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Bill Sniffin: Empty Streets And A Busy Holiday Outside In The Cold

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By Bill Sniffin, Publisher

Like most house-bound Wyomingites, one of things that my wife Nancy and I like to do during this time of COVID-19 is go for an occasional ride around our little town.

On Christmas Day, we experienced an amazing sight.  Our super-long Lander Main Street did not have a single car or any other kind of vehicle parked along that street for its entire 2.7-mile length. Not one. From the golf course on the SE to the veterinary hospital on the NW, there was nary a single vehicle parked on either side of the street. 

Wow, it does not take much to get us old codgers excited but this was truly extraordinary. You know the old saying that it was so quiet you could shoot a cannon down Main Street and not hit anyone? Well on Christmas Day, that was true in Lander. 

Lander has a historic Main Street.  It was the original stagecoach road from the railroad station in Rawlins to the military post at Fort Washakie.  It also is the road to the southern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. 

Our Main Street is also extremely wide.  It has always been this way. Back in the day when big wagons were pulled by huge teams of oxen that needed to turn around, they could do it easily on our Main Street. 

The street is maintained by the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation (WYDOT) as U. S. Highway 287.  Now this federal highway is one of the most famous “diagonal” roads in the country.  

I used to be on the board of the Mountain West AAA, which had its main office in Helena.  When we would go to Helena for meetings, what was their main drag?  Why it was U. S. Highway 287. I think it continued on up to Canada, ending in Choteau, MT. 

When I would visit my late mom in Lafayette, CO, yep, there was U. S. Highway 287 as that little town’s Main Street. 

Here in Wyoming, this highway is also the main drag through Laramie, Rawlins, Fort Washakie,  and Dubois. 

When we visited our daughter Amber Hollins in Dallas, TX, again one of its main drags was U. S. Highway 287.  From Northern Montana to Texas, this road goes NW/SE for over  1,700 miles.  It is the longest federal highway with a three-digit designation. It ends up in Port Arthur, TX.

But anyway, it was quite a sight, COVID-19 or not, to see the usually busy Main Street in our town totally devoid any parked vehicles. Wow.

Also, on Christmas Day, we enjoyed a barbecue outside.  The weather was 29 degrees.  The air was calm and there was some snow still on the ground. The sky was blue and a brilliant sun shined on us and our daughter Shelli and her family as we ate outside on our deck.  

Our grandson Fin had shoveled out a space so we could set up a cornhole layout and after our dinner, we enjoyed playing this beanbag game.  Son-in-law Jerry brought over a fire pit so we had a campfire to keep us warm, which was a luxury. We also had s’mores (marshmallows, chocolate, graham crackers), which made it more special. 

Our little outdoor celebration provided a special end to the strangest year in my memory.  Despite the COVID-19, which prevented the Johnsons from coming inside our house, we had a Christmas that will be remembered forever.  It was just wonderful! 

We enjoyed Facetime with our other three kids, who live in Texas, Colorado, and Washington, so we got soaked in family love.  We can only hope that everyone else out there were able to make the best of a crazy situation with the crazy 2020 year. 

Daughter Alicia Haulman, who lives in Montrose, is very diligent about mailing holiday packages early.  Since my wife Nancy’s birthday is Dec. 15, Alicia always sends our “Christmas box” early, as it will have something special for Nancy’s birthday. This year she mailed it Dec. 10.  Today, as I write this on Dec. 26, we still have not received it! 

She was told that the Aurora, CO Post Office facility was so overwhelmed by packages that they truly could not tell anyone how soon their items would be delivered.  Reportedly FedEx and UPS were so overwhelmed with their own delivery issues, the USPS could not call on them to fill in. Thus, a huge logjam of packages is sitting in some huge postal warehouse in the Denver area. 

Happy New Year everybody. Thanks for reading this rather personal but not so exciting missive about our Christmas!

