Sniffin, Bill (2020)

It was 63 degrees, sunny, with little wind, in Casper on Monday, Nov. 15. Nancy and I were there walking around without jackets. The grass was still green in many of the places near the Summit Hospital, where I was getting a steroid shot to relieve some back pain.

My poor back is another story.

But wow, is this winter weather remarkable or what? I tend to be as skeptical about the shrill theories of extreme climate change as weatherman Don Day, but it is also easy to remember just how cold and awful November used to be here in the Cowboy State.

Although we have not seen the cold and snow lately, that famous Wyoming wind has been omnipresent. We were dealing with 60 mph crosswinds at many locations during our recent travels.

Wheatland folks are especially tough. The wind really knows how to blow in that area. Anything that isn’t tied down or nailed down just is not going to be there the next time you look in those kinds of winds. You can always see semi-trailer trucks turned over and other kinds of trailers on their sides, spilling their contents out to the wind along Interstate 25.

While putting gas in my car at Wheatland, I commented on the wind to a guy next to me. He said “Here in Wyoming, we don't just say Wyoming blows, we say Nebraska sucks." OK.

We should also clarify some seasonal definitions. Although Sept. 21 is the first day of “fall,” across the country, it signals in Wyoming the beginning of a time that can feature some of the most wintry weather we will experience all year.

A few decades ago, I recall a heavy snowfall on Oct. 1, followed by subsequent bitter cold weather. Our streets were icy and never melted until the following spring. We published a story in our local newspaper about the great many broken wrists, arms, legs and ankles from folks slipping on all the ice. That was how it used to be. Not so, today – at least not this year, yet.

The winter of 2019-20 was the mildest winter I had experienced in 50 seasons in Wyoming. We usually spend some time in Las Vegas to get out of the Wyoming cold, but last year, we cut that trip short on three different occasions because it was warmer in Lander than in Vegas.

Now, remember, I am talking about winter here. Our springs were just as wet, snowy, cold and unfriendly as normal.

But the months of October, November and December (in most places, these are fall months), out here in the Rockies have always had the potential of being nasty. Lots of early snows, which caused the roads to be icy for months at a time. Since Lander is one of the least windy places in the country, it tends to get very cold. And November could easily see some -20 temperatures. Four years ago saw that kind of experience. Not lately, though.

We spent some time driving around Casper, and WyoCity looked good. The massive new Thyra Thomson State Office Building will be a wonderful addition to the downtown area.

Thyra was an icon in Wyoming for decades. She was one of the first female secretaries of state in the country, and she reigned for 24 years, from 1963 to 1987. Thyra died in Cheyenne in 2013 at the age of 96. She was glamorous to the end. Always dressed to the nines, she always was perfect with big hair, a wonderful scarf and often dainty white gloves. But don’t let those gloves fool you. She was tough and one of the smartest politicians in the state.

She entered politics herself after her husband, Keith Thomson, died shortly after being elected to the U.S. Senate.

It is very appropriate to have a building named for her. She was a champion of getting wages raised for women.

The whole David Street Station and Yellowstone area, including an art district, looks like a fun place to hang around all year around.

Later in the week, we headed to Cheyenne, our state’s largest city. Lots going on in the Capital. There is an energy around Cheyenne, a real self-confidence.

Cheyenne is sharing in the boom of the Colorado Front Range. Plus, it already has a lot going for it with the railroad and two interstate highways passing through it.

On that same Monday, Nov. 15, Cheyenne set an all-time record for the warmest “low” temperature of 53 degrees, breaking the old record of 47 set way back in 1896.

Bill Sniffin is a longtime journalist from Lander and publisher of Cowboy State Daily. Email: bsniffin@wyoming.com.

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