard to find cynical views of this “over-reaction.” Radio guru Joe Kenney in Lander says: “I think the media has so overblown this virus it’s crazy. We were walking the dogs on the path in City Park today and a woman walked by giving us the stink-eye and I told her the dogs wouldn’t bother her. She said she wasn’t afraid of the dogs, she was afraid of the coronavirus. I told her the dogs didn’t have it, either!”

Joe continues “So far this flu season 18,000 people in the USA have died of the regular flu, and, what, 10 from the coronavirus? Why aren’t people getting crazed by the regular flu?

Joe concluded: “I was at NAPA on Friday and owner Rick Bestul showed me a box of ten 3M facemasks. His price is about $28 every day of the year. On Amazon Friday they were $188 a box, and now I hear some stores are having a run on toilet paper? Frikkin’ country is going nuts. Don’t you have something better to write about?”

Pat Schmidt said the Cheyenne Sam’s Club had a run on bottled water and toilet tissue.

Bill Schilling of Casper wrote me: “Bill, I would be careful on this. Give it two weeks to see how many spikes occur. My fiancee’s daughter and family live in Kirkwood, WA. Ground zero there. University of Washington with 40,000-plus students has gone to all online courses.”

As aside, the word coronavirus is more of an umbrella term that refers to a group of viruses that cause diseases like SARS, MERS and COVID-19.

As is often the case in the scientific world, coronavirus’ name is Latin. In the ancient language, corona means crown.

According to officials, virions give off the appearance of a crown when the virus is examined with an electron microscope. As for the new disease caused by the coronavirus, it was originally called novel coronavirus. In February, the World Health Organization gave us the name COVID-19.

The CO stands for corona. VI is for virus. And D means disease.

The 19 is for 2019, the year the disease first appeared in China.

To escape Wyoming’s recent cold and snow, Nancy and I sneaked off to Las Vegas, where we keep our motorhome in the winter. What we are seeing in a big city is astonishing. Every cart at the local Albertson’s, local Walmart, and local Sam’s Club is full of cases of bottled water.

My friend Dan Whetstone saw people buying entire pallets of bottled water at a Costco.

They are also buying toilet tissue by record numbers. You see lots of people wearing masks and you cannot find a bottle of Purell hand sanitizer for sale anywhere.

Whether an overreaction or not, this is shaping up to be the biggest story of 2020 with huge ramifications to the economy and the presidential election. Stay tuned.

Bill Sniffin: Interesting That Big I-80 Crash Did Not Occur On Snow Chi Minh Trail

in Bill Sniffin/Column
3262

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily Publisher

Most drivers experience their worst winter traffic nightmares on Interstate 80 in an area from Elk Mountain to Laramie.

Yet, the biggest crash in years occurred last Sunday, March 1, on a lonely desert section of road near Creston Junction (note: some early reports listed it as occurring near “Crescent Junction,” which is on Interstate 70).

This barren lonely stretch of highway includes a small population of oilfield folks, who populate the nearby town of Wamsutter. It is a home of man camps and trailer villages. It can be a brutal place in winter with unrelenting wind, icy roads, never-ending traffic, and the desolate feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.

Into this fray hundreds of big trucks and dozens of cars and pickups found themselves driving too fast and slamming into a huge string of vehicles that had crashed ahead of them.

It must have been horrible for the victims to know that it would be a long time before highway patrolmen, EMTs, and wreckers could get to them, when you are located so far out in the Big Empty in such terrible weather conditions.

Trying to get somewhere as fast as possible sounds familiar to me. In my life, it seems like I always needed to be somewhere at a specific time. Wyoming’s roads and winter weather rarely cooperated with my schedules. Today, I am able to monitor the weather and the roads and leave a day early or perhaps even re-schedule .

Most of those folks involved in that crash Sunday were on deadlines. They rolled the dice and took the chance that they could get through those awful conditions and say a prayer afterward for their good luck. But this was not to be their lucky day. Three people died and other reports said as many as 30 people were injured.

