Circle J Ranch event 2016


Harvest Party, City Park in Lander Wyoming! October 1, 9 am - 12 noon
Harvest Party, City Park in Lander Wyoming! October 1, 9 am – 12 noon


A Trip Down Memory Lane in Sheridan plus Buffalo and Two Mountain Passes

By Bill Sniffin

As readers of this column know, I am no fan of the “new” JC Penney Company.

It is my contention that old James Cash Penney (whose first store was right here in Wyoming, in Kemmerer), is spinning in his grave as how his successors have managed to ruin that company.

But I loved the old Penney’s and I took a trip down memory lane at that company’s long-time store on Main Street of Sheridan recently. There, smack in the heart of the town, is an old-fashioned Penney Store, complete with a basement, a half upstairs and, well, the only edifices missing were the pneumatic tubes sending sales tickets flying around the store.

My first Penney store experience was in Oelwein, Iowa, and it was a scene right out of the movie, A Christmas Story. And that store 60 years ago looked just like the one there in Sheridan today.

Here in Lander, when I first came to work at the Journal, one of our biggest advertisers was the JC Penney Store, again, right in the heart of our downtown.  And yes, it had a half upstairs and it had a basement.  I think tubes were still there which would whistle sales tickets from the various cash registers back to the bookkeeping department. Even by today’s standards, these tubes were space age. Amazing.  They provided a way to quickly move information around prior to the age of computers.

On this trip, we took two different scenic drives on our way to and from Sheridan.

First, we traveled to Greybull so we could take US 16 up Shell Canyon and over the mountain. The weather was beautiful and we even stopped and checked out the Dinosaur tracks outside of Shell. Also, took a photo of the canyons there at the Big Horn Mountains that seem to form a “W” and a “Y” — is that there or was I just imagining it?

Near Burgess Junction I ran into Ed Kingston at the Elk View Inn.  First met Ed 15 years ago.  He has done well and aged better than me. The lodge is beautiful. It and Bear Lodge plus a few other lodges make that area a snowmobile and ATV mecca.

We encountered terrible fog descending into Dayton and on our way to Sheridan and settled into a rainy trip.

Bob Grammens and Kim Love had me on the radio for a couple of mornings and that was sure fun. Radio appears to be struggling in some communities, but not Sheridan. Lots going on in that area. Don’t touch that dial!

Although energy is a big deal in the Sheridan area, you would not notice it by how the Main Street feels.  It is certainly lively including a new store started by a 13-year old boy. Amazing.  His name is Luke Knudsen and he started a store called The Old General Store, which features antiques.

Another neat store is the Best Out West store owned by Christy Love, Kim’s sister.

The remodeled Sheridan Inn is a real treat. The old strucure originally built by Buffalo Bill Cody is now a true modern classic.

One of the premier craft breweries in the state is the Black Tooth establishment, which exists in an old auto garage.  Great beer and a great location.

Our trip was designed as loop drive so we headed south to Buffalo and were impressed by how busy the Sports Lure store was there in the main business district. Small towns are lucky to have local-owned stores like it and the Office to cater to local needs.

It is hard not to love Buffalo’s Occidental Hotel. What a beautiful job its owners have done to restore it.

This is the heart of Longmire country but despite looking for them, none of the characters were to be seen on this day. Longmire is the name of a popular TV series based on books by Craig Johnson of Ucross.

While in Buffalo, I also looked for the infamous “Bench Sitters,” made popular by the Sagebrush Sven columns in the Buffalo Bulletin.  It was the wrong time of day to see them, too, I guess.

Heading home, we headed up into the cloudy Big Horn Mountains over Tensleep Pass.  Ran into fog, rain, slush, snow and wind but got through it.  Lots of highway construction on the very top. The flag people were dressed like Eskimos.

Worland and Thermopolis were both quiet on this wet Friday evening, although it was sure tempting to take a dip into a hot thermal pool on a cold, wet shivery night.  But we kept on going.

Got home just as the sun was going down, which was our goal. Hate that driving at night in a storm.

