Lies, damned lies and statistics; Here are Cowboy State facts


“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Mark Twain

You could always find lots of cars and trucks around my home. I am an admitted car nut and just love vehicles of all kinds.

Perhaps out here in Wyoming it is a throwback to a time when your wealth was tied to the number of horses you had. And if wealth was connected to the number of cars you own, my friend Joe Kenney would be a multi-millionaire.  I think he has ten vehicles, two motorcycles, and an airplane at my last count.

I am down to an old Ford Excursion, a six-year-old Lincoln and a 17-year-old hail-damaged Lexus convertible. Oh yeah, and we also have a 14-year-old motorhome.

So here is my question for all of you: Wyoming has 579,315 people. How many cars and trucks are there? Do you think there are more vehicles than people here in Wyoming?

Our local Fremont County Commissioner Mike Jones sent me the most updated 2018 statistics from the United States Census Bureau, which measures all these things. It has some surprising info about my own county and even more surprising data about the state of Wyoming.

If you guessed that, yes, Wyoming has more vehicles than it has people, you were right. The 579,315 people in the state own 603,717 licensed cars and trucks.

People (especially wives) repeat the old saw: “The only difference between men and boys is the cost and size of all their toys.”

Toys? Yeah, here in Wyoming, we have toys. And most of them are registered with the state government. Besides cars and trucks, we have 294,164 “other” vehicles.

More importantly, this total includes trailers — lots of trailers. Including RVs, this amounts to an astonishing total of 207,413 trailers. It also includes 26,144 motorcycles.

Snowmobiles, boats, airplanes and ATVs are not listed in this total but obviously would add big numbers if they were.

Wyoming people drive more miles per year than folks in any other state. That average is 16,800 miles for every man, woman, and child. Amazing.  No wonder my tires keep wearing out.

These miles are traveled on our 30,430 miles of highways and roads in our state. Of this total, 6,075 are federal.  Did you know that the longest highway in America is US 26?  Closely followed by Interstate 80, which I believe is the longest interstate highway in the country, stretching from New York City to San Francisco, closely following the route of famous US 30 Lincoln Highway.  It was Honest Abe who first proposed this national road in about 1863, when he was pretty much preoccupied with the Civil War and getting the transcontinental railroad built.

In Wyoming, we like to brag about our low taxes, but the state collected $686,766,223 in sales and use taxes.  That is a pile of money.

Property taxes collected across the state amounted to over a billion dollars with a total of $1,344,432,107. 

My columns are limited to 750 words, so I have to cherry-pick items here. It would fill a whole bunch of pages to write about all of this detail.

In my business career, after starting out as a reporter and ad salesmen, I developed a love for data and numbers. This surprised everyone. To me, numbers are not just numbers — they tell big stories. I used to love the early IBM advertisements for computer systems where they pictured businesspersons pondering spreadsheets. The caption read: “Not just data but reality.” I just love that concept.

School statistics could take up an entire column. There are 48 school districts in Wyoming, with one-sixth of them in Fremont County.

There are 355 schools located from one end of the state to the other. There are 7,248 teachers and 736 administrators. According to these reports, there are 6,884 other staff to help keep things going.

Total enrollment in the state is 93,647 students. We have a graduation rate of 81.7 percent. The composite ACT score for juniors in high school was 19.5 in 2018.

Total general fund expenses for education were $1,493,600,712 for a per-student average of $17,694. This is one of the highest rates in the country. In my county of Fremont (with its eight districts), the average per student cost was an amazing $22,299.

I will wrap this up by sharing that the U.S. government owns 46,313 square miles out the state’s total of 97,093 square miles. The Bureau of Land Management controls 27,162 square miles of this total. It is a big place with big numbers.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

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