Bill Sniffin Wyoming's national award winning columnist

Bill Sniffin News
Home Search

1912 - Is the RV life definition of real freedom

It seems like a constant for most people to find themselves, while driving Wyoming’s vast network of highways, being stuck behind some lumbering motorhome. While you are cussing them out, keep in mind that it just might be your old friend Bill making his way down the highway.

         Some eleven years ago, our daughter Shelli convinced Nancy and me to rent a CruiseAmerica Class C motorhome for a week to join them at the Grand Canyon.

         Despite all kinds of stupid problems, we had a ball and were sold on the whole RV life. Soon we bought our own 26-foot Class C motorhome. This is a model that looks like a U-Haul truck with windows. We put 10,000 miles on it in two years. Then we felt the need to upgrade. So we bought into the whole enchilada – buying a full-sized Class A motorhome in December 2010.

         We were the proud new owners of a used 40-foot diesel pusher with faded paint and decals that looks like an old Greyhound Bus. It was a 2005 Alfa Gold and we were thrilled. We were also completely stumped about how all the systems worked.

         To make it more complicated, we bought it in Iowa where we were visiting relatives at Christmas. It was minus 24 wind chill. We could not get propane to pump into the coach to run the furnace. Cold?  It was beyond cold. It was like driving a freezer. Did I mention that the heater in the cockpit was also on the fritz?

         We put on all the clothes we could and then fired up the beast. We headed out of there and did not stop for the next 740 miles. We dashed down to Dallas to visit another daughter’s home, where we thought we could thaw out, and find out just how this new rig worked.

         We aren’t the only Wyomingites with motorhome adventures. Tom and Rita Lubnau of Gillette relate the following:

“We have a motorhome and a 1993 Chevy Van, Rita calls Van Helen.   Rita and I, and our two dogs, just returned from a long weekend in Las Cruces, NM, in Van Helen.  

“In October, Rita and our dog Callie, went on a 5000-mile adventure to the East Coast.   While we love the motorhome, the simplicity of living in the old van is attractive, although it does look comical parked between the million-dollar Class A motorhomes in the campground.  Rita’s caption on that photo would be, ‘Which one of these is paid for?’”

         Over the years, we Sniffins have spent some glorious times in our motorhome. We fondly call it Follow My Nose.  The coach works well as a camper but is at its best as a winter home somewhere.

         One fun camping trip included meeting our daughter Shelli, her husband Jerry, and their three boys in Goblin State Park in Utah.  A huge rainstorm came up and they abandoned their tent and joined us. We all enjoyed warmth and comfort inside our big coach while other families were scrambling around in the wind and rain trying to keep their tents from flying away.  That was one of our finest moments!

         As a winter home, it has been wonderful. We started spending a month or so in the winter north of Dallas but discovered that the Polar Express reaches all the way to Texas. We froze up two years in a row in eight degrees one time and eighteen degrees another time. So, we up and headed to Las Vegas.

         Las Vegas is not as warm as Arizona, I have been told, but we love that it is just a one-day drive back to Lander. We tow a car behind the motorhome so we can come and go and leave the rig at a very nice park in Sin City.

         This spring we saw our first snowstorm in Vegas. It was their first snow in 10 years. Still warmer than Wyoming, fortunately.

         Over the past 10 years, we have put 45,000 miles on our two motorhomes and have been all over the country from Texas to California to Washington and Wisconsin.

         We also have been all over Wyoming from Devils Tower to Cheyenne to Evanston and Jackson.  Also everywhere in-between, including Wheatland, Buffalo, Worland, Greybull, Lovell, Newcastle, Laramie, Kemmerer, and Powell.      

         It has been a blast.  So I apologize to those folks who happen to get behind us on a two-lane road somewhere in Wyoming. It is just the Sniffins headed off on another adventure.

1911 - Rachel`s Challenger important to Wyo schools

Earlier this year in opposite sides of Wyoming, students were overcome with emotion as they explored ways to stop school shootings, prevent bullying, and keep fellow students from committing suicide.

         In Cheyenne, Mountain View, and Lyman, the program called Rachel’s Challenge enjoyed a huge success with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members.

         With school shootings rates and teen suicides rates both rising across the country, the good work being done by Rachel’s Challenge needs to be promoted.  Luckily, schools all over Wyoming are embracing it.

         The non-profit Rachel’s Challenge organization claims that its good work prevents more than 100 suicides a year and has prevented seven school shootings in its 20 years of existence.

         In Cheyenne, East High students Michelle Puente and Keeley Cleveland promoted the program after hearing about it. “It’s really inspiring to see you don’t have to do big things to make a difference,” Michelle was quoted in a Wyoming Tribune-Eagle article.