What a great loop drive it was, though. The passes were full of amazing color.  I am sure the rain and snow pretty much wiped out most of those pretty leaves, which impressed us at the time. This all occurred during the fall solstice, which here in Wyoming, truly marks a real change of seasons.





MY WYOMING by Bill Sniffin – Two Funerals & A Golf Tourney

Washakie Museum Fall 2015 WLM

MY WYOMING:  Two Funerals Same Day + Golf Tourney,

Only in Small Town in a Very Small State

By Bill Sniffin


It might have been former U. S. Sen. Al Simpson who said all politics in Wyoming is personal.  I would expand on that by claiming Wyoming is such a small state that “everything is personal.”

On a recent Monday we experienced events that might only happen in a small town.  Two members of our community had died. Their families used different funeral homes. And, unfortunately, both funerals were scheduled the same time, Monday morning at 10.

Luckily, Lander is a city of about 7,500 people with not very long streets. We would try to be two places at once. This could get tricky.

Nancy loaded her famous scalloped potato dish that was required at the Catholic Church for Mickey Simmons Sr.’s funeral luncheon into my little car (easier to maneuver) and off we went to Holy Rosary.  I handed the dish to Annette Yates in the kitchen. Then we went to the front of the church.  After we signed Mickey’s guest book it was off to funeral #2 at United Methodist Church.

Joyce Nations Hornecker, 65, was a nice gal whose dad had been an editor years ago at our newspaper. She was revered for having operated the senior center for years.

After signing her guest book and greeting old friends like Cody Beers, Jean Mathisen Haugen, Sheriff Skip Hornecker, Pastor Mark Calhoun and City Councilman Dick Hudson, it was time to sit and listen to Ralph Mesa sing a few songs and hear about Joyce.  Her brother Jim Nations and her nephew Cody said some wonderful things and a slide show flashed life events about Joyce and her husband Johnny behind them on two big TV screens.

It was a nice funeral full of pioneer Wyoming folks. The Hornecker family has a long history in the Lander area, much of it in ranching.

Since we had sat in the back, we quietly slipped out and got into my little car and headed back to the Catholic Church.  Since Mickey’s service was a Mass I knew it would be longer so this was going to work out just fine.  Got there in time to sit with Mayor Del McOmie just behind former Mayor Mick Wolfe and his wife Marge.  Fr. James Schumacher and Deacon Rich Miller conducted the service.

The elder Simmons, 82, was a long time member of the parish and his son, Mickey Jr., had been public works director for Lander for many years.

After communion, the decedent’s eldest grandson, Lucas Anderson, gave a wonderful eulogy. In his tribute to his grandpa, he said the gentle older man left him with two big life lessons:  first was to always be willing to say you are sorry and second, to be quick to offer forgiveness.  Pretty neat lessons.

Lucas and Becky Murdock provided the vocals during the service. Becky plays one of the best cellos I have ever heard.

After the service we slipped out and drove back to the Methodist Church. There we joined the Hornecker family and friends having a brunch following and paid our respects to Joyce’s husband Johnny.

Not sure how many miles we put on but then went home and changed clothes and I headed to the golf course.

As a former vice-chairman of the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission, the annual Wyoming airport operators group meeting is always fun. They had invited me to be their banquet speaker. And since someone had cancelled a spot in their golf scramble, they asked if I wanted to play?  Sure, I told them, but I might be late since I have TWO funerals to attend that morning.

I managed to play the last nine holes with two guys who help run the Cheyenne airport.  Later Bob Hooper, Cody, who is president of the WAOA, called me a sandbagger.  I had luckily made four long putts in the nine holes I played and ended with a pretty good score.

That evening, we joined the airport folks.  There was a lot of gossip about the future of Wyoming’s home-owned airline Great Lakes.  Lately the struggling carrier has seen its market share slip. This has boosted flights out of Casper’s airport according to manager Glen Januska.

His staff counts license plates in their parking lots. He says on a typical day their lots are full of cars with Fremont, Johnson and Sheridan license plates.  It appears to be obvious that folks who used to fly out of Sheridan and Riverton on Great Lakes are now flying out of Casper.


Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is Wyoming at 125, which is now on sale at fine bookstores. His books are available at

Bill Sniffin WY at 125 October


Bill Sniffin: My Wyoming


MY WYOMING — by Bill Sniffin

Smoky times remind of state’s worst fires


As I write this, the beautiful view of the Wind River Mountains out of my window is obscured.  It is so smoky we are leaving our windows shut because it smells like a brush fire a short distance away.

In this case, that brush fire is 1,000 miles away.  Northern California and parts of Oregon and Washington are burning up.

This smoke is covering up towns all over Wyoming especially in the Big Horn Basin and Wind River Basin.

It is hard to find a city or town from Cheyenne to Evanston or Powell to Gillette in which smoke has not dominated the view. At least the sunsets and sunrises have been magnificent!

Here in Lander, we enjoyed one clear day between all the smoke from the northwest to local smoke from the Little Bob fire on the Wind River Indian Reservation.  They are letting it burn and it is over 1,500 acres and growing.

These ash clouds also remind of a time 27 years ago when Yellowstone National Park literally burned up. Here is what I recall of that event:

Is this hell?  Or is it Yellowstone? That was my exact thought as I piloted a small, single engine airplane over the vast expanse of Yellowstone National Park the first week of September, 1988, during the horrible fires that year.

Flying with me on that day was Larry Hastings, one of the best pilots and instructors in Wyoming history.  Also along and helping take photos was Mike McClure, a legend in his own right, as a premier photographer.

Both men lived in Lander. We had been talking about making this flight for some time.

It was my bright idea.  We had seen TV coverage of the fire but no one seemed to have a good aerial view.  I always want to figure out a way to take a big picture in the easiest way possible and flying over the park seemed the best plan.

Hastings was aware of the altitude restrictions, which caused us to be quite high as we flew over the world’s oldest national park while it was literally burning up.

The view was both impressive and unimpressive.  It was impressive because as far as the eye could see was smoke.  It was unimpressive because it was impossible to make out landmarks.  Not even the mountains were very visible.

What was visible were a large number of hotspots where fire would shoot 200 feet in the air.  It was hot down there.  The park I loved was going to be changed forever.

That event two and half decades ago was unprecedented in the history of the National Park Service.  There were contrasting programs of fire suppression and “controlled burns” in place, which caused the people responsible for the park’s existence to be incapable of dealing with the conflagration.

Cities and towns in a wide circle around the park enjoyed the most colorful sunsets in history.  Lander, which is a two-hour drive southeast from YNP, the evening views were unprecedented.  It was an awful time for folks with respiratory problems.  No wind and no rain could relieve these conditions.

Fighting the fires in 1988 cost $120 million which is $230 million in today’s dollars – almost a quarter of a billion dollars. It covered some 800,000 acres or over one third of the park.

Biggest fire was the North Fork fire, which was started July 22 by a cigarette dropped by a man cutting timber in the neighboring Targhee National Forest.

One of the most amazing scenes of this fire was when embers from it were sent airborne across the massive Lewis Lake by 80 mph winds setting new fires on the other side of the lake.

This complex of fires burned 140,000 acres and was finally extinguished when some welcome rains fell later that fall.

Stories about other parts of the park and the valiant effort of more than 13,000 firefighters, 120 helicopters and other aerial devices, plus National Guard and civilians detail bravery but were to no avail.  Important structures like Old Faithful Inn and the Lake Hotel were saved but efforts to stop the fires proved to be impossible.

Mother Nature wanted that fire to burn and it did until she was ready to put it out.

And that memorable day 27 years ago we were flying above a scene right out of Dante’s Inferno. I experienced a memory that I would both like to forget and yet, always recall.


Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is Wyoming at 125, which is coming out in September. His books are available at


MADE IN WYOMING: Bill Sniffin’s book, “My Wyoming 101 Special Places”

Check out Dead Drift Fly Fishing Company's new mini store at 107 E. Grand Ave in Downtown Laramie Wyoming!
Check out Dead Drift Fly Fishing Company’s new mini store at 107 E. Grand Ave in Downtown Laramie Wyoming – for unique Wyoming wear for that avid Wyoming fan & fisherperson on your list… Click the image to connect with Dead Drift online!