The video of that crash scene was seen by 500,000 people (according to Cowboy State Daily) and after viewing it, you again ask yourself why you would put yourself into harm’s way by driving a car or a pickup amongst all those gigantic trucks? What chance has a 3,500-pound car have when colliding with a 60,000-pound truck? In that video, some good Samaritans were trying to get a person out of a small black car that was unrecognizable, smashed so much in the front and in the rear. Truly a scary thing to see.

By the way, Wyoming was voted number-one for most dangerous state to drive in during winter weather. The nine other worst states for winter driving were: 2. Vermont 3. Montana 4. Idaho 5. Maine 6. Michigan 7. Iowa 8. New Mexico 9. Minnesota and 10. Nebraska. Not sure why Colorado was missed from this list.

John Waggener’s great book about Interstate 80, which he calls the Snow Chi Minh Trail, explains why federal highway officials picked the mountainous site rather than the longer U.S. Highway 30 route.

There were some very stubborn federal officials, headed by a rock head named Frank Turner, who were obsessed with the new road cutting off 19 “unnecessary miles,” compared to the route used by U. S. 30 through Rock River and Medicine Bow.

Waggener even recalls a heated exchange between Turner and former U. S. Senator Gale McGee. Turner prevailed.

Wyoming people fought valiantly in the 1960s to keep the new road out of the mountains. The federal people would not listen to them and threatened to not build it, unless it could be built on their route through the mountains.

Waggener says there are other places in Wyoming along Interstate 80 that offer problems, such as the Summit between Laramie and Cheyenne, but nothing compares to that daunting 77-mile trip from Laramie to Walcott Junction.

We old-timers recall a famous CBS TV newsman named Charles Kuralt, whose specialty was traveling the country and reporting on out-of-the-way places.

He famously declared that the stretch from Laramie-Walcott Junction was “the worst stretch of interstate highway in America.”

Waggener says another myth was the mystery surrounding why the Wyoming Department of Transportation re-built a stretch of highway 30 between Bosler and near Rock River as a four-lane road?

He points out the road needed re-building and speculation was that WYDOT favored the U.S. 30 route for the new interstate highway and was making a statement by creating a four-lane stretch on Highway 30 back in the late 1960s.

Waggener also discloses the Union Pacific Railroad chose not to build along this route because of the wind and the snow.

He reveals studies, which explained why there are such vicious winds near the Elk Mountain area. Due to the gap next to the mountain being the lowest elevation of the Rocky Mountains, wind blows at abnormally high velocities as the air rushes through there, causing havoc in the roads and stirring up the large amounts of snow that pile up.

On a personal note, I have driven Interstate 80 for almost 50 years and I still avoid the Snow Chi Minh Trail stretch during extreme winter weather.

One reason is the horrible snow and wind. A second reason is the huge increase in truck traffic, which makes driving along that stretch a game of Russian roulette.

Perhaps a third reason is that I like visiting the Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow, which is one of the coolest places in the state.

About the only positive that Waggener pulls out of this discussion over the near half century of the Snow Chi Minh Trail’s existence is that the invention of the best snow fences in the world has resulted from this spectacular testing area.

The book is available from the Wyoming State Historical Society and fine stores around the state.

Bill Sniffin: I-80 Whiteout Nightmare – Sunday Crash Kills 3 And Hurts 30

in Bill Sniffin/Column
3251

By Bill Sniffin, publisher of Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s Interstate 80 has been a chilly highway to hell this winter.

Most recently, three people were killed and 30 more injured in a colossal string of collisions near Wamsutter that started Sunday evening. This has resulted in a long closure of the major highway which finally ended this morning.

Rawlins Publisher Ray Erku wrote an excellent article on the tragedy which included the following:

According to Carbon County Fire Warden Chief John Rutherford when asked to describe the carnage. “There’s really no words for it,” he said. “It’s just so unfortunate that these incidents happen, that we don’t seem to learn… we don’t seem to learn for our history. We drive on slick roads – we do that all the time – but it’s the fact that we drive too fast in rough conditions, we can’t see far enough, we don’t slow down enough that we can react to a problem to where we can get stopped or at least get off to the side of the road … and it compounds itself.”

