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1440 - How green was your Wyoming valley in 2014?

Wyoming has rarely gotten the reputation as a wet place. Perhaps except only when ski areas get buried or back when Cheyenne was inundated by a horrific super cell thunderstorm, our state is generally known as semi-arid.

         A tour of the state this spring, summer and early fall shows that Wyoming, incredibly, is still green in a great many places.

         Although snowpack levels in the mountains this past winter were not that high, a constant stream of rainstorms ever since has kept the landscape verdant and the grass growing.

         Hay farmers have enjoyed record harvests and even local gardeners have basked in the joy normally reserved for residents of the Midwest. It has been so wet there are some species of vegetables that have actually not done so well because of too much water.

         Nobody traveled the state as much as politicians.

         Pete Illoway of Cheyenne, an unsuccessful candidate for Secretary of State, said the following:

“When Shoshoni looks a little green the state as a whole must be doing good. Actually most of the state did look pretty good and for August the grass was still looking good. Livestock should be in great shape with the amount of grass that was available. Most of the state is going into winter in good shape.”

Ed Murray of Cheyenne who won that race said Wyoming, at times, reminded him of Ireland, it was so green.

Gene Bryan, now living in Tucson, is a rodeo fanatic and spent the summer traveling the state. As a former head of the Wyoming Travel Commission and a native Wyomingite, he offers perspective on what kind of wet year the state had.

         “We have never seen the state so green for so long. Yellowstone`s rivers and lakes were all full. There was still a ton of snow in the higher elevations, the wild flowers were a riot of color, and all the reservoirs we saw (Boysen, Buffalo Bill and Glendo) were as full as we have ever seen them!”

My favorite weather spotter is Jack States who lives in Sinks Canyon. His take on all this goes like this: “Your interpretation of a "wet" summer is right-on. It is supported by the seasonal drought maps, which show June-Sept 2013 (drought) and May-August 2014 (wet).

 “Fundamental to the human definition of drought and flood is their ever changing condition, flowing, sometimes unpredictably, from one extreme to the other.  Agriculture and forestry- the enterprises that I call man’s attempts to manage nature- are foremost affected by this variability. Therefore farmers are the ones likely to remember, with accuracy, past droughts and floods and the temperature shifts translating precipitation into wind, humidity, rain, hail, frost, snow and tornadoes.

“So there you have it. You can get your best weather fix according to Farmer Brown. Some of us, though, feel compelled to measure past and present weather variables using scientific methodologies, and use the results to interpret weather events. For example, the following quote: ‘Unlike rings in wood of the oak, the fragile memory of man is an unreliable record of weather.’”

States likes to quote this ditty:

We’ll weather the weather,

whatever the weather,

whether we like it or not.

Retired Thermopolis publisher, Pat Schmidt, related some comments about the wet summer: “About the only thing that I recall as real unusual this summer was taking my 9-year-old grandson to the Bighorn Mountains in late June near Burgess Junction. We awakened to low clouds. As we drove on west 14A and reached the Big Horn Basin overlook we were surrounded by fog.

“A lifetime resident of Las Vegas, my grandson said he had never seen fog. He took off running down the mountain and I had to holler he was nearing some sheer drop-offs. He sat down in an effort to stop and slid along on the wet grass on his backside, scaring grandpa more than a little. This does tell you how humid and wet our summer has been.”

Dave Simpson of Cheyenne says: “We had more rain at my cabin in the Snowy Range this year than any year since I bought the place 30 years ago. It was great. I was able to burn a lot of the wood killed by the bark beetles.

“As far as fun, there was plenty of rain on the tin roof, a fire in the fireplace, an easy chair and a good book. I must be getting old, because that`s my idea of fun these days.”




1439 - I know what you did last summer

        As the leaves turn and the mercury plummets and occasional snow threatens our young trees, it gives a man pause. It is appropriate to recall those two most important questions that pop up this time of year:

Where did the summer go?

What did I do this past summer?

         Before talking about our elusive Wyoming summer experiences, it is important to point out that in many ways fall is the best time of year.

         The chilly mornings followed by sunny afternoons and crisp evenings provide enjoyable times. Most of us enjoy wearing our sweatshirts and long pants this time of year. No more tee shirts, sandals or shorts.

         So, what can we recall about the summer of 2014?

         One word describes the summer of 2014 in most of the state. That word is WET.  Here in Lander, our foothills still have green on them when they normally are dusty brown by July 4.  Drought? What drought?

         I love thunderstorms and relish the few that we normally get. This year people like me overdosed on severe wet weather.  Lightning flashes were so abundant that sometimes I did not even stop what I was doing to go watch the pyrotechnics.