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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 Saturday 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 day 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: There Are Good Reasons Subscribers Are Donating To Cowboy State Daily Right Now

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Dear friend,

This has truly been a crazy year. During tough times, it helps to have someone to turn to. This year, Wyomingites turned to Cowboy State Daily in record numbers of subscribers.

We anticipated your questions and we provided the answers. You asked us about COVID-19, hospital capacities, school issues, government tax proposals, remote learning, the failing economy, and yes, the 2020 election, too. 

Our staff anticipated and answered these questions by publishing 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 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 10,600-plus subscribers and asking you to donate now.  If you do it before Dec. 31, it is tax-deductible on your IRS return.

With a crucial legislative session ahead of us in 2021, Wyoming people’s need for quality journalism remains at an all-time high. Will you chip in to help our nonprofit newsroom prepare for the year ahead?

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

Joe Glode in Saratoga says: “I sure like your daily news feed.  It sure beats Cable!”

Judy S. in Buffalo says: “I sure enjoy Cowboy State Daily. I look forward to it every day.”

Dan T. of Centennial says: “Your updates on the Mullen Fire have been particularly important since I was one of the people who got evacuation notices. Thank God for the snow. Keep up the good work and I plan to donate annually.”

Mary Paxson made a nice donation and said: “I love 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. She said: “I have enjoyed the daily briefings of happenings around the state, which helps me feel more connected with the goings-on in Wyoming. I am a Wyoming local and have lived in several Wyoming towns.  I also enjoy the bit of humor and lightheartedness that each report bring – the daily bears and the daily dancing men. Thank you for the tasteful humor which adds a chuckle to my morning and thank you for providing updates on news around our beautiful state and the people of Wyoming. I‘ve recommended that friends and family sign up to receive the Cowboy State Daily!”

These are just five of so many wonderful comments and notes we have received. 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 and wishing you and yours a wonderful Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

To folks who do not want to use a credit card, please send your check to Cowboy State Daily, box 900, Lander, WY 82520.  Thank you!

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Bill Sniffin: Here Are Some Ideal Wyoming-Themed Christmas Gifts: Wool Pullovers, Sausages, Books

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Okay, it’s Christmas and it’s time to buy gifts.

The year 2020 has been so difficult to Wyoming business people, it just seemed to make sense for us to reach and support Wyoming-made products.

Here are some suggestions from some friends around the state:

Bob Grammens of Sheridan Media suggested: Jake’s Lures.  Known worldwide but made in Sheridan. Website:  https://www.jakeslures.com/ and Kim Love recommends Tom Balding Bits and Spurs.  Known worldwide and all made in Sheridan.   Website:  https://tombalding.com/              

Jim Hicks of Buffalo wrote: My annual note would be about Mountain Meadow Wood Mill {mountainmeadowwool.com} — (a wool mill located here).  They have the best winter pullover I’ve ever seen. The quality of the wool makes them so comfortable and warm.  Check out their web-site to see other products offered.  Knitters from all over the world buy their yarn because it comes from the very best local area wool producers.

Rock Springs Editor Caleb Smith said he reached out to Trina Brittain, who is part of the downtown-promoting Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency. Here is what she shared: 

“There is a pop-up store, Wildflower and Company, at 517 Rennie Street in Rock Springs that specializes in homemade Wyoming merchandise. Bi-Rite/Sweet Sage/ Hallmark is the home for Wyoming gear and more at 409 Broadway Street.

“The Rock Springs Historical Museum, 201 B Street, has a selection of Wyoming literature and souvenirs. New in the community is Wyoming Raised Apparel & Gifts, (The Band and The Brand), located at 204 Center Street. This business has a good clientele since they’ve been popular at Farmer’s Markets, county fairs, craft shows, etc. Move over Hickory Farms, it doesn’t get any more Wyoming than a good old-fashioned Kronski from Boschetto’s European Market, 617 Broadway Street.”  Caleb chimed in: “I too vouch for the Kronski sausages.” 

