Over the past few days, there has been an above-average amount of discussion about Wyoming politics, largely because of the Republican congressional primary between incumbent Liz Cheney and challenger Harriet Hageman.
But that’s not what I want to talk about in this space today. I want to talk about another politician I had the privilege of knowing during my stay in Wyoming.
If you followed Washington politics closely enough in the 1980s and 1990s, chances are you’ve heard the name Alan Simpson. He served three terms in the US Senate from Wyoming between 1979 and 1997 and was the Republican Whip from 1985 to 1995.
Simpson is arguably a giant of Wyoming politics, not just figuratively but also literally, as he stands 6-foot-7 (he was the tallest senator of all time until 2017, when Luther Strange was named U.S. Senator from Alabama).
As someone who has followed politics, it was a pleasure and an honor to meet Simpson at a Park County GOP event in Cody that I covered shortly after moving to Wyoming, but more importantly , in my months living in Wyoming I have also discovered he has a great sense of humor and is a true gentleman.
The first was on display when we bumped into each other again at an event featuring the art of Cody native Jackson Pollock. We were talking and he brought up a story I had told in one of my columns about a road trip I had taken over Memorial Day weekend in Utah.
The story goes like this: Utah is one of the few places outside of the West Coast and the American Southwest where you can find In-N-Out Burger. I had to visit one. But I didn’t stop there — I grabbed a cooler and several blocks of dry ice, and bought eight double-double animal-style burgers to take back with me to Wyoming. I reheated and ate double-doubles animal style for quite a while afterwards.
Unsurprisingly, he found the story a little quirky, but very funny – which I took as a major compliment coming from a political giant.
The latter – that he is a true gentleman – came as a message on my office answering machine in September 2018. I had been diagnosed with melanoma the previous month and underwent a few procedures by the to make sure the cancer was removed and to make sure it hadn’t spread. The week after it happened, I wrote about my experiences in another column.
Sometime later, I was checking my voicemail and got one from Simpson. He had called me to offer to help me find the treatment I needed for my cancer. As I found out I was cancer-free at that time, it was very touching for him to reach out – and showed his heart and character.
I never got the chance to say thank you for that voicemail. Maybe now I can.
Over the past few years, I have met a lot of people and even a lot of politicians. But Alan Simpson definitely stands above the pack.
Mike Buhler is an editor for the Daily American Republic. Contact him at [email protected].