Cowboy State Daily has been publishing a video of Sunday’s series of crashes involving dozens of huge semi-trailer trucks and a bunch of unfortunate automobiles.

According to Rutherford, the Carbon County Fire Department was called to the first crash at 3:42 p.m. on Sunday, near Creston Junction and Wamsutter. A second crash then occurred at 3:56 p.m. that day, at milepost 187. A series of crashes then took place at 4:25 p.m., at milepost 179.

Rutherford further said that assisting fire crews finally left the scene around 9:30 a.m. on Monday. Along with fire departments from Carbon and Sweetwater counties, Wyoming Highway Patrol as well as Sweetwater and Carbon County sheriff’s offices, fire departments from Wamsutter as well as Baggs were also called to assist.

On scene, first responders conducted triage efforts, where they started “cutting folks out of the vehicles.”

Rutherford was asked about the direct cause behind the massive pileup.

“My guess, talking to some of the county firemen,” Rutherford said, “poor visibility and slick roads.”

Erku’s news story continued: Following a massive pileup on Interstate 80 the city of Rawlins is currently dealing with an overflow of victims en masse.

According to Memorial Hospital of Carbon County spokesperson Stephanie Hinkle, as of early Monday afternoon 30 people have been treated in the hospital emergency room, two have been admitted and another two were scheduled for emergent surgeries, Erku reported.

“Upon arrival at the hospital, patients were initially triaged in the cafeteria due to the overflow,” Hinkle said. “Dr. Johnson, Dr. Hodde, Dr. Lumb, Dr. Rice and Dr. Abels were all on site as well as nurses from multiple departments. There were three fatalities and we have learned that one fatality occurred at the Rock Springs hospital.”

Around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday was when emergency services were called near mile markers 179 and 190, which are in close vicinity to Crescent Junction at the town of Wamsutter. Hinkle said the pileup, which involved more than 100 vehicles comprised of various tractor-trailers, trucks and cars, warranted a total of 10 ambulances, including EMT vehicles from MHCC as well as from the towns of Baggs, Wamsutter, Saratoga, Hanna, Castle Rock and Green River.

Along with ambulances, school buses from both Sweetwater and Carbon counties helped haul survivors to nearby shelters. According to Carbon County Emergency Manager Ron Brown, victims were taken to a Rawlins armory, where they were given cots, blankets and food supplies, according to. Erku’s news story in the Rawlins Times.

“We’ve got 10 folks right now as of this morning,” Brown told the Times early Monday afternoon.

Right before the local City Market grocery closed for the night on Sunday, Brown said they were contacted and immediately provided approximately 50 meals for the survivors. This includes items such as cold sandwiches, chicken, cookies, donuts, sports drinks and water, among other items. Brown also praised the efforts of the Rawlins Fire Department for bringing the items to the armory.

“They stood up to the plate and boy did they knock it out of the park,” Brown said.

Interstate 80 has been closed 54 times so far this winter and most of March and all of April and May remain. What a dangerous route this highway has become in winter conditions. 

Bill Sniffin: Who is the Trucker Who Video’d the Interstate 80 Crash?

in Bill Sniffin/Column
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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Who is David Cuarezma?

Cuarezma is just a trucker who happened to keep his cool and video that recent horrific crash on Interstate 80 that killed four and injured 30 near Wamsutter. He recently posted on Facebook that his video has 500,000 views, 80,000 shares, and he has received more than 1,000 friend requests. He had 59 friends on FB prior to the posting the video Sunday.

He called Interstate 80 “the most dangerous road in the United State.”

The video worked to make both Cuarezma and Wyoming’s wintry roads famous. One of the first news outlets to post that video was Cowboy State Daily. It had more than 133 shares.