         That article also reported that East Sophomore Skyler Eidhead, his face blanched and wet with tears after hearing the program said he recently lost some people close to him. Hearing Rachel’s story gave him a sense of hope.

         Some 20 years ago, the most publicized school shooting in history occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The first student killed was a 16-year old girl named Rachel Scott.  After her death, her parents found her personal journal predicting her death at a young age and her hope of ways to help people.

In a school essay titled “My Ethics, My Codes of Life,” Rachel wrote that she wanted to start a chain reaction of kindness.

Six weeks later, she was dead, the first of 13 to be killed during the 1999 Columbine massacre.

For students at Cheyenne’s East High, who have grown up in an era where school shootings are at the forefront of national conversation, Rachel’s Challenge brought an unexpected twist to those discussions.

After Rachel’s death 120 miles south of Cheyenne in Littleton, her parents, Darrell and Sandy Scott, began reading through their daughter’s journals and papers, and found proclamations of kindness and compassion. They were so moved by their daughter’s words they began speaking to community groups and student organizations on behalf of their late daughter, using the words she’d put down in her journals as the crux of their message: kindness.

These speaking occasions grew into what is now called Rachel’s Challenge, a nonprofit organization that seeks to share Rachel’s message of kindness with high school students across the country.

They focus on a few key ideas. They ask students to fight prejudice, to intervene when somebody is being bullied, and to look for the best in others. Though inextricably tied to the Columbine shooting, the presentation hinges less explicitly on school safety and more on kindness and its byproducts – safer schools among them.

“It’s about students’ hearts and getting them to that place where they are connected,” said Nate Rees, regional partnership manager for the group. “A direct result of that is less violence in schools.”

Rachel’s uncle, Larry Scott, gave the presentation to East High students Tuesday. He is one of dozens of the group’s presenters, but unlike most, his own children were inside Columbine High School at the time of the shooting. They got out unharmed.

         In a description of how this worked in Mountain View, the principal of the school, Ben Carr, wrote:  “Rachel had written about her desire to reach out and show kindness to everyone, but especially to three specific groups, including special needs students, students new to the school, and students being picked on and bullied.”

         Carr quoted Larry Scott: “He said one particular student who was being bullied reached out to the Scott family to tell them how her kindness and efforts to defend him were directly responsible for saving his life when he decided not to follow through on a plan to kill himself.”

State Supt. of Public Instruction, Jillian Balow, is supportive of the program and has been encouraging schools to use it to prevent bullying, school shootings, and suicide.

         Coincidentally, the biggest donors to Rachel’s Challenge have been Wyomingites Foster and Lynn Friess of Jackson. They gave $2.5 million to the program as a matching grant so more schools can afford to host this amazing program.

         Students who have attended this program in 30 Wyoming schools so far, say it changed their lives for the better.  It makes sense for all schools to use this program.  What a great message!


1910 - Vegas for UW basketball- escape bad weather

Some lucky Wyoming folks managed to sneak out of the Cowboy State March 10-16 and head to Las Vegas to attend the annual Mountain West Basketball Championships.  By doing so, they managed to avoid the biggest blizzard of the winter, which left most of the state buried and paralyzed.

         It is always fun watching the University of Wyoming basketball teams- - men’s and women’s.  We got to watch both teams play on Wednesday, March 13.

         Getting away from Wyoming’s blizzards was a break but Las Vegas showed off rain and 50-mph winds, which did not make it that pleasant. More importantly, there was nary a snowdrift in sight.

         The scores of those games were also not so hot, but the efforts were exciting and the games were fun.

         On that day, we saw our 10th-seeded men’s team play its opening game against New Mexico.  Later that evening, the third-seeded Cowgirls (who had already won two tournament games) played in the championship against the highly regarded Boise State team.  The Lady Broncos had won this tourney the past two years.

         New Mexico prevailed in the men’s game 68-58, despite 31 points by Wyoming all-star Justin James.  The Cowboys finished the season with an 8-24 record.

         Boise State led the entire game and defeated the Cowgirls, 68-51 with a balanced attack. The Cowgirls finished the season with a 22-8 record.  Earlier in the  tournament the Cowgirls had beaten Utah State 64-41 and San Diego State 75-70 (in overtime).

         University of Wyoming sports have a huge effect on the people of our state.  Our teams truly knit together folks from far-flung communities across the vast 98,000 square miles of Wyoming.

         We saw lots of Wyoming folks who had journeyed to Sin City.

         Mike and Jennifer Martin of Rock Springs had scooted out of Sweetwater County before the big blizzard hit.  Mike said he had heard reports from back home that Interstate 80 was closed from border to border. They were pleased to be in Las Vegas.