Lisa LeVasseur, publisher of the Weston County Gazette in Upton suggested Wyoming Silvers, owned by Jill and Dennis Hendrix. “They do beautiful work and so all their own silver-smithing.” 

Josh Wood at the Saratoga Sun said: “As for Wyoming-themed gifts, Saratoga has more makers than you can shake a stick at. Here’s just a few examples: For the leather lovers who love to accessorize, check out Pure Dixie (www.puredixie.com) owned by Dixie and Kirby Berger.

If spent brass and Wyoming stones are your niche, check out Bandita Bones, owned by Jamie Waugh (https://www.facebook.com/BanditaBones/).  Strong Tower Design also specializes in jewelry while having a little something for everyone (https://www.strongtowerdesigns.com/) owned by Ray and Jamie Bernal and soon to open in Saratoga is County 6 Clothing Company (https://county6.com/) owned by Firewater Public House owner Danny Burau.

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

Steve Steiner of the Laramie Boomerang and Rawlins Times reported the following: “I believe like so many other communities and newspapers, the Christmas spirit is muted. What I have been doing for our paper is at night I drive around town looking for homes and some businesses that have gone all out decorating for Christmas. I have taken a slew of photos and starting next week (or maybe even this week), will start running at least one photo a day.”

Books by authors such as Craig Johnson, Ron Franscell, CJ Box, John Davis, Karen Schutte, Steven Horn, Sam Lightner Jr., and others make wonderful gifts. Be sure to shop in local book stores and other local retailers this year.  Support your local merchants!

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.

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.

Mike Jensen of Cheyenne raves 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 that Jess Forton makes pine furniture, Cleve Bell does metal sculptures to order and Dubois artist Marty Dorst paints custom Christmas bulbs. I believe Jerry produces some amazing walking sticks, too.

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. Dean McKee of Lander touts Wyoming Whiskey, distilled in Kirby, as the perfect gift.

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.

John Davis wrote me the following: “I’ve got some Worland area local Wyoming products for you.  We have an active honey company, Bryant Honey, which has been producing honey and distributing it for three generations.  Amish Origins is another Worland company, one that makes a salve for ‘Deep Penetration Pain Relief.’  And some of the local ranchers are specializing in custom grass-fed, hormone-free beef.  That includes Carter Country Meats (R. C. and Annie Carter of Ten Sleep) and Kendrick Redland of Manderson.

Nancy Guthrie of Jackson recommends David Fales’ Wyoming Gourmet Beef of Cody.  Tom Satterfield of Cheyenne likes buffalo products from Terry Bison Ranch.

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

Pat also said a: “Special shout-outs to Bill Sniffin on his beautiful work including our picks of Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders and Wyoming at 125– a great gift for all who love our Wyoming.”  Thanks, Pat.

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.

Mainly, I think people need to support their downtowns.  Local merchants were hit hard this year and this is the season when they might be able to get their economic situations helped a little.  Plus, when you go shopping downtown you will see a lot of old friends and make a bunch of new ones. Happy shopping and be sure to wear your mask and social distance. It’s the mandate!

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Bill Sniffin: COVID-19 Might Just Mean The 19 Pounds We’ve Each Gained The Past Ten Months

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Folks, it’s time to be hopeful. Both out here in Wyoming and across the world.

I am hopeful despite the fact that it is 2 degrees outside and our Lander Valley is covered in fresh snow. The nights are very long. Hardly a light streak in the sky as I type away at 6:03 a.m. Brrrr. We are deep in the heart of Wyoming Winter.

My late dad dreaded these long nights, but this time of year he would remind me that in a few weeks, the shortest day of the year would be here (Dec. 21) and then tell me: “Guess what? The days will be getting longer. Now that’s good news.”  I agree with him.

The big struggle at our house right now is my wife Nancy and I arguing about getting out all the Christmas decorations.  Because of COVID-19, we will not have any of our kids or grandkids inside our house – probably will do a “drive-by” or, if the weather is nice, do something outside.