         Some old-timers tell me that a wet summer used to be the norm here in Wyoming.  Not sure I believe that in a place that is officially listed as semi-arid.  Hard to imagine the High Plains as a wet place. This year, most places were.

         Rawlins banker Richard Chenoweth said in June their area was enduring a terrible drought.  Perhaps the reality was they were having a normal summer while places like Cheyenne, Laramie, Rock Springs, Evanston, Lander-Riverton, Cody-Powell, Sheridan-Buffalo- Gillette had abundant moisture and more.

         Thus, I think I know what most people did this past summer – they dodged thunderstorms and mowed their yards a lot more frequently than normal.

         Despite all the rain, in my case, I gave birth to a new book, which will be out in November. We also welcomed our tenth biological grandchild when my son’s wife Lisa brought into the world little Adam Michael William Sniffin. We nicknamed him “Adam Bomb.”

         I also tried to do serious damage to myself when I left a battery charger on too long. The car battery blew up when I touched the ignition.  Sounded like a shotgun blast and could have done severe physical injury to me had I not been in the driver’s seat.  Folks need to learn that when you trickle charge a battery, loosen those caps. And do not leave it unattended for a couple of days. Whew!

         There is an old saying that has been stated to me at least 20 times in the last month: “The happiest two days in a man’s life are when he buys his boat and when he sells his boat.” Yes, we finally sold our boat Yachta Relax.  Had wonderful times on Flaming Gorge over the past eight years but it was time to move on.

         While moving on, please check out my new Facebook page called Wyoming books, columns by Bill Sniffin.  Please mark “like” on it and check the page often – lots of wonderful photos and stories will be appearing with regularity there.

         We also made a few trips around the country and even a few around Wyoming.  Was surprised to pay almost $10 for two eggs and bacon in Pinedale. We went to one place first and the waitress came over and suggested we leave as it was going to be a long wait.  So we went to the next place.  Food was good but pricey.

         The entire state is growing.  Casper, Cheyenne, Rock Springs, Pinedale, Jackson and Laramie all seemed especially vibrant to me. Wyoming’s economy appears to be growing steadily, except for coal’s downturn, so the future of continues to look bright.

         We will be traveling the state this fall marketing looking for places to hold book signings, speech opportunities at chambers of commerce and service clubs and retailers wanting to sell it. The new book is MY WYOMING 101 Special Places and I think it might be better than my last one, which has already sold 14,000 copies. It is Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders.

         Stay tuned as I think next week’s column will be more about Wyoming’s crazy summer weather.  I have gotten a tremendous amount of input from folks all over the state concerning this topic. If you have something to add, email me at Thanks in advance.


1438 - Al Simpson is Wyoming`s `most interesting`

Picture this: the most interesting man in Wyoming is surrounded by his beautiful wife, his pretty daughters in law, daughter and pretty granddaughters. He raises a glass in a toast and looks into the camera and says:

         “I don’t normally drink, but when I do . . . I drink Wyoming Whiskey.” 

         That could be the key line in a TV commercial as a takeoff of the amazing beer campaign that got me thinking a few weeks ago about just who is the most interesting man or woman in Wyoming?

         After putting it to a vote of my readers, retired U. S. Senator Al Simpson of Cody won hands-down.

         And coincidentally, he was featured recently at a promotion for the Wyoming Whiskey distillery where he had his own barrel of bourbon made.  Big Al carefully and methodically signed and numbered all 216 bottles in his name.

Here is Al Simpson`s toast at the Wyoming Whiskey party:

"My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

"If when you say whiskey you mean the devil`s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

"But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman`s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life`s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our mute, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

"This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise." (Note: Simpson was quoting a fella named Sweat who first spoke these words, back in 1952.)

Other top vote getters were former Vice President Dick Cheney, Laramie adventurer Mark Jenkins and former governors Mike Sullivan and Dave Freudenthal.  Historian Phil Roberts also received a lot of votes.

In that recent column, I threw out the names of about 75 Wyoming folks who I thought might qualify for this selection.

Several others were nominated who did not make those original lists who are worthy of mention, for example:

• John Washakie, Starr Weed and Beatrice Haukaas of the Wind River Indian Reservation were nominated by folks, including Ross Hopeman, who read my column in the Riverton Ranger.

• Legislator Richard Cannady of Glenrock got some votes and was nominated by Joe Barbuto after reading about it in the Rock Springs Rocket Miner.

• Jim Davis of Evanston was nominated for his love of Wyoming. He was nominated by Ruth Hughes who read about this vote in the Evanston Uinta County Herald.

