clean air, clear skies, Devil's Tower, Edward Gillette, Ft. Laramie, Gillette, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Liz Cheney, Playboy, population growth, Steven Hayward, Teddy Roosevelt, Thermopolis, Wyoming, Yellowstone
As regular readers know, Mrs. Manor and I retired from teaching and returned to home—Wyoming—during the summer of 2020. We’re enjoying the changes in seasons–not something one gets much of in most of Texas–and the common, and uncommonly beautiful, sunsets one gets, like that in the header photo. According to the 2020 Census, Wyoming remains the least populous state, with some 577,000 souls spread across the 10th largest state of 97,814 square miles (Alaska is the largest, with 666,267 square miles). Wyomingites like it that way.
It was with a bit of amusement I saw a brief article by Steven Hayward at Powerline relating to Americans fleeing blue states for the free, red states, but not Wyoming:
The Census Bureau has just released the latest statistics on domestic migration and population change, and it is no surprise that the exodus from high-tax/high-crime blue states is becoming a stampede in the last year. [skip]
It’s one thing for people in cold climates in the northern and midwestern states to leave for the warmer south, but no one leaves California in search of better weather. It ought to be incomprehensible—if not a scandal—that so many people are leaving California because they expect a better life elsewhere. Well done, California progressives.
“Incomprehensible?” Only if one’s identity is wrapped up in living in a particular place regardless of objective reality.
The only no-income-tax states that lost population the last ten years are Alaska and Wyoming, and I wonder if this has something to do with the plummeting oil output Alaska, which most people in the lower 48 don’t know about. I don’t have a leading theory for Wyoming.
Actually, Hayward is wrong, as the chart he included in his article indicates. Last year, Wyoming’s population increased by a bit over 1000 people. The chart above, tracking Wyoming population growth for the last half-century, indicates a population growth of 1.14% during that period, as opposed to the national growth rate of 0.97%. Granted, this is hardly an avalanche of population growth, but it’s there, and at a rate that isn’t alarming to the locals, which is a good thing. I was going to say Wyomingites are soon going to reduce the population by at least one—Liz Cheney—but a prototypical swamp creature, she doesn’t live here anyway.
Back in the late 1970s, when I was playing cops and robbers in Wyoming, Playboy Magazine did an article on Gillette, the third largest town in the state. Sadly, it was not a “Girls of Gillette” article. In those days, Gillette was the epicenter of a coal and oil boom, and had all the ins and outs of boomtowns, including very few eligible women–thus no “Girls of Gillette”–and loads of more than eligible and sexually frustrated young men. Playboy ultimately concluded people came to Gillette—and much of the rest of Wyoming—knowing exactly what they were going to get, got it, and left. Again, that was pretty much fine with Wyomingites.
By the way, the town’s name has nothing to do with the razor company, which is much too politically correct and girly these days. It was named for Edward Gillette, an early railroad engineer–not a train driver. The railroad remains important to this day, but largely for hauling coal and other freight.
One of the interesting benefits of various booms was there was a great deal of tax money for public facilities. Circa 2021, local real estate agents tell me they’re getting calls from people from all over the nation, snapping up homes, including very expensive homes, essentially sight unseen, and that’s in northeastern Wyoming, not the Teton/Jackson Hole area as depicted above. That area suffers from the billionaires having chased out the millionaires. It’s kind of like Austin is to Texas: an oasis of self-imagined, D/S/C importance in a sea of Normal Americans who snort at that sort of undeserved pretense. To get a pretty good sense of Wyoming attitudes, C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series of novels is a good, and entertaining, source.
Most of Wyoming is the high desert: buttes, ridges and mile after mile of rolling prairie. One can drive for many miles between towns, seeing nothing but passing vehicles and the occasional light from ranch homes. But throughout the state is living history. There are places near Ft. Laramie–yup: that Fort Laramie–where the ruts made by the wheels of covered wagons are yet visible.
Devil’s Tower, our first national monument, established by Teddy Roosevelt who is out of favor with the self-imagined elite because…well, just because racist, white supremacist, privileged, and shut up, I’m sure, is one of nature’s greatest wonders. There are many throughout the state, including, of course, Yellowstone National Park in the NW. The Buffalo Bill Historic Center and Museum in Cody is also not to be missed. It has one of the world’s finest collections of western art and firearms.