He is the proverbial flatlander being asked by his company to drive across towering Wyoming mountain passes during blizzards, icy roads, and blinding conditions. He is from Miami and lists himself as being from Managua, Managua, which I assume means Nicaragua.

The trucker wrote that he was hanging out at a truck stop near Wamsutter for two days already and his back hurts. He said the company wants him to keep driving even though his truck is damaged. “We refuse to drive a crashed trailer. Is not safe at all, so we are getting fired! Wow!”

We cannot verify any of this except that it is on his Facebook page and bunch of his friends and fellow truckers chimed in on the difficulty of the situation:

Sheali Locklear wrote: “My husband (a trucker) made a last minute decision to not take this route.”

Damon Haynes: “Interstate 80 in winter is no joke.”

Lisa Gardiner: “Devastating, thank the lord you walked away. Your work is obviously not done in the Lord’s eyes. God bring you peace. Can’t imagine what you’re dealing with in your mind right now.”

Brad Daniel: “No. It isn’t the most dangerous road. You morons need to learn how to drive.”

Melanie Hilderbrand: “You are right about Interstate 80. I think our state needs to just shut it down. This wasn’t the first pile up and it won’t be the last. Thanks for being concerned about everyone.”

Some spirited comments were made to the Cowboy State Daily Facebook page that were interesting:

Daniel Ballinger: “The problem is people STOP and then PARK on the highway in bad weather. Who does that? In February 1986 I helped get 200 plus cars off I-80 right near Lone Tree junction. Semis, Dump Trucks and about 200 cars just stopped and parked on the highway. I almost ran into them but was able to drive off road. The wind must have been blowing 60 mph in a White Out. PLEASE Keep in mind I wrote this post before watching the video. People never learn. I remember reading that 91% of all highway fatalities involve tractor trailers. It is simple physics. Passenger cars and trucks have no chance against Semi Trucks that weigh 60,000 to 80,000 lbs. Sad and unnecessary. Be careful out there.”

Patrick Sutton: “This is a terrible thing that plays out time and time again on Wyoming I-80 and I -25, Why? Because people are not used to the roads here in Wyoming. When the WYDOT signs say slow down; that means slow your speed down by 15 or 20 MPH not speed up 20 MPH because you have 18 wheels. Listen truckers: 18 wheels slide just as easily as 4. I want to pinpoint truckers because that is the root of the problem on the highways in Wyoming. I have seen truckers actually run vehicles off the road to save what, 15 seconds, ridiculous!!! We are a mile up people the weather is always going to be more unpredictable than at lower elevations. Wake Up Truckers!”

Steven Lazare: “One observation to make is that I’ve noticed so many foreign nationals driving who have no experience in long hall trucking in snowy weather. It takes years to gain experience. Driving schools don’t give enough warning and training to these relatively new people. I’ve seen pileups from Oregon to Iowa that have happened from lack of understanding when roads become slick or outside temps drop even during rain which alters the handling severely.”

Nina Trapp: “Telling people, especially truckers, to slow down is like talking to a brick wall. I am sick of this. I intend to write governor Gordon and I urge every Wyoming citizen to do the same thing.”

Jennifer Georges: “This tragedy has been repeated so many times on Wyoming’s Highways during the winter. What can we do to prevent this from happening over and over? Too many semi’s too close together. Cars, SUVs and small trucks can’t stand a chance when mixed with semi’s…”

Foster Friess Decides Against Senate Run

in Bill Sniffin/Column
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By Bill Sniffin, publisher Cowboy State Daily

Foster Friess has decided he can help the people of Wyoming more by not running for the U. S. Senate, he announced today.

He said: “After a listening tour to Cody, Gillette, Casper, and Cheyenne, and a Tele-Town Hall visit with 8,000 fellow Wyomingites, I believe my most significant opportunity to serve the people of Wyoming is by enlarging the efforts of Foster’s Outriders. A U.S. Senate run would alter our focus.”

