Via the telephone, Al Simpson mused with us about the beauty of Wyoming, precarious politics, and charming Chugwater Chili. From 1979 to 1997 he served as United States Senator from Wyoming. Later he taught at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and occasionally taught with his Brother Pete at his Alma mater the University of Wyoming. He is the author of Right in the Old Gazoo: A Lifetime of Scrapping with the Press. A recent biography is “Shooting from the Lip - The Life of Senator Al Simpson” He was Co-Chair of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and remain active in many causes and organizations. Currently he lives with his wife Ann and children in Cody, Wyoming and jokes about a funeral attendant who eyes his sharp looking suits!
What do you love about the great state of Wyoming?
I've lived here all of my life. My brain works well, my body works. Because of my career as a Wyoming Senator I know every nook and cranny of the 88 municipalities. The people of Wyoming are thoughtful, friendly, sharp, ornery, and opinionated.
What would you like to see in the future for the people of Wyoming?
Keeping the young people here. When young people leave Wyoming and get to be about 40, they want to come back home. People from Wyoming leave bigger cities like New York and Chicago give up big city life to come back here. They miss the Wyoming lifestyle, the area, and their home.
Also, the best human right of all is a job, to go to work, produce, and get paid. We must do something about the wage gap between men and women. We can't be called the Equality State if the pay scale isn't equal for both men and women. People think mining jobs that are typically done by men make the pay between men and women unequal. But where a person works shouldn't make that big of a difference in the pay scale.
What are some of your favorite Wyoming activities?
We've done it all. Stream fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing. I was the last to letter in both basketball and football from the University of Wyoming. Once I rode 52 miles on a horse - not again. Horses know when an old coot is getting on their back. Be careful! They are self-preservationists and will throw your butt in the rocks.
As a Wyoming Senator, we are so thankful you thought to give Chugwater Chili seasoning to your colleagues. What prompted you to do so?
Everyone in the Senate was proud of his or her state. In 1986 Chugwater Chili was a hot item, no pun intended. It was timely.
Is there any hope for the political mayhem in Washington DC?
Laughing. I have to stop the crude answer I have in my mind. Thank goodness my wife just walked in the room to stop me. Brothers and sisters! Hang on tight! Just like in the rodeo and waiting in the chute. Everyone wanted change. By God we got it.
What is your take on fake news?
It's always with us. Sad. The total distrust of politicians and media. People say they hate Hillary. They hate Trump. Politicians and the media are held at low esteem; no trust. You can't love democracy and hate politicians. Politicians are what make a democracy.
Whatever the hell happened to common sense? In regards to the news, folks’ minds have turned to mush. People are overcome with fear, emotion, racism. Everyone needs to go outside, take a deep breath, and go back to common sense. No more hate. Use your God given sense of right and wrong. Follow your gut instead of your head. The most important idea I can say is hatred corrodes the container it's carried in.
What aspects of Wyoming would you like to see visitors experience while they are here?
Wyoming has more natural beauty than any other state in the nation. The Northfork highway to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Red Dessert – where there is the largest sand dune in North America, Flaming Gorge, Grasslands National, Devil's Tower, Vedauwoo, Curt Gowdy State Park. Every visitor should stop at each little brown sign, read it, and take in the wonder. Did you know if you go to Alta, WY you have to go into Idaho to get back to Wyoming? At Colony, WY you have to go in to South Dakota to get back to Wyoming? Win yourself a beer with that trivia.
What would you like to see all Wyomingites to feel about their state?
Be proud to be a part of it. It's beauty, government, industry. We are damn fortunate. We've gone through all booms and busts. We'll solve them.
How do you like to eat your Chugwater Chili?
With an ice bag.
Oh, with crackers and cheese. A little bit of cheese is good. Dig in and hope for the best.
Know what's coming.