This statewide column-writing idea started when Wyoming Tribune Eagle Managing Editor Reed Eckhardt asked me to write a weekly commentary about the 2002 statewide political races.
And here we are, some 520-plus columns later, and we’re still going strong.
There were two reasons why he asked me to do this job:
1. Wyoming Republicans had just overwhelmingly voted for Eli Bebout over some guys named Ray Hunkins, Bill Sniffin and Steve Watt in the August, 2002 governor election. My participation in the gubernatorial primary apparently made me a perfect political commentator.
2. The primary campaign had provided an in-depth education about everything to do with Wyoming, including the economy, the personalities of the people across the state and what made the state tick from one end to the other.
It sounded like fun and I said yes.
This request from the Cheyenne editor, though, was not my first rodeo when it came to column writing.
My opinion writing career in Wyoming started on a weekly basis in September of 1970 and has continued pretty much to this day, with a couple of short layoffs. I had probably published 1,500 columns and 2,500 editorials by the time Reed asked me to write a statewide version.
The great benefit of writing a Wyoming column is constant feedback from folks all over the state. No doubt I love this great place. And that love is reflected back from all corners.
Most of all, it has been (and continues to be) my distinct honor to be a weekly compiler of statewide interests of note. Looking back on a long and varied career, it is easy to consider writing this statewide column as my single most important journalistic achievement.
Wyomingites are passionate about this vast and unique place. It sure is fun to write about anything concerning the Cowboy State each week. Based on the feedback I receive, my readers like it, too.
There are other pioneer column writers who wrote for a long time, too, who deserve mention here.
Not sure what the record is for continually writing a Wyoming column, but I may be closing in on the top five. The late Bruce Kennedy of Greybull penned a weekly column for a long time before his death in 1993. The late Margaret Peck of Riverton wrote a column over 50 years. Jim Hicks of Buffalo has been writing columns for over a half century, I think, which is amazing for a man who just turned 60. Or maybe who just acts 60.
The state’s best-known historian Phil Roberts of Laramie says: “I think probably John Charles Thompson wrote more columns than anyone in the state's history. He was editor of the Wyoming State Tribune for a half century. I know his work best from a column he titled ‘In Old Wyoming’ in which he reported on conversation s with old-timers. He told stories about long-ago days in Cheyenne and in Wyoming. He had the benefit of actually meeting those original pioneers. He got a lot of it from the horse's mouth.
“Thompson might be remembered by many as the only reporter allowed to witness the execution of Tom Horn inside the Laramie County Jail on Nov. 20, 1903.”
Fifty years, huh? Just eight years to go until my column writing reaches the half-century mark. The goal of me getting the record sounds a little daunting, especially since Hicks is still writing.
Lately, my columns have become much less political than when Reed first asked me to start writing the statewide version. I don’t get to Cheyenne as much any more and my focus is more on statewide stories than statewide issues.
Maybe it is a sign of getting older. Someone recently referred to me as “a dean of Wyoming columnists,” which was a little startling, since once upon a time, I was known as one of the youngest editors and publishers in the country. But, alas, that was a long time ago.
Many of these thoughts bubbled up recently while attending my 43rd consecutive Wyoming Press Association convention. Some of the other young Turks who were my contemporaries were there, too. It was easy to notice how they are also pretty gray, pretty bald and pretty much slowing down like me.
It is easy to recall seeing a similar bunch of old guys hanging around the conventions back in the 1970s. Now I have become one of them.
Thanks, Reed, for getting me started on this statewide column and thanks to all of you for reading it.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns and blogs 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.