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1623 - All Wyomingites should visit Yellowstone

Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park has been in the news a lot lately, and, indeed, it should be.

         I took the liberty here to call this park “Wyoming’s” but the reality is that this wonderful place belongs to the world.  I happen to think it is the most amazing place on the entire planet.

         And what a gift to all of us Wyomingites that it is located right here in our great state.

         Most of you know that I travel the state giving talks about my coffee table books.  One of the places featured a lot in those books is Yellowstone. I refer to it often.

         It is baffling to me when Wyoming folks come up after my talks and mention they have either never been to Yellowstone or it has been a decade or longer since their last visit.

         Since I live just 100 miles from the park, it is easy for me to get there at least once a year and that has always been my goal.

         Last year, I went there three times and could not have been happier.

         Long-time married folks might appreciate the humor in the following:  During our third trip there, I took a photo of my wife Nancy in front of Old Faithful.  The caption was: “Old Faithful. Just think, three times in one year.”  Other marathon married couples can appreciate the humor of that caption, which several of my friends coyly inquired about. Oh well.

         In my second Wyoming-themed coffee table book, called MY WYOMING, we included an amazing story about a scalded bison being pursued down a road by a hungry grizzly.  The photos and story by Duke Wypyszinski were amazing.

         My business Facebook page is Wyoming Wonders: Books and News by Bill Sniffin.  We ran that photo of the scalded bison being chased by that grizzly and it received an amazing 305,000 views worldwide. The most views I had ever scored up that point were 37,000.  Just shows the power of Yellowstone.

         Last month, the park was in the news because of the crazy antics of Canadian tourists, who seemed to be in the wrong places at the wrong times.

         First one was about the guy who loaded up a cold, wet, shivering bison calf into his SUV and hauled it to the ranger station as part of his rescue plan.

         The Canadian ended up getting fined and reprimanded. This event was a sensation worldwide, made all the TV shows and got millions of views on Social Media.

         Worst news was that when the rangers tried to put the calf back with the herd, the bison rejected it. So the rangers killed it.

         Again, the outcry was deafening.  It seems that a huge number of our park visitors think Yellowstone is not wild. I always try to remind my children and grandchildren that nature is a very cruel place. No animals in nature ever die of old age.

         Some nut case Canucks who called themselves High on Life then were featured internationally videoing themselves in Yellowstone. The images showed them running across the thin surfaces above the hot springs at Grand Prismatic Spring, the single most beautiful place on earth. This very fragile ecosystem features many signs warning folks to stay off the thin crust for two reasons: first, please do not damage it and second, if you fall through it might just scald you to death.

         Well these idiots frolicked around on the crust and then took the photos and videos and published them all over the planet. 

         Rangers tried to catch them but they escaped back to Canada. Since it was a misdemeanor, it is not practical to extradite them.

Not sure why this irritated me so much, but it is hard to stomach seeing someone desecrate your favorite place. And do it with such a horrible disregard for the value of the resource and even the value of their own skins.

         Earlier in this column, I mentioned that nature is cruel and dangerous.

         Not long after the Canadians idiocy, an American woman was struck and killed by a motorist in the park as she was running across the road to take a photo of an eagle.

         So sad. If you go to Yellowstone, please be careful. It is not a petting zoo.

          And if you have trouble getting rooms in the park, be sure to check out the wonderful cities and towns around Yellowstone. The folks there will love to host you.


1621 - Cody scoutmaster showed courage in WWII

Xenophobia: intense or irrational dislike or fear of people from other countries.

         The definition of the oddball word Xenophobia came true in all its ugliness here in Wyoming when the United States government wrongly imprisoned more than 11,000 Americans of Japanese descent in a camp between Cody and Powell during World War II.

         However, there are so many stories that have come out of that incarceration and many of them are positive.

         One of the best and most often repeated is how a young Cody Boy Scout named Alan Simpson became friends with a Japanese-American Boy Scout named Norman Mineta.  Simpson later became a U. S. Senator. Mineta later became the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Two wildly diverging life paths merged together in Washington, D.C.

         Both men have been instrumental in the creation of a very well done visitor center at the location of the former internment camp beneath Heart Mountain.

         Another terrific story to come out of that trying period has been written and compiled by retired Lander schools social worker Bill Lee. Bill shared the story of Glenn Livingston with me and agreed to allow me to tell it to you in this column.

         The following paragraphs serve as an edited version of Lee’s well-written story, which he has submitted to national Boy Scout publications for their consideration. The story should be told here in Wyoming:

         Few know the story about the courageous scoutmaster of Senator Simpson’s Cody Troop 50.

          During World War II, there were approximately 11,000 internees, making it the third largest city in Wyoming, living 11 miles outside of Cody, a town of 2,500.

         To young Simpson these were not great odds. He tells that there was a great backlash to the locating the camp at Heart Mountain. There were protest signs all over the community.

         When the scoutmaster learned that the Internment Camp had Boy Scout troops, he decided to take his troop into the camp for a scouting jamboree. Against the backdrop of the war and the community’s feelings, this was a difficult decision on his part.

         Pete Simpson, Alan’s older brother was 12 years old and also a scout in Troop 50. He recalls when the scoutmaster was asked why they were going into the Japanese-American Internment Camp, he replied, “The boys in the camp wear the same uniform, salute and fly the same flag and say the same scout oath.” This is the reason he gave to persuade the other scouts’ parents for why it would be important to meet with the Heart Mountain Scouts. Pete recalls that of the 25 boys in Troop 50, the parents of all but two scouts agreed to allow their sons to attend the Jamboree.