Last month for Thanksgiving, our daughter Shelli Johnson and her husband cooked up everything and brought it over and we ate it on our deck under sunny skies with 40-degree temps.  Could we luck out on Christmas with similar weather?

At our ages, we are following the guidelines and trying to stay safe.

So normally at this time of year our grandkids haul all the different giant Santa Claus statues and big nutcrackers up from the basement to the main floor.  It’s a big job and one that I do not want to do myself.

I grew a big white beard during “no shave November” to recognize the battle against cancer but also because I am lazy.  But instead of saying” Ho-Ho-Ho,” it appears my wife thinks I am saying “Humbug” when it comes to getting out all the decorations.

“But I do it for me. It makes me feel good.  I want that Christmas feeling in the house, whether anyone else sees it or not,” she concludes.  Any guess how this is going to turn out?  Just hope I don’t fall down the stairs with a life-size nutcracker on my head.

Gaining weight during this pandemic has been a huge issue for most people. The explanation is that the “19” in COVID-19 really means the 19 pounds you have gained in the past 10 months. One of my brothers joked with me the other day that he is now eating ice cream right out of the box and using the scoop, rather than going to all the trouble of finding a spoon. Now that is giving in, bro!

Lately readers of this column have been chastising me for being gloomy. Really?

Yes, I worry about Wyoming’s economy. And there are hundreds of small business people in our state that are either gone or hanging by a thread. And they are going into the worst time of year economically.  We all need to try to figure out a way to shop local and to support our restaurants.

In the big picture, a great number of the state’s cities and towns seem to be pretty economically diversified. Let’s hope so.

After battling the ubiquitous scourge of the COVID-19 virus since March, folks are getting weary. But help is on the way. Vaccinations will be starting before Christmas and hopefully by spring, a lot of danger from the virus will be in our rear-view mirror. I sure hope so.

Looking ahead to 2021, it appears the Legislature may postpone its two-month general session from January to maybe March.  Not sure, but that might be a good idea. I know it sounds like we are giving in to the virus, but it would just be a one-time change.  With our crazy revenue picture, having an extra month or two to see how the year is coming along might be helpful.

State Sen. Hank Coe up in Cody just retired and is now sick with cancer. Keep him in your prayers. He is a great friend to all in Wyoming. Hang in there, Hank!

On a national level, President Donald Trump’s campaign has sure found some interesting examples of funny balloting.  The idea of truckloads of phony mail-in ballots being hauled around the country does not seem too far-fetched to me.  The total voting numbers are astonishing when you compare the Trump-Biden race to the Trump-Clinton race four years ago. Did almost 22 million more people really vote this time over 2016?

Meanwhile, where is that ice cream?  And that scoop?

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National Museum of Military Vehicles, One Of America’s Great Museums, Is Now Open Just South Of Dubois

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

DUBOIS – When it was first announced, the National Museum of Military Vehicles was viewed as one of Wyoming’s next great museums.  Now that it is open, it is obviously much more than that. It is one of America’s next great museums. 

 Boasting 140,000 square feet of space, the $100 million project had to postpone its official opening on Memorial Day because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.  Thus, it did a “soft” opening in August with more than 1,000 attending each of three days. 

 Founders Dan and Cynthia Starks have self-funded the project entirely on their own.

 They are passionate about how the United States won World War II.  During one of the rare tours that he presents, Dan starts off his tale by describing the state of the American military at the start of the war.

“We just lost most of our ships in Pearl Harbor,” he says. “Our Pacific army was in the Philippines.  Pretty soon, the Japanese bombed the heck out of them and forced them into surrender.  We lost 75,000 of our finest young men,” he said.

 “Across the other ocean in North Africa, we joined the British in an attempt to attack the German General Rommel.  He routed us.  He captured 183 American tanks and just destroyed our expeditionary force. We retreated over 50 miles to get away from the Germans, leaving all our equipment behind. It was a disaster.”