         But that first and only game by the Wyoming Cowboys left Mike disappointed. “Who were those guys out there in the second half?” he asked.  Wyoming led New Mexico by 14 points in the first half but ended up collapsing in the second half and lost by 10 points.  The game was a story to two halves.

         Stuart and Kathy Nelson of Wheatland love following the UW teams.  They showed me photos of the blizzard back home emailed to them by members of the family. Looked like a total whiteout in Platte County.

         Mark Anderson of Burns, who owns some fifteen Burns Insurance offices all over Wyoming, was dismayed by the play of the men`s team in their opener.  He follows the team all over the country and thinks guard Justin James could be an NBA player.  But this game?  “That second half was painful to watch,” he sighed.

         Kirby Walker and his wife of Green River were happy to be in Las Vegas but did not look too happy about having their seats in the middle of a whole bunch of New Mexico fans.  To their credit, those Lobo fans were very nice.  We ended up in that area, too, but moved over to some empty seats where we were surrounded by gold sweatshirts and hoodies.

         We also ran into Keener Fry who does a great job of running the UW Alumni Association.  He works hard and is a great ambassador for the Cowboys.

         The men played in the early afternoon and the women played in the evening game.

         The Cowgirls playing in the finals was a first. It was the first trip ever to the Mountain West finals for coach Joe Legerski, which was a great personal milestone for him.

         UW does a magnificent job of recruiting foreign players and nine of the 15-team members are from Europe.

         The five starters are from foreign countries: Spain, Croatia, and Colorado. Just kidding about Colorado.

         UW wasn’t the only women’s team with foreign players. Utah State had five players from Australia and one from Greece. Fresno State had four foreign players.

         The crowd for the women’s championship had a good solid representation of gold in the grandstands.  The Thomas and Mack Center is a wonderful venue that even features spouting flames at each end of the court at the start of the games.

         It’s always fun to go to Vegas. Watching the Cowboys and Cowgirls play hard at basketball is just about as good as it gets.



1909 - Why are Wyoming people so happy?

The diversity of our landscape and our people (and even our weather) were reasons given by some of my best friends about why they are so happy to live here in Wyoming!

       It is easy to understand why Wyoming was named one of the two “most happy” states in the country in a recent Gallup Poll, reported in USA Today.

       “People wave at you when you are driving down the street, even if they don’t know you,” says Mike Bailey of Riverton.  “Plus I love our 300 days of sunshine per year and the beautiful view of the mountains.  I like that people here are so honest, too.”

       Jerry Kendall of Hudson says, “I love Wyoming because of the amazing diversity of its landscape. I can climb into the Wind River Mountains and stand where perhaps no other human has ever stood,” he says. “I can wander out into the vast Red Desert and not see another soul for days on end. I can breath fresh air every day of my life.”

       John Davis of Worland reports, “My wife is from Toronto, and would have been quite at home in a large city.  What we both settled on was Sheridan; we thought it was the perfect blend of a town with a little bit of size, and, therefore, a lot of shopping and restaurant advantages, and still one that was right in the middle of one of the prettiest areas in the state. 

Well, Sheridan was not to be, and when I got out of the JAG Corps, the best opportunity seemed to come in my hometown of Worland. 

“What we liked immediately about Worland was how warm and friendly the people were.  Crime was unheard of and our neighbors bent over backwards to be, well, good neighbors. 

      “We found a house, a fine 1917 Arts and Crafts piece, one full of great woodwork, and, at least in the main floor, almost completely original.  It was built for Sadie and Charlie Worland, and was intended to be the finest house in town.  Well, the house became our grand project.  We were truly blessed to have it as our home for 38 years.”

       Jack Speight of Cheyenne says, “I enjoy the wide open spaces and the lack of concentration of people on top of each other.

       “We wintered this year at home in Wyoming instead of in a warm place. What you discover is it is the people that sets Wyoming apart in the middle of July or in mid-February.  Wyoming people care about their neighbors.

“I was out shoveling a fairly long half-block sidewalk on Eighth Avenue. The snowplows had dumped more snow on top of the six inches on the sidewalk to clear the street. A man in a pickup truck turned around in the middle of the block, pulled up, unloaded a snow blower, and gave me a helping hand. That’s Wyoming.

“That Good Samaritan didn’t know me. I had never met him until that morning, yet he was willing to give a helping hand to a 79-year-old out shoveling his own sidewalk. You’re not gonna find that in many states. People do care for each other in Wyoming more than other states because there are fewer of us. That is the true beauty of Wyoming.”