• Dave Patterson of Powell was nominated by his brother Tommy Patterson who saw the column in the Powell Tribune. 

• Dave Bragonier, a former game warden, was nominated by Ally McIver, who read my column in the Greybull Standard.

• Jerry Paxton of Encampment and Kelly Bohanon of Rawlins were nominated by John Farr who reads my column in the Rawlins Daily Times.

• Gay Hale of Sheridan wants to nominate several old-timers for this honor, but unfortunately they are deceased! She reads my column on Sheridan Online.

• Steve Thulin from Powell was nominated by Astrid Northrup who read about it in the Powell Tribune.


1437 - Politics on the prairie, the One Shot Hunt

Wyoming governors historically love hosting the One Shot Antelope Hunt in Lander.  Gov. Matt Mead is no exception and will be hosting his fourth hunt on Sept. 20.

         The hunt now in its 71st year is a competition where three-man teams compete to see who can kill Pronghorn bucks the quickest and with just one shot each. Governors invite other governors and the competition is keen. Last year, Mead also invited former Vice President Dick Cheney.

         As someone who has been attending these events for over 40 years, it brings back some memories.

         Some years ago then-Gov. Dave Freudenthal invited then-Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to the hunt along with Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

         I interviewed Manchin and quoted him about hoping that coal production would rise and increase its share of our national energy from 51 percent to 57 percent.  Now, it is barely above 40 percent.

         Wyoming as #1 coal producer in the country and Manchin’s West Virginia, the #2 coal producer, planned to work together to make coal the energy source of choice.  The goal was to end dependence on Middle East imported oil.

         Now here we are in 2014 and that goal has been reached, but not by increasing coal usage, but by the explosive increase in the amount of oil produced here.

         Huckabee back then had his eye on the White House and was entertaining. It snowed nine inches the day of the hunt and some hunters, including Freudenthal, did not get off a shot.

         Huckabee complained about walking around in rain, hail, snow and 40 mph winds.  “Nobody back in Arkansas will believe I was snowed on in September,” he said. “One thing I did learn up on South Pass, though,” he said.  “I now know where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.”

         American heroes like Chuck Yeager, Joe Foss and Jimmy Doolittle competed.  Over 20 astronauts shot and often won.

         Greatest hunt ever was 1974 when Soviet cosmonauts and American astronauts competed against each other. Later, they linked up in space.  My news story was headlined: “Astronauts, cosmonauts hold One Shot reunion in space.”

         The One Shot is the original competitive outdoor sporting event.  It’s the Super Bowl of Shooting Sports.  It’s been copied but never duplicated.

With large numbers of Past Shooters returning again this year, the spirits of those great hunters who have gone on to happier hunting grounds will be lingering in the area:

         • The sound of the magnificent singing voice of famed opera tenor Lauritz Melchior, a long-time booster of the One-Shot, was in evidence for over a decade.  Other great warblers like Tennessee Ernie Ford also shot and sang.

         • Then there was co-founder, Harold Evans, sharing a joke with his great pal, Harold Dahl Sr. Did they realize just what they were cooking up when they dreamed up the One Shot over a campfire seven decades ago?  Harold was a regular columnist in my newspaper and a great friend.

         • Or great cowboys such as Roy Rogers, Montee Montana, Slim Pickens, Tex Ritter, Guy Madison and Casey Tibbs. Who could forget seeing Slim riding around Lander on the hood of a car, much like he rode the atomic bomb in the movie Doctor Strangelove.

         • Then there were the great stories by former Governor Lester Hunt, a native of Lander.  The local airport, known as Hunt Field, was named after him, not after the One Shot.      

         • Former Governor and 12-time shooter Ed Herschler`s personality is missed along with former Governor Nels Smith, who shot on that first Wyoming team. I remember one time when a rookie Game and Fish warden came upon Herschler’s freshly killed buck.  As he was checking it out, the governor’s gravelly voice cracked: “Son, how’d you like to be transferred to Wamsutter?”   Ed loved the One Shot and competed more than any other shooter.  In a fit of pique once, he stood before a crowd of 800 people and admitted, “I’m a sh*tty shooter!”

         • Or the historical record keeping of Tommy Thompson and Earl Kurtz, who pioneered the pictorial which this writer had the honor of perpetuating for 25 years.

         • Or rocket men like Werner Von Braun and astronauts Deke Slayton, Jim Lovell and Jack Swigert Jr. 

         • Or airline mogul Robert Six and wife Audrey Meadows.

          The spirits of many friends of Lander and of the One-Shot will be here during One Shot weekend along with the hundreds of living kindred spirits . . . all gathered to celebrate the greatest shooting event ever.