 But from that lowly beginning, Starks said, America figured out a game plan to defeat enemies at two fronts, the Germans in Europe and the Japanese in the Pacific. How they did it is described in great detail in his new museum. 

 Starks has huge murals detailing how America used its vast manufacturing capability to gradually provide enough tanks, trucks, airplanes, and other items to keep a 12-million-member Army supplied. Plus, the USA was supplying other countries like Russia, Britain, and Australia.  Examples of all this are on display.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Masks are required. Admission is $15 for adults and seniors. Youths 8 to 17 are $10. Kids 7 and under are free. All military veterans and active duty receive free admission. The museum is located eight miles south of Dubois on Highway 287/26. More information is at www. NMMV.org.

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Bill Sniffin: The Biden Bust Will Severely Damage Cowboy State

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

It’s been reported in this column before that often Wyoming’s economy reacts to the national economy much like a teeter-totter.  When Wyoming is booming, the country is struggling.  When the country is booming, Wyoming struggles. 

During the energy booms and busts of the last 50 years, this teeter-totter symbolism made sense. Today, I am not so sure. 

But I do know one thing for sure – elections count. Whoever is president really does make a difference for a state like Wyoming, whose economy is so dependent on a single feature like fossil fuel energy. 

Had Al Gore won the 2000 election, I am convinced that the subsequent boom that drove Wyoming would have been muted. Gore and Clinton-era Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt had fossil fuels in their sights heading into that presidential election two decades ago.  

Instead, we got George W. Bush for eight years with our own Dick Cheney at his side as Vice President.  With Bush from oil-rich Texas and Cheney from energy-rich Wyoming, the floodgates were opened for amazing energy development and massive job creation.  Wyoming never had a boom like that before and may never have another one again. 

The previous year in 1999, our state was so broke state leaders were seriously considering a personal income tax. From that, we saw ourselves salting away billions of severance tax dollars in various funds that have helped keep the state afloat these days and into the future. 

If Joe Biden gets sworn in as president we will finally see what that Gore-Babbitt model would have looked like. We will be living that reality here in Wyoming for the next four years, at least. 

The reason for that teeter-totter analogy is energy prices.  When they are high, Wyoming booms and the country suffers. When they are low, Wyoming suffers and the country prospers.  

Right now, energy prices are low and much of the country is faring well, despite the COVID-19 epidemic. The stock market just hit 30,000. Now that is amazing. 

But with Biden in there, will my teeter-totter theory hold up?  

He will kill energy development on public lands, which will diminish the Wyoming energy economy.  And when those jobs go away, they probably are not coming back. Could this mean the flight of 50,000 people from the state? 

I think our real estate market is attractive enough to urban folks fleeing the big cities, that we will see lots of lone eagles coming to Wyoming. These are folks who work from home. They can live anywhere they want. So fortunately, we will not have a housing slump. 

Whole neighborhoods will change.  Where today a house has dad, mom, three kids, and a dog in it. In the future it will probably have dad, mom, and a dog. 

Even here in Wyoming, I had a lot of friends who could not wait to get rid of President Donald Trump.  Well, they got their wish. This is much to the dismay of a whole bunch of hard-working Wyoming families.  These folks will put the Cowboy State in their rear-view mirrors as they leave the state seeking opportunities in other places. 

Some of these same friends also contend that it is time for Wyoming to wake up and realize that the days of fossil fuels are over and it’s time to embrace a new reality of renewable energy. 

I actually like wind energy and I don’t even mind windmills in most places on our high plateau country. But job creation?  Not sure what Joe Biden is talking about when he says he plans to create 50,000 “high paying union jobs” in the renewable energy sector. 

Wyoming is the windiest state.  In most places, the wind dies down when it is needed the most to create energy – in the afternoon. Here, it is often the opposite. We have high winds in the afternoon, which makes our wind energy potential among the best in the nation. 

The last big bust in Wyoming ran from 1982 to 2002 – 20 years. It ran so long that most of us began to think this is “normal.” You had to figure out how to survive and perhaps even prosper during lean times. 