“Chuck Brown of Wheatland says, “Why aren’t we the happiest? I am!”

John Brown of Lander (no relation) says, “Fewer people, no traffic to speak of, mountains, and a clear sky at night that allows me to see the Milky Way!”

Jim Hicks of Buffalo says, “Most small communities around the country have people who do care about their neighbors, not just in Wyoming, but since most of this state is made up of relatively isolated small communities there is a stronger community spirit.

“We all talk about improving the economy by attracting new business and more people, but down deep for many of us we honestly don’t want that much change.

“Many of us remember when few people knew about that favorite fishing hole or the spot where we got our elk every season.  Now there is more competition for those treasures.

“We are happy because, for all the imperfections, we have a citizen legislature, our neighbors are members of the City Council or County Commission and there isn’t a constant urge to lock the door or worry about the kids walking to school.

       “Perhaps the environments in Hawaii and Wyoming are such that it dampens the desire for other things in life like lots of money or power?”


1908 - Wyoming baseball fans love our Rockies!

Sitting and shivering in the stands were Cheyenne residents Chris Boswell, Rick Boomgaarden, and former Wyomingite Gene Bryan watching the Colorado Rockies play a good game with the Seattle Mariners.

         The three men were in the shady stands at Salt River Field in Scottsdale, AZ where spring training is a ritual for major league players and their loyal fans.

         We were there too and enjoyed seeing the Rockies play two games, a 7-4 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks and that 4-2 loss to the Mariners.

         Wyoming, especially in Cheyenne and Laramie, has lots of devoted fans to the Colorado Rockies. 

         It was really cold in Scottsdale for the opener – we were bundled up with jeans and insulated vests, which helped in the cold shady seats. But it was comfortable in the sunny seats.  A high school classmate of mine who lives in Scottsdale told me, when I asked her if she was going to the game: “We don’t do cold.”  Ha!

         As unseasonably cold as it was in Arizona (record snows had fallen that week in Flagstaff and Kingman), back in Wyoming it was also terrible. 

Weather reports showed Interstate 80 was shut down and mountain passes were closed around the state with snow and wind.  The mercury was plummeting too. 

         No, although we shivered there in Arizona but we also realized just how good we had it.

          I would recommend attending Spring Training to just about anyone.  The weather is normally quite nice and the Salt River Park where the Rockies play is a spectacular venue.  It is a terrific big league experience except the stadium holds 10,000 people instead of 55,000 size at Coors Field in Denver.

         This was our second year attending it, and we loved it.

         About half of the major league baseball teams play spring training ball in Arizona and the others play in Florida. The Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks went together and built probably the finest facility in the state.

         I should also mention that my nephew Jeff Nelson works for the Rockies, which is a bonus.

         We also met with Foster and Lynn Friess of Jackson and enjoyed breakfast with them. They were off to a Rockies game the day after we attended our games.

         My history with the Rockies goes back a long way.

         When major league baseball came to Denver in 1993, there was no journalist in Wyoming covering the Rockies as much as I did.  As owner of the Wyoming State Journal in Lander, I had applied for and gotten full press privileges.

         Our readers in Lander probably saw almost as much coverage about the Colorado Rockies, which were 360 miles away, than any other baseball fans in the state.

         Plus we had a lot of Colorado connections back then. My folks lived in Lafayette.  I had younger brothers living in Broomfield, Longmont, and Boulder.  Two of our three daughters lived there.  We made that long round-trip to Denver constantly.

         As a rabid baseball fan, I was there on opening day back in 1993 and covered the team faithfully for the next six years.

         Colorado set an all-time record for most fans for a season. led the league with the most fans. A huge number of Wyoming people were among those fans.

         Those Rockies boosters still hold the record for most fans in a season, some 4.4 million plus the largest crowd in major league history, over 80,000 at Mile High Stadium in 1993. I was there.

         So Spring Training is special for me.  I love the current team.  Stars like Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story are fun to watch.  Arenado was hitting home runs during the games we attended.

         Baseball is full of humor, too. My favorite baseball joke is a story about two old codgers who absolutely loved baseball. They watched every game they could during the season and spent the entire off-season reminiscing about the great games they’d seen and dreaming about the season to come.

One day their discussion turned to speculation over whether there was baseball in heaven. Finally, they made a pact that when one of them died and went to heaven, he would try to get a message back to the survivor.

Shortly thereafter, one of the two fellows had a fatal heart attack during the excitement of a doubleheader… and a few nights later, the survivor had a very vivid dream. In it, his dearly departed friend was sending him a message.

“Old buddy,” he said, “I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that there is baseball in heaven. The bad news is that you’re pitching tomorrow!”