The departure of Friess from the race opens the door for former U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis as she seeks the Republican nomination for the Senate race. Several other lesser known candidates from around the state have announced plans to run.

He announced the following initiatives going forward:

He said he wants to expand civics education and “are committing $100,000 cash awards to students who pass a private sector sponsored contest.”

He said: “After visiting Gillette College, we are increasing our efforts by helping young people to receive training in Welding, Diesel, Culinary Arts, and various other trades with the creation of the $250,000 Foster’s Outriders Scholarship for the Trades. Wyoming students who believe a four-year college isn’t the best path for them should be encouraged by this opportunity.

“We’re doubling our efforts so that every high school in Wyoming receives the lifesaving presentation from Rachel’s Challenge, a proven successful program to reduce bullying, drug abuse, suicides, and create a sense of connectedness in student bodies.

He also said: “Remaining focused on Wyoming does not diminish our ability to impact national legislation. For example, Foster’s Outriders was instrumental in the recent introduction of House Resolution 5916 and Senate Bill 3318 by Congressman Mike Gallagher and Louisiana U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, respectively. This bill will require all providers of healthcare products and services to the public to disclose cash prices on the internet and at the point of sale.

“All of the above efforts appeal to Wyomingites of every political persuasion. I hope each of you who provided so much encouragement to Lynn and me in the governor’s campaign and wanted me to run for the senate will intensify your efforts to get your friends and neighbors behind these and future Outrider efforts,” he concluded.

Friess said: “As outriders keep the cattle herd on the right trail, Foster’s Outriders helps keep the government on the right path. Encourage your friends to sign up at FosterFriess.com. These are unifying endeavors that will move Wyoming and America to a Philippians 4:8 land.”

Disclaimers: This site was founded by Annaliese Wiederspahn, daughter of Cynthia Lummis. Also: Foster Friess has been a major donor to this site.

Bill Sniffin: Tourism Sells State, Not Just To Visitors, But To Future Residents, Too

in Bill Sniffin/Column/Tourism
Tourism Conference
3200

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily Publisher

During the course of my Wyoming business career, our companies have published and distributed over four million magazines promoting tourism in the Cowboy State.

My first magazine was started in 1970 called Big Mountain Country that sang the praises for Fremont County, home of the biggest mountains in the state.

Flash ahead 50 years, and I am attending the annual Wyoming Governor’s Tourism Conference in Cheyenne. Hundreds of members of the 30,000-plus people who work in the hospitality industry were there.

Over the years the tourism industry has faced many threats, the Yellowstone fires of 1988, come to mind. This year the Coronavirus will cut into Asian tourism. Up to now the threats to the state’s second largest industry have come from outside sources.

In a crazy twist, the biggest danger to the industry this year is coming from within – from some members of the Legislature. Because of tight money concerns, some outspoken elected folks think we are spending too much money promoting the state.

Actually we are lagging behind our neighbors. And we have a lot to lose by such crazy thinking.

A small amount of money spent with the state tourism department generates much more money – it is as simple as that. The more people we get here the more money they spend. That outside money circulates around our communities. It is a win-win.

One legislator even suggested getting rid of the state’s WOT (Wyoming Office of Tourism) and actually heard a few shouts of encouragement in the State Senate. You can’t make this stuff up.

A few decades ago Colorado got rid of its tourism department, which was a disaster. It took years for them to get it restored and then even more years for their hospitality industry to recover. They never tried it again.

In the past six months, the energy economy in Wyoming has taken some serious hits leaving folks from Gillette to Rock Springs and Cheyenne to Lovell nervous and pessimistic.

Gov. Mark Gordon has responded by saying he anticipates implementing budget restraints.

But all is not so dim when it comes to the state economy.

In fact the one aspect of Wyoming’s economy that is bright is so bright, it is positively blinding.

Tourism, the state’s number-two industry, has never seen years like 2015-2019.

More than 10 million people annually visited the Cowboy State. Yellowstone National Park now hits 4 million, which is a staggering number.