Bill Sniffin book cover comp
Bill Sniffin releases his new Wyoming coffee table book, just in time for the holidays!

Sniffin Publishes Second Coffee Table Book about Wyoming Just in Time for Christmas

Wyoming author and journalist Bill Sniffin has just made available copies of his newest coffee table book about Wyoming, called MY WYOMING 101 Special Places. The book is a 156-page effort featuring 42 photographers and 156 color photos about the state, including 14 foldout pages.

His earlier book, Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders, published in 2012, has already sold 15,000 copies and is believed to be the best selling coffee table book in the state.

Sniffin, of Lander, is a photographer, journalist and entrepreneur who has lived in Wyoming for 44 years.  His weekly newspaper column appears in several newspapers each week including the Rock Springs Rocket Miner, Rawlins Daily Times, Lander Journal, Riverton Ranger, the Cheyenne Wyoming Tribune Eagle, the Evanston Uinta County Herald, Sheridan Online and occasionally in the Casper Journal, Laramie Boomerang, Pine Bluffs Post, Powell Tribune, Sundance Times, Kemmerer Gazette, Moorcroft Leader, Afton Star Valley Independent and others.

Sniffin’s newest book, MY WYOMING 101 Special Places, will be on sale the end of November. With the success of the first coffee table-style book, it only seemed practical to follow up two years later with a companion book that featured not only “natural” images but photos of man-made places and people in the photos enjoying Wyoming.

Sniffin has written three other books, which are available at fine bookstores and online at  They are all compilations of his columns.  They include Strong Winds, Blowing Snow, Slick in Spots which was published in 2011; High Altitudes, Low Multitudes in 2003; and The Best Part of America in 1993.

Over the years, Bill has been honored with the state tourism industry’s highest awards, the BIG WYO award and the Tony Bevinetto Friend of Tourism Award. His wife Nancy was honored in 2011 with Wyoming’s highest award for volunteerism, the Jefferson Award.

Sniffin and his wife are former owners of newspapers in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and Hawaii. The Sniffins have raised four children and have ten grandchildren. Most recently, they sold an advertising agency they founded called Wyoming Inc. and also sold, along with daughter Shelli Johnson, an internet tourism company,

Bill is the former chairman of the Wyoming Travel Commission, vice-chairman of the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission and has also been a member of the Wyoming P16 Education Commission. Sniffin ran for governor in 2002, losing in the Republican primary. He is on the board of directors of the Mountain West AAA Auto Club, for Alaska, Montana and Wyoming and the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition.

More information can be found at the web site  One can also mail a request for the book to Box 900, Lander, WY 82520.  His Facebook page is “Wyoming books, columns by Bill Sniffin.”

Photography Opportunities in Wyoming!

visit our website & read the current issue


Our 2014 Food & Photo Fest hits Laramie May 30 & 31! Check our website for tickets to any of our wide variety of events…plus, our photography competition deadline has been extended to Sunday, May 4 at midnight! Guidelines online – and email with any questions!

Proceeds benefit Black Dog Animal Rescue of Southeast Wyoming!

Schedule of Events:

Friday, May 30

6:30:  Winemaker’s Dinner, Altitude Chophouse & BreweryFeaturing a special menu designed by Altitude & Table Mountain Vineyards and TMV wine — limit 50 tickets $45/ticket

7 – 10 PM:  Decadent Desserts Night, Alice Hardie Stevens CenterEnjoy yummy desserts and view our photography competition entries! $25/ticket, $15/ticket for children 10 & younger

Saturday, May 31

9 – 11 AM:  Outdoor Photography Workshop with Cliff Cox & Dana Gage Utilizing structures found throughout Downtown Laramie, with and without models. Focusing on composition, lighting and the uses of depth of field. Hands on course for all levels of experience. Limit 20 students. $25/ticket — or participate in all 3 photography classes for $60

10 AM -12 PM:  Historical Photography of Svenson, Ludwig & Brande families, Ludwig Photography Studio — FREEExperience the history & beauty of Wyoming – featuring over a century of work by generations of the Svenson, Ludwig & Brande families.