Chuck Guschewsky, CEO of the Fremont Motors auto dealership network, told an economic group 20 years ago that “you learn how to run your business in the good times by how you ran it during the bad times.”  Pretty good advice. 

To many folks here, bad times are coming. Brace yourself, the Biden Bust is on Wyoming’s horizon. 

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Bill Sniffin: Thankful For Readers, Donors, Writers, And That COVID Is Almost Over!

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Just think, 2020 is almost over.  Now that is something to be thankful for.

This has been a year to remember. And to forget!

This year has been a long, strange journey. But better news is on the way. New vaccines are coming and in 90 days, most of this pandemic could hopefully be a memory soon. We will permanently put it in our rear-view mirror.  Now that is something for which to be thankful!

It is easy to be thankful for all the good work that has been done by health care workers and EMTs here in Wyoming and around the world. A lot of you have gotten sick and some have died. We are so thankful for your service at this time.

We need to be thankful to all those folks working in essential jobs from stocking shelves in supermarkets to keeping our plumbing unclogged. And everybody else, too.

Back in July, one of every 67 people in Wyoming who tested positive died. Today that number is one in every 125.  Now that is something to be thankful for.

We are thankful that the 2020 elections are apparently behind us. Talk about a long, strange journey.

Besides COVID-19 the other big story was the election. I am so thankful to have it behind us although the results were not pleasing to many Wyomingites.

As the state that saw one of the nation’s highest percentages of its votes go to President Donald Trump (70 percent), we are chagrined that the final tally does not appear to be going his way.  But how does someone get 73 million votes in this country and still lose? Amazing.

I want to thank all you subscribers for your loyalty.  At latest count, there were 10,056 of you and new ones are joining us at a rate of 1,000 per month.  We also have some readers who have not yet subscribed (it’s free) and we welcome them to our site, too.

Many folks do not know that we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so if you donate to Cowboy State Daily, not only are you helping us cover the news but you get a tax deduction for your donation. So, here is a big shout out to our donors who have helped sustain us in our 23-month life here in Wyoming.

I want to personally thank our Executive Editor Jimmy Orr, Editor Jim Angell, and reporter Ellen Fike for their dedication this year. They have done a wonderful job.  No other news team can match ours for Wyoming know-how and years of service to Wyoming.

A huge shout-out goes to Wyoming’s best weather forecaster Don Day.  We, literally, could not publish a daily newsletter without him. Occasional reporters Wendy Corr, Jen Kocher, Tim Monroe, Tim Mandese, Ike Fredregill, Laura Hancock, Cody Beers and many others also receive my appreciation for their work.

Our weekly columnists and occasional columnists have been terrific. They really give Cowboy State Daily that daily dose of insight that our readers just love.

I tip my hat to Dave Simpson, Jim Hicks, Jonathan Lange, Ray Hunkins, Doug Gerard, Rusty Rogers, Foster Friess, Frank Eathorne, Rod Miller, Matt Micheli, Tom Lubnau, Cody Tucker, Tom Jones, Ray Peterson, Darin Smith, Amy Surdam, Karl Brauneis, John Davis, John Waggener, and many, many more.

Thanks for Annaliese Wiederspahn for launching this site with financial help from Foster Friess.  And to our board Tucker Fagan, Haley Davis, and Kristin Walker.

But on personal note, this has been one of the most exciting years of my life, serving as publisher of the Cowboy State Daily. 

Who would have thought that after 56 years in the news business, that I would be able to help a news organization at this age and cover the biggest story of my life?  How cool is that!

But I have to admit that shortly after taking over the reins of this wonderful operation, I was greeted with the twin negative dynamos of the COVID-19 epidemic and the Wyoming economy going into free-fall.

It’s stunning to me that after taking those two hits last spring, Cowboy State Daily is not only still standing – but thanks to the help of all the people mentioned above – we are growing and thriving!  And thanks to our advertisers and to the entities that have given Cowboy State Daily grants in 2020.

