Buford, Wyoming auctioned off to foreign bidders; after 30 years, Population: 1 retires to CO

Apr 6, 2012

 

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An Oklahoma-based company auctioned off Buford, Wyoming Thursday afternoon. For a winning bid of $900,000, the property will move to the control of two unnamed businessmen from Vietnam. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez has more.

An Oklahoma-based company auctioned off Buford, Wyoming Thursday afternoon. For a winning bid of $900,000, the property will move to the control of two unnamed businessmen from Vietnam. Wyoming Public Radio’s Rebecca Martinez has more.

(wind)

REBECCA MARTINEZ: There is one gas station on the windy stretch of Interstate-80 between Laramie and Cheyenne. The Buford Trading Post looks much like a large log cabin. It’s one of the only structures you can see for miles on the roadside plains. The owner is Don Sammons. He’s also, officially, the lone resident of Buford. He’s lived in the area 30 years; he bought the town – and the gas station – 20 years ago. He closed it a few months ago. A few days before the auction, Sammons recalls life in those early days.

SAMMONS: Really it was wonderful. We had our horses here. My wife, myself were into horses, horse-back riding. Back then I had 4 people working for me, so we had every weekend off. And, we’d go away for the weekend, either just maybe up to Vedauwoo. And we would just spend all weekend riding, you know in the parks and in the area.

MARTINEZ: The Buford Trading Post was a labor of love. When a bolt of lightning caused the store to burn down, he built a new one. He installed computers and WiFi. The automated gas pumps made the biggest difference, because it meant motorists wouldn’t knock on the front door of his nearby house in the middle of the night when they needed to fill up.

SAMMONS: During the summer months, I would get anywhere from a thousand to 15-hundred people a day through here. Oh, I’ve met people from Moscow Russia, I’ve met people from Beijing, China… Switzerland.

MARTINEZ: But his wife Terry passed away years ago, and his grown-up son Jonathan now lives in Colorado. Sammons says running the Trading Post has still been lucrative enough, but now he’s 61 and alone. He says the chapter of his life set in Buford is now over.

SAMMONS: This has been just a (sic) unbelievable phase. But it was at a different point in my life. And now it’s just time to see what else is out there. I came from the city to the country, now I’m kinda going back to the city, but I wanna do it on my terms.

MARTINEZ: Sammons is moving to northern Colorado, where he plans to write a book about his years in Buford. He’s hired a big auction company out of Tulsa, Oklahoma called Williams and Williams to handle the sale. The company developed a webpage for the Buford property, inviting buyers all over the Internet and, consequently, the world, the chance to own their own “income-producing town.” Spokesperson Amy Bates says the 10-acre tract comes with a gas station, a house, three antique buildings, and a functioning cell phone tower.

BATES: This is the first town we’ve ever auctioned. We’ve auctioned many interesting properties, but this is the first town.

MARTINEZ: Actually, it’s not really a town, as far as Wyoming or the U.S. Census is concerned. Don Sammons says all that’s just a technicality, since visitors are inspired by the charm of Buford, not its legal status. Sammons says he’ll be sorry to leave.

SAMMONS: You know… I don’t think it’s actually sunk in yet. Right now it’s a lot of hype. It’s a lot of fun and excitement. But when that auctioneer says sold, I mean, at that point, I really don’t know how I’ll respond to it. I hope I respond to it in a very grown-up way. (laughter)

(wind)

MARTINEZ: Buford came back to life on auction day. The parking lot was packed with auctioneers and bidders from as far as New England and Asia. Waiting for bidding to start, prospective buyer David Urquidez of Cheyenne is already building a house near Buford. He says if he wins it, he wants to carry on in Don Sammons’ footsteps.

DAVID URQUIDEZ: Preserving the legacy of Wyoming. Buford’s always been kind of that tradition. Buford’s always been kinda that tradition, a friendly warm place to stop midway between Cheyenne and Laramie. And it gives you an opportunity to kind of absorb a little bit of the west. We always used to say that this was kind where the pavement ends and the West begins.

(auction ambi)

AUCTIONEER: Alright, I got a hundred, thank you… (fast talking)

MARTINEZ: As the auctioneer egged on the bidders in a rapid barrage of rising numbers, Williams and Williams employees brokered bids from people in the crowd, on the phone, and on the Internet. The bidding lasted about six minutes. Two men from Vietnam on their first visit to the United States won Buford with a bid of $900,000. They hired Rosie Weston and Tonjah Andrews of Al-Rose Auction and Realty, LLC in Cheyenne to speak for them.

ROSIE WESTON: The buyer does not wanna be disclosed at this time…
TONJAH ANDREWS: We can just tell you they’re an international buyer.

MARTINEZ: Don Sammons held it together during the auction. Members of the press gathered around him afterward. Someone asked whether he expected two mysterious Vietnamese men would buy his little town.

SAMMONS: You know that would have been the furthest thing from my mind. What I find, just… (long pause)

MARTINEZ: That’s as far as he gets before he chokes up, and is whisked away by Williams and Williams staff. On the side, he adds it will weird to leave 80252, Buford’s zip code for another that isn’t really his.

For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Rebecca Martinez.