Wyoming is a wonderland for the hunter, fisherman, backpacker, hiker, bicyclist, even the tourist. One of my favorite spots is Thermopolis, where geothermally heated mineral water provides the hot-tub temperature basis for multiple spas, including slides and other goodies for kids. There’s nothing quite like soaking outdoors, at night, in winter, with snow falling. There’s also nothing quite like biking the vast vistas, with all manner of wildlife around: antelope, deer, elk, you name it.
The point, I suppose, is for rational people, people who want to live in a place with no state taxes, a reasonably low cost of living–$3.00 gas compared to $5.00+ gas in California and other “cultured” places–access to every good and service one could want, without all of the daily hassles of living in densely populated parts of the country, Wyoming makes all manner of sense. Which is, I suppose, why many blue staters choose not to come here.
Wyomingites live Martin Luther King’s dream; we judge others by the content of their character. We don’t have any time for actual racism. We also judge people on merit, because working people come to Wyoming expecting to work, and those that hire them expect the same. “Can you do the job?” is the entry-level minimum, and the sky is the limit from there.
Constitutional carry, politeness—particularly kids toward adults—a willingness to help and take care of others, clear skies, clean air, and the opportunity to get out into nature pretty much everywhere are good things. And yes, we have the arts, of all kinds, and schools focused on teaching and learning, not social engineering. I’m sure there are some dimwitted teachers and educrats here and there who try to slide CRT and similar Marxist, racist idiocy in under the radar, but when it’s discovered, parents aren’t the least afraid to make their displeasure known, and neither are most kids, politely, of course. The difference is in Wyoming, parents and other normals pretty much get their way.
Wyoming is a great place to live, and I can’t say most Wyomingites feel in any way slighted when blue state refugees choose to migrate elsewhere. If they want to come here, fine, but we’re going to expect them to adapt to Wyoming, where men are men, women are women, kids are polite, and folks are friendly and mind their own business. Wyoming has never adapted to fads and social experimentation. We work here and don’t think anybody owes us anything. I shovel my neighbor’s driveways and sidewalks, if they don’t do mine first. We also fully support the Constitution, which is why we’re going to rectify the mistake of Liz Cheney soon enough.
As far as oil and coal go, Biden’s handlers are having an effect, but we’re doing fine. Wyomingites are used to boom and bust cycles. They know how to adapt, and Bidenites are shooting torpedoes at their own hulls. People like that don’t last; Wyoming, and Wyomingites, do.
So why would anyone want to move to Wyoming? People pay thousands to vacation here. We live in the middle of it all and can take it all in whenever we choose, and we do. I’m sure Hayward wasn’t insulting Wyoming, which remains, thankfully, a pretty well kept secret. Why wouldn’t any sane person who doesn’t want to boss others around and doesn’t want to build a socialist utopia want to live here? And that said, I hear Florida and places like that are nice… So by all means, spend your vacation dollars here, but maybe keeping Wyoming a secret is a good idea after all.
Alan Booth said:
When my wife and I were making our choice(s) for where we would retire, she declined to move back to Wyoming. Needless to say, Montana was also out. One reason was distance from her sister, who lives on the East Coast. The other reason was the cold (ok, very cold) and longer winters. Didn’t bother me enough to make it my #1 choice, but life is full of compromises. If I win a lottery, the next day I will be on a private plane, calling realtors, looking for property in Wyoming.
Mike McDaniel said:
Dear Alan Booth:
We’ll keep a place warm for you.
I know several who’ve moved back to WY in the last 18 months. Some have moved back to my home town of Wheatland. Meanwhile realtors there have had the busiest 18 months ever due to people buying homes and land right and left. I do have to wonder how many will stay once they discover the winter WY wind Wheatland deals with on a regular basis! ;-)
Mike McDaniel said:
Wheatland does require sterner stuff.
I’ve heard that Texans claim that if all of Alaska’s ice and snow melted, Texas would still be the largest state.