And finally, I am thankful for my wonderful wife Nancy of 54 years and our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all our friends. Happy Thanksgiving! 

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Bill Sniffin: COVID-19 Vaccine Is A Moon Shot! The Nation Should Celebrate

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher, Cowboy State Daily

A vaccine in a little over 10 months for a deadly virus – amazing.

Everybody alive today should be celebrating this amazing achievement. It could be argued that not since the landing on the moon in 1969 has this country had a milestone quite like this. And in such a short period of time!  

If you consider that almost 250,000 people have died this year, alone, from the COVID-19, the race to get a vaccine developed has achieved what initially seemed an impossible goal.

President Donald Trump deserves credit for his Operation Warp Speed but so does everyone else involved.  He started this process on Jan. 13, some 10 months ago. The government approved billions of dollars in emergency funds to private drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna to get vaccines developed in record time – truly at warp speed. And Johnson and Johnson is reportedly almost ready with its vaccine, too.

As I write this, President-Elect Joe Biden is criticizing President Trump for not cooperating with members of the Biden team on how to distribute the vaccine.  My guess is that Trump’s folks don’t trust how Biden’s team could get the vaccine out.  After all, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is on the record as saying she will not use a vaccine developed by the Trump team. What an irresponsible thing to say.

Trump has always said he plans to use the military to handle the distribution and it appears there is a plan in place – it is just waiting for final FDA approval.  The assumption is that the vaccine will be given to health care workers on the front lines first and then, hopefully, to the most vulnerable senior citizens. I know a few of those folks.

But rather than cuss and discuss the political ramifications, let’s just bask in the glory of what this means.

I reached out to a bona fide expert on Pfizer and vaccines, Henry McKinnell of Jackson. He was CEO of Pfizer for many years. Here is what he said concerning the whole subject of vaccines:

“A few days after the 9/11 attacks, I met President George W. Bush on his first visit to New York following the attack.  He asked me how long it would take the industry to develop a vaccine against biological weapon?  I replied that under the then-current regulatory regime it would take 12 to 14 years.  He smiled and said, ‘I hear you.’  I then said the best case was four to five years primarily because such a vaccine would be given to healthy people including children and risk versus benefit had to be our highest priority.

“Against that background and the fact that over 80% of new vaccines and therapeutics fail in development, the preliminary look at the effectiveness of two novel vaccines in large scale clinical studies within ten months of the identification of the Sars-COV-2 virus is truly impressive and truly historic. 

“While the early efficacy signals are extremely positive, the hard parts lie ahead.  The first rule of medicine is ‘Do No Harm.’  Harm is defined as risks of adverse events exceeding benefits for the patient.  

“While the benefits of a vaccine to prevent Sars-COV-2 infections are indisputable, the risks attached to any vaccine are as yet unknown, except maybe to the independent Data and Safety Monitoring Boards of these studies. Hopefully, the new vaccines will be well-tolerated and as effective as the early looks at the data imply. 

“If not, hard decisions lie ahead.  Should we accept a vaccine with adverse events for one in 10,000 people?  Should we accept a vaccine with serious adverse events for one in a million people?  With 330 million people needing vaccination, these are not trivial questions.  Hopefully, the new vaccines will provide benefits exceeding risks for all.

“The final hurdle is not distribution as you hear from the media.  We have overcome more complicated logistics problems in the past.  The final hurdle is to be effective in halting the pandemic a vaccine needs to be safe, effective, and used by the vast majority of the population.  Vaccines don’t stop pandemics, vaccination programs do.  

“The news here is not good.  The ‘Anti-Vaxers’ are a threat to their own families and to us all.  A major communication challenge lies ahead. Hopefully, the enormous disruption to our lives brought on us all by this pandemic will convince us we need to fight this virus with all the tools available to us, not to fight each other.

“I will end with a very sincere thank you to those on the front lines of this fight,” he concluded.