10 AM – 12 PM:  Edible Art with Sweets Cakes & Pastry — Learn how to create visually appealing desserts & edible art through hands-on instruction led by the lovely & talented ladies at Sweets Cakes & Pastry! Students also bring home something delicious to enjoy. Class limit 10. $45/ticket


11 AM -12 PM: Wine Tasting, Pairing & More Priceless Knowledge with Table Mountain Vineyards’ Patrick Zimmerer — FREE! Want to learn more about wine from the Wyoming wine expert? Learn the nuances of wine production, tasting and pairing with your favorite foods. Please RSVP at no charge on our website for this event to help us plan facility needs!

1 – 3 PM:  Beauty & Fashion Photography with Ken Stoecklin of Beartooth Photography — Beauty/Fashion/ Hi Key lighting & shooting for the composite; all done with speedlights and quick but effective retouching; with student participation. $25/ticket — or participate in all 3 photography classes for $60

2 – 3 PM:  What Makes a Great Beer Local – and Amazing? with Altitude Chophouse & Brewery’s Brew Master — Love a great beer – but unsure how it becomes so awesome? Learn about the ingredients of beer, how ingredients are resourced, and what makes Altitude’s great beer local. Impress all your fellow party-goers at the next dinner party or beer fest. And of course…tasting is included. Class limit 20. $15/ticket

2 – 4 PM:  Centerpiece Arranging 101 with Fresh Flower Fantasy — Learn the art of creating a beautiful centerpiece for your next dinner party! Hands on instruction & a beautiful arrangement of your creation to take home led by Fresh Flower Fantasy. Class limit 15. $35/ticket

3 – 5 PM:  Post Processing Photography Course with Chuck Egnaczak — Chuck is a regular to teaching and photography, with an expertise in post processing. Max class size of 20 students. $25/ticket or $60 for all 3 photography courses

Dinner is Served – in Laramie! Enjoy dinner at Laramie establishments — we’ve invited Laramie restaurants to provide a special deal for our Wine & Photo Gala ticket holders on May 31… Eat out before you come & party with us! Keep checking our website festival page for updates on restaurants providing specials across Laramie!

7 – 10 PM:  Wine & Photography Gala — Sample delicious wines, hors d’oeuvres & desserts. Silent auction will be held to benefit Black Dog Animal Rescue of Southeast Wyoming. $45/ticket or $80/couple.

Beau Johnston presents Lightroom Workflow Overview Workshop – Casper

We were thrilled to brag on the talented Beau Johnston in our current Sprinter 2014 issue of Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine! His upcoming event is definitely one to check out if you’re in the Casper area…

Monday, May 5, 7:30 – 8 :30 PM
Wyoming Oil & Gas Conservation — 2211 King Blvd, Casper
FREE event

Beau will be presenting the workflow he uses when editing photographs to the Casper Photography Association. This will cover how he imports images into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, utilize metadata, organize and rank his photographs, edit photographs in the Develop module, and export images for printing and online use.

Visit the event page on Facebook to RSVP and ask questions

From Wyoming Author Bill Sniffin:  New book features Wyoming’s favorite places – here is your chance to participate

Your area along with other places all over Wyoming will be featured prominently in a new book planned for distribution this fall.

The coffee table book  MyWyoming: Stories and Photos of 101 Fascinating Places is by Bill Sniffin.  It is the followup to the very successful book published in 2012 called Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders. Format for the new book will be similar to the old book including 30-plus photographers and 14 foldout photos that are 13”x30” in size.

Sniffin is soliciting stories and photos from people all over the state for inclusion in the new book. Persons should send stories about their favorite places to or send to PO Box 900, Lander, WY 82520. Editors will try to match up the stories with beautiful photos of that area. Stories will be 150 to 500 words in length.

Persons with outstanding photos of Wyoming are encouraged to submit them, too. They will be paid for the use of their photos.

Top-notch Wyoming photographers like Dewey Vanderhoff, Woody Wooden, Randy Wagner, Dan Hayward and Scott Copeland were included in the last book and will be featured again in the new book.

The earlier book sold 14,000 copies over a 15-month period, making it one of the best-selling books in Wyoming.