         Pete was downright scared in the first place. Why would Pete and the Scouts go? The reason was simple, Pete said. “Because of Glenn Livingston.”

         Glenn epitomized what is great about scouting: the building of character through bravery, loyalty and helpfulness, three of the Laws of Scouting. He saw the value in celebrating with other scouts even though they were interned in a camp. His actions captured the character that scouting develops.

         Few people knew that when WW II broke out, Glenn went to his draft board to enlist to fight for his country. His daughter Barbara Green of Lander remembers the draft board had a different idea. They wanted him to stay home and continue to teach and run the schools. Barbara shared that the board considered her father’s role as a teacher one of the “critical need positions” along with a doctor, a dentist and the school superintendent. She reports this was a bitter pill for Glenn to swallow.

         Livingston had a great influence on the young men and women of his community during a very troubling time in our country’s history. After the War he took this Scouting Spirit and concern for human welfare into helping to develop the Community Mental Health program in Cody, which served as a model for

other Wyoming communities. He became the Superintendent of the Cody Public Schools and a strong member in the local and state Elks organization.

         The next time you hear the story of two young scouts meeting at Heart Mountain Internment Camp who became a U.S. Senator and U.S. Secretary of Transportation, remember the scoutmaster who showed great courage in his character to make that happen.

         Remember Glenn Livingston of Cody, Wyoming, a scoutmaster of troop 50 and Silver Beaver recipient.



1620 - Major league homer for sick Cheyenne boy

Not sure how to weave torrential rains, big major league home runs, some crazy Cheyenne bicyclists and a few other items that caught my eye into a coherent statewide column, but here goes:

         The Great Cheyenne flood of 1985 dumped six inches of rain on the state’s capital city and caused devastating damage and killed some folks, too.

         Here in Lander, we endured 4.64 inches of showers over a 48-hour period on May 6-8 and I started to think about that Cheyenne deluge.

         Nearly a thousand basements were flooded but the big damage occurred in Fort Washakie and Hudson.  Poor Hudson is where all three forks of the Popo Agie River come together. Half the town was under water.

         It was serious but not nearly so deadly as Cheyenne’s experience.  Now with massive snow packs in the towering Wind River Mountains, we are nervously awaiting the big runoff that occurs in the first week of June.

         On a lighter note, I wrote a recent column about how many small towns have their “9 old men” who try to run things.  The column was about coffee klatches where gray-haired men gather to gossip in ways much worse that the typical beauty shop.

         Teense Willford of Saratoga took umbrage that I did not include his group of heavyweights who run that town from their coffee table – or who think they do.

         Good to hear you from you, Teense.  Hope to drop by next time I am in Saratoga.

         My favorite story on recent weeks concerns the famous Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.  He told a young Cheyenne boy named Maverick Schutte he would hit a home run for him.

         True to his word, Ortiz belted a game-winning blast to beat the New York Yankees.  According to the Boston Globe, little Maverick, age 6, has undergone more than 30 surgical procedures due to a congenital heart defect.

         Ortiz made the promise through former Red Sox player Kevin Millar who met Maverick through the Children’s’ Miracle Network.

         Millar flew the boy to Boston so he could meet his hero in person.  You can follow Maverick on his Facebook Page, Prayers for Maverick. What a great story.

         Congrats to John Davis of Worland for his new book about Tom Horn. Looking forward to reading it.

         Congratulations also to his grandson Chris Thile who recently was the guest host of the Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio.

         Back during Denver’s Super Bowl run, Chris put together a clever piece called “Omahallelujah,” which he and cast performed about Peyton Manning. It was about how football can almost become a religion.  It has received 350,000 views on YouTube.

         And now a word about bikes.  I am talking about bicyclists and the crazy folks who ride them so darned fast.

         They sort of remind me of the old dog with his head hanging out the window of a speeding car with his jowls flapping.  A speeding bike rider is in heaven.  Here in Lander, Mike Lilygren and Andy Gramlich fit that description.

         But two of the worst members of this lunatic fringe live in Cheyenne. Both Larry Wolfe and Wayne Johnson apparently like risking their necks in crazy endeavors. I follow Larry on Facebook and he is remarkably unscathed for his adventures.

         But Wayne . . . oh no. 

         I happened to sit at the same table with Wayne and Larry at a recent Cheyenne Rotary Club meeting. Wayne told about an amazing crash he had in a tunnel somewhere in Cheyenne.  Apparently they do not make a helmet tough enough for his soft head.  He hit the ground so hard, it smashed the helmet to smithereens. But here was Wayne still talking coherently . . . or at least as coherently as any normal Wyoming legislator. He says he is not running for office again. 

And I see where Larry is running.  Good luck to both of them and, boys, please slow down. Especially you, Wayne.

         If you want a good laugh follow Cheyenne’s Mike Moser on Facebook.  Here are a couple of his recent offerings:

         “We recently celebrated our 46th Earth Day. In your mid-40s, your equator starts sagging and your North Pole starts melting.”

         And this gem: “In the 2015 Nobel Prizes for Medicine was a Chinese woman named Tu Youyou.  I am happy for her but sad about how confusing it must be when her friends try to sing her the Happy Birthday song.