All these visitors spent a staggering $3 billion with motels, gas stations, gift shops and restaurants. In 2005, the total was $2 billion. This industry is really growing at a steady pace.

Tourists spend money in all parts of Wyoming. There truly is no place that does not benefit from the visitor.

Grand Teton Park and Jackson Hole are increasing. Even places like Fossil Butte near Kemmerer are up 10 percent, which shows the growth of cultural tourism.

All these tourists paid over $160 million in local and state taxes during 2019, which is an amazing number. Sales taxes, alone, are up over 10 percent.

The state’s investment in new welcome centers is paying off with increases in visitation.

During the recent tourism conference, members of the industry were warned the 2020 Legislature might try to cut the marketing budget of the tourism department because of the afore-mentioned dip in state revenues,

My advice to them would be to do just the opposite. If this is the one area of state government that is making money, why not spend even more and make even more money?

Wyoming’s tourism industry is supported on a three-legged stool of state spending, local county lodging board spending and industry spending. Our state is the envy of the country and it is obviously why – it is working!

It is mind-boggling that every so often we hear some shrill opponents who decry spending state money on tourism promotion. They are simply wrong. This is a program that works very well. We all need to get behind it and try to grow it even more.

Tourism as the state’s number-two industry boasts 31,000 jobs. As an industry, it creates new jobs in the rapidly disappearing middle class sector.

Tourism is great for Wyoming. Spending money to promote it is good for everyone. That’s WY!

Bill Sniffin: Remembering Malcolm Wallop and His Unlikely and Amazing Victory in 1976

in Bill Sniffin/Column
Malcolm Wallop
3197

On this day in 1933, Malcolm Wallop was born. Wallop served as U.S. Senator for Wyoming from 1977 – 1995.

One of his campaign advertisements is still talked about today because of its creativity and its overall impact on political advertising. Cowboy State Daily publisher Bill Sniffin tells the story:

A porta-potty. In a rancher’s pasture?  Really?

Possibly the biggest campaign idea helping lead to the biggest political upset in Wyoming history was hatched in the Mint Bar in Sheridan in late October, 1976.

John Jenkins, Byra Kite and a political consultant named Bob Goodman were trying to find a differentiating issue that would help their huge underdog candidate Malcolm Wallop surge ahead of U. S. Senate powerhouse Gale McGee.

Much like today, Wyoming citizens in those days were chafing over what they considered federal over-reach.  The Cowboy State seemed to be a place full of good old boys (and gals) who just wanted to be left alone.

But a series of Democratic Congresses had instituted many onerous federal regulations that even annoyed folks way out here on the frontier. Sound familiar?

McGee was a Democratic stalwart who had served 18 years in the Senate and his whole campaign was based on all the “clout” he had accumulated during his time in Washington, DC.

When Republican Wallop brought in Goodman to help his campaign, he was trailing McGee in the polls by a factor of 72 percent to 18 percent. National newspapers were calling McGee’s Senate seat  “safe” which would help maintain the Democrats huge Senate lead of 62 Democrats versus just 38 Republicans. Much different than today.

In Wyoming, the Congressional delegation was 2:1 in favor of the Democrats with Sen. McGee and U. S. Rep. Teno Roncalio on one side and Republican Sen. Cliff Hansen on the other. Wyoming was a much different state politically 42 years ago than it is today.

McGee pretty much used his own staff to conduct his campaign. He did little polling and had no outside consultants. And why not?  He was an overwhelming favorite.

So how could the Wallop campaign overcome such a deficit to win in November?

Four decades later, John Jenkins, a Buffalo rancher and owner of an oil company, recalls that campaign when Wallop hired him, Goodman, and Kite. Goodman was advocating using extensive polling and something new – widespread TV advertising.

Wallop had lost in the Republican gubernatorial primary two years earlier and was in hot water with state GOP officials because of his perceived lukewarm support of the ultimate nominee Dick Jones. That 1974 Republican primary was arguably the most amazing primary in the state’s history.  These were great candidates jousting hard with each other until conservative Jones emerged the winner.

