By Bill Sniffin on Mon 08/05/2013 09:50am
They came from all corners of the country, these folks both young and old, to celebrate a family’s existence over a period of almost 75 years.
We were hosts to my 10 siblings and their spouses, children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and my 89-year-old matriarch mother at a family reunion in Lander this past week.
From Columbia, S. C. to San Diego. From Minneapolis to Dallas, TX, From Denver to Dubois, they streamed into Lander by car, airplane and RV.
Our reunion was just like thousands of other family gatherings that are occurring in Wyoming this summer.
The Cowboy State offers a lot a see and do for our visitors. This gathering included side trips to Yellowstone, Jackson Hole, the Black Hills, Flaming Gorge and the Laramie-Cheyenne area. Although the event was officially Aug. 2-3, we had people arriving on July 31 and some staying as long as Aug. 5.
The Sniffin clan held its first family reunion 25 years ago in Lander and had not had one here since. The folks looked a little different today than they did then. My brother Ron from Cheyenne and his twin Don from Longmont, Colo., held forth with a video bonanza showing family members with a lot more hair and a lot less waistline.
I had worked hard to make our ponds look as beautiful as possible. We even had one of our slutty female ducks hatch out 9 brand new yellow ducklings.
My bubble burst, though, when eleven-year-old nephew and namesake Willem Charles Sniffin, son of Jerry and Tiena Sniffin of San Diego, made the following request:
“Uncle Bill, can I take the raft and paddle it around your swamp?”
He spent the next 90 minutes having a wonderful time in this small inflatable craft paddling around my ponds and dodging ducks.
Saturday we hosted a lunch at City Park. This event included our annual photo shoot, which is similar to herding cats. Only the twins are young enough to have enough patience to get 50-plus people to be in their assigned places.
Our mother, Betty Sniffin, 89, of Lafayette, Colo. ,was the center of attention. She reminded everyone that the next reunion would probably be at her funeral. She said it with a smile on her face but it drew the only boo’s heard during the weekend.
My sister Sue Kinneman of Riverton presented a program where she and sister MaryBeth Smith of Winthrop, Iowa, made predictions. Best one was that our brother Tom, 70, of Columbia, S. C. who would win big at the casinos. He and wife Olivia love the slot machines but the Indian casinos in Fremont County cleaned 'em out, he claimed.
My sisters also asked us 11 siblings (9 guys and 2 gals) to bequeath some special talent we possess. I offered to bequeath my “neatness” gene, which brought hoots.
It is amazing to compare the names of our generation with those of the next one. Names of my 10 siblings and me are Tom, Bill, John, Pat, Sue, Jim, Mary, Dan, Jerry, Ron and Don.
Just the names of our Nancy’s and my grandchildren (two generations later) are as follows: Mallory, Mae, Royal, Daylia, Braley, Emery, Wolf, Hayden, Finis and Aftin. Also attending were nieces and nephews named Xander, Bailey, Kaitlyn, Zane, Zack, Jake, Willem and Jem.
In 1988 when we held the first reunion here in Lander, we played a very aggressive softball game with the nine boys in our family taking on the rest of the family. We played well, too.
This year, the game was an affair involving the grandkids although some of us old-timers did manage an inning or two. We definitely did not run the bases well, and swinging the bat was truly pathetic. What happened to my home run swing?
Highlight of the weekend was the Saturday night banquet where we talked about family memories.
Brother Jerry recalled the “horrific” experience of being involved in slaughtering chickens. Our father would hack off their heads and toss the bodies toward the younger boys. Jerry said one especially horrible event was when a headless body chased younger brother Ron across the yard. “It may have emotionally scarred him forever,” he recalled. “I know it did me.”
Most of the stories were not so horrible. The feelings in the room were warm and the expectations were positive. Like all those other families out there having reunions in Wyoming this summer, we are looking positively toward the future.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.