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Bill Sniffin: Active Cases Went From 608 In August To 9,897 Today; Emotions Run High About Potential Covid-19 Restrictions

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher, Cowboy State Daily

It looks like a whole lot of people in Wyoming are fired up about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths here in the Cowboy State.

As the weather turns cold and people huddle indoors, the chances of spreading COVID-19 increases.

Could today’s weather in Wyoming be any different than this summer?  We probably hosted 5 million tourists this summer yet our total numbers of COVID-19 remained super low.

In August, when the state was being over-run by tourists, we had 608 active cases.  Today we have 9,897 active cases.

Gov. Mark Gordon was about as emotional and angry as we have seen him during his press conference Nov. 13.  He referred to a portion of our state’s population as “knuckleheads” for not practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

Meanwhile in Casper, infectious disease specialist Dr. Mark Dowell and various elected officials were hooted off the stage recently by angry citizens when the officials tried to emphasize the dangerous state of health that they felt the people of Wyoming are dealing with right now.  It was an ugly scene.

The anti-maskers feel statistics do not bear out the drastic measures being considered by Gordon and state officials.  They look to neighboring South Dakota and how Gov. Christi Noem has kept her state open. 

Noem’s detractors claim that South Dakota is now one of the worst states in the country for COVID-19, noting the state is sending patients to Wyoming hospitals.

Gordon and his staff have reached out to business organizations for their input on the situation.  Should he impose a mandatory mask mandate?  Should he impose the same health restrictions that forced restrictions on businesses seen last spring?  

My prediction is that members of these state groups will support a mask mandate but not a business shutdown.  I am writing this on Nov 15. By the time you are reading this, some of decisions may have happened.

Meanwhile, my friend Steve Mossbrook died in the Casper hospital one day after his 74th birthday from lung disease complicated by COVID-19.  Now that spooks me.  Steve was a slim and fit guy.  He was a terrific golfer.

He was one of Wyoming’s early Internet pioneers, creating Wyoming.com, and I had known him for 30 years.  He had been in the hospital for two weeks and kept going downhill.  He had been a lifelong smoker and in recent years had been vaping. His lungs were not healthy.  Still, the last time I chatted with him he was full of energy and anxious to launch some new programs. 

Another good friend is Glenn Arbery, 69, president of Wyoming Catholic College. He caught the COVID-19 and told me that for the past week, he has had occasional headaches, chills, and very low energy. But he is on the mend. He plans to get back to work next week.  His case, although not ideal, made me feel a little better.

Long-time Powell Tribune Publisher Dave Bonner, 80, tested positive a few weeks ago after attending a University of Wyoming football game. “I have completed my public health COVID-19 quarantine and am just easing back into circulation,” he says. He says he has not smoked since college and that may have contributed to his good result.

During the recent presidential campaign, it seemed like Joe Biden followers all wore masks and stayed out of harm’s way.  Donald Trump backers wore baseball hats, no masks, and lived a normal life.

On a national level, the whole idea of mail-in ballots totally reflects the Biden-mask ethic while the walk-in voters on election day reflected the Trump ideal.  It truly was a visible image of a classic division in our country.

Here in Trump Country, where Wyoming voted 70 percent for the incumbent (more than any other state), you can understand why there could be so much resistance to mask wearing and a mask mandate.

So, what to do? 

Gordon is going to make a decision and it will be a doozy, either way.  If he imposes a mask mandate, who will enforce it?  If he doesn’t, has he shirked his responsibility to keep Wyoming folks safe? 

Meanwhile on Sunday morning’s Meet the Press show, Biden’s new chief of staff indicated that a four- to six-week national shutdown may be on the table as soon as Biden is sworn in.  That, plus a national mask mandate.  These folks are serious.  A whole bunch of folks out here in Wyoming will rebel. It won’t be pretty.

These are difficult times for Wyoming when it comes to COVID-19. Be safe and be careful out there.

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