 Jones lost to Democrat Ed Herschler in the subsequent general election in a race still recalled and bemoaned by Republican state political leaders.

The Wallop campaign correctly tagged McGee, who was the chairman of the Senate Postal Committee, as a proponent of big, over-reaching federal government.  McGee defended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA), both of which were angering Wyoming folks who just wanted to be left alone.

McGee was also one of the biggest backers of the Vietnam War.  As a young editor back in 1976, I recall chatting with McGee at a big Democrat rally in Hudson just before Election Day.  McGee told me he was wrong. “In hindsight, it wasn’t wise for us to go there.”  I was not able to publish that comment until after the election.  Even patriotic folks in Wyoming had gotten bitterly tired of the war, which did not end until 1975.

As Wallop gained in the polls with general election day nearing, those three men gathered in the Mint Bar in Sheridan, as Jenkins recalls. They brainstormed what kind of message could they create which would best tell their story?

The final TV ad (and accompanying newspaper ads) showed a cowboy getting ready to go out to work on the range in the morning. Strapped to his pack animal is a porta-potty.  The voice-over talked about how the feds can’t even let you “do your business” out in the field without their regulations interfering.  It was an instant classic.  Wyoming voters were captivated. The needle moved. A lot.

When the general election votes were tallied, it was not even close.  Wallop won with 84,810 votes to McGee’s 70,558.

Bill Sniffin: Wyo Democrats Sound Off On A Bernie Candidacy

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily Publisher

Two of my favorite sayings are:

Carl Sandburg: “I am an idealist. I do not know where I am going but I am on my way!”

Will Rogers: “I belong to no organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

As a Republican, living in arguably the most Republican state in the country, I was wondering what Wyoming’s Democrats are thinking, now that is looks like Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders might get their party’s nomination?

The following exchanges were poached from comments on Facebook:

Prominent Democrat cheerleader Rodger McDaniel of Laramie asked some of his Democrat friends why liberal TV commentator Chris Mathews would attack Bernie Sanders?

(Former Secretary of State) Kathy Karpan: “Well, as Chris Mathews asked, shouldn’t a candidate running in the Democratic Party actually be a Democrat?” Karpan said Sanders replied: “No, I’m an Independent.”

Barbara Parsons (of Rawlins) said: “Kathy I agree. Bernie supporters need to get on board with the Democratic Party instead of being spoilers.” She also said: “Still if Bernie gets the nomination, I will certainly support him. And I would expect him to remain a Democrat after using the party.”

Buffalo Bulletin Publisher Robb Hicks chimed in on McDaniel’s Facebook post: “Bernie is a screeching, angry white old man. Methinks we’ve had enough of those.” He also replied to another comment: “ . . . if you think middle class suburbanites hated Hillary, just wait. If Bernie is the only alternative, no one can be surprised when Donald J. Trump gets four more years.”

Gaela Young (of Cheyenne) said: “Not a fan of Bernie either. Sorry, but he has always seemed very intransigent in his beliefs and not one to collaborate or lay well with others.”

“Bernie is what Democrats were like when FDR was president – not like the crop of corporate socialists we’re seeing a lot of these days,” says retired UW professor Phil Roberts of Laramie.

On Twitter, JCDemswyoming tweeted: “Wyoming Dems do not all agree. Some believe a hot dog is not a sandwich. We are not divided. We are diverse.” This was posted by Greg Haas who ran for state representative from district 40. He is helping out Johnson County Democrats.

Of course, the news was all abuzz Sunday when it was announced that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ran the table during the Nevada Democratic caucuses.

Some folks thought there is now no way that Sanders can be denied the ultimate Democrat Presidential nomination. This would mean he would run against Republican President Donald Trump in the November general election.

