True riches — why the richest people are here in Wyoming

You have all seen this Wyoming guy. He doesn’t look rich. But if you examine his life and measure his level of happiness, there is a compelling argument he could very well be the richest man in the world.

This is a man who loves the outdoors. He loves to hunt and fish. He loves to explore. He just happens to have a few gadgets around (his wife calls them “toys”), which are not necessarily new, but he keeps them in good repair. In fact, he loves tinkering on them.

This rich man lives in Lander or Worland or Cheyenne or Kemmerer or Rock Springs or Evanston or any other Wyoming city or town.  He gets up early each morning to greet the day with a big smile because he is in total control of his universe.

The day starts off with coffee with his buddies. They meet every  morning,  rain or shine, and spend an hour telling tall tales to each other and occasional off-color jokes.

Let’s call this guy Joe. With all due respect to the University, we might even call him Cowboy Joe because he is a big fan of UW and is rarely seen without some kind of brown or gold apparel that reads WYOMING or COWBOYS.

Joe does odd jobs and controls his schedule.  His wife has a good, steady job with good benefits and good retirement. They are pretty frugal and may have even saved up a little money. They enjoy Wyoming’s outdoor experiences together.

It is well-known that Joe married “up,” which means he found himself a very good wife. Everybody says that his wife should not put up with all of Joe’s hobbies, but she accepts them with a smile on her face, because she likes them, too.   

These folks are among the richest people in history.

Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or some Arab sheik may think his life is better than Joe’s, but do not try to convince Joe about this.  He would not trade his place on the planet with any of them.

He and his wife encouraged their kids to study hard and qualify for scholarships because extra money was hard to find. The kids qualified and they also worked during their years at UW. They graduated almost debt-free and Joe smiles smugly to himself that he and his wife did a great job of raising them. Perhaps, most importantly, they taught their kids to be thrifty and to appreciate the truly finer things in life, such as the joys available in Wyoming’s great outdoors.

Now there are grandkids and Joe and his wife are the best grandparents in the world. They take them fishing and hunting and camping. They have lots of time to spend with them. They are  never in a hurry.  They listen to their problems because often the parents are too busy trying to make a living.

At some point, according to the proverbial joke, one of Joe’s kids will lecture the old man about how if he worked an extra job and invested in the stock market, he probably would have ended up rich. And when he is 70 he would have time to do all the fishing and hunting he might want to do. 

Joe sort of looks at him and shrugs.  You can almost tell that he is thinking, “It’s time to go  fishing.”

The Cowboy Joe described here is a stereotype of a lot of people I know in Wyoming. I wish that I could have been more like him.  In business, my wife Nancy and I have tried to get it all done but I missed out on a lot because of pressures associated with running a number of companies over the years. Sure could have spent more time hunting and fishing and camping.

Perhaps the closest I ever came to the perfect life was when I aspired to be a newspaper publisher at a young age. I made it at age 24 here in Lander, which is sort of incredible, now looking back at it.

A friend back in those days invited Nancy and me to dinner where a third man showed up and gave us a pitch about how we could make all this money with some kind of pyramid sales scheme.

“Just think, Bill,” the man exclaimed. “If you make all this extra money, you can be whatever you ever wanted to be!”

My answer to him was: “Sorry, but I am what I always wanted to be.”

Now that is what Joe would have said had he been asked that question, too.

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


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