Wow, what a contrast! Not sure when the country has seen such polar opposites since McGovern ran against Nixon so many decades ago. That did not go well for the Democrats with Nixon winning the biggest margin in history.

Most of my Republican friends are convinced Trump will slaughter Bernie in a landslide. A Bernie win would qualify as the biggest upset in history, I would think.

My Democrat friends in Wyoming are a hopeful and optimistic lot. They are always facing a steep uphill battle in the Cowboy State, which supported Trump by a bigger margin than any other state.

When you think of the natural native conservatism of Wyoming folks, it is going to be exciting to watch how the Bernie supporters fare here. Stay tuned.

One other interesting item: Democrat candidate Pete Buttigieg got off one of the best lines in his fund-raising campaign: “If you believe we shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down (Bernie) and another (Mike Bloomberg) who wants to buy this party out, please donate to me!”

Totally switching gears, two friends died recently.

First was the great Jimmy Smail, 82, who died of complications of Alzheimer’s last week. Smail knew more about the Red Desert than just about anyone plus was an expert in the southern end of the Wind River Mountains and the Shoshone National Forest. I spent lots of time with him and an informative column will be coming soon.

Second, was Denise Foss, 65. She was a smart and incredibly fit young woman trying to decide how to maximize her retirement. She slipped on the ice, hit her head, and ultimately died.

Folks, be careful out there! In Lander, we have had ice on the ground since Oct. 7. Lots of reports of broken legs, wrists, and other injuries. Lean forward when you walk on ice and pretend you are a penguin. Good luck!

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Senate Race: Lummis, Friess in the News

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily Publisher

Former Wyoming U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis got some big endorsements this week in her race for the U. S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Mike Enzi.

And Jackson GOP Megadonor Foster Friess launched his statewide listening tour Thursday morning, concerning the same U. S. Senate race.

Lummis was endorsed by both current sitting senators, Enzi and Sen. John Barrasso.

“I served in the Wyoming House of Representatives with Cynthia Lummis,” Enzi said in the news release. “She was effective. I served in the Wyoming Senate with her. She was a leader and a successful legislator. When I came to the U.S. Senate, she became a world renowned State Treasurer, another area of expertise. Then she successfully ran for our lone seat in Congress.

“She was a formidable campaigner. She did a spectacular job for eight years and founded the Western Caucus that gave us the clout to preserve Wyoming’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) money and much more. She is a uniter we need. Cynthia will put Wyoming first and be a force to be reckoned with in Washington.”

Meanwhile, Friess (who finished second in the GOP Gubernatorial primary in 2018) and is deciding whether to run or not in 2020, will be in four Wyoming cities Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21.

Friess said: “I believe that on many challenges we can find common-sense solutions behind which Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can unite. I’ve been asking Wyoming voters what they are looking for in their next Senator? Do they want a businessman who can’t be bought by special interests and will join President Trump in disrupting the status quo in Washington?”

Friess will be at Cody’s Irma Hotel at noon Thursday and the Wyoming Rib Shop in Gillette at 4:45 p.m. On Friday, he will host a town hall breakfast at 8 a. m. at Eggington’s in Casper and at the GOP Salute to Womens’ Suffrage Dinner that evening in Cheyenne.

As for Lummis, Sen. Barrasso said: “Now, more than ever, Wyoming needs a gritty champion for our conservative values, Filling Mike’s shoes is no small task, and taking on Washington’s big spenders and bigger government will require someone that has proven they can do it and win. Bobbi and I support Cynthia because she is all these things.

“I know Cynthia will stand side by side with me in support of President Trump and for policies that are right for Wyoming. I will work for her, vote for her, and fight alongside her.”

Lummis thanked Enzi and Barrasso. “Wyoming’s congressional delegation is truly the gold standard,” Lummis said. “Sen. Enzi and Sen. Barrasso are giants in the U.S. Senate and I am beyond honored to have their support. Should I be elected as Wyoming’s next Senator, I look forward to working side-by-side with Sen. Barrasso and Congressman Cheney on behalf of our great state.

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