Before he was the man who sold a Wyoming town, Don Sammons was a Newport Beach local looking for a country escape where he and his wife could start a family.
Sammons, 61, remembers Newport less for its reputation as an affluent community and more for traffic and rapid growth, noting that “Newport in the mid-1960s wasn’t what it was post-1980s.”
Sammons’ story with the Cowboy State began when he and his wife used to visit friends in Cheyenne once or twice a year. They eventually fell in love with the slower pace of life, and in 1980, bought their own ranch near the town of Buford.
After his wife died and his son moved away, Sammons became Buford’s only occupant, running the trading post and greeting travelers as they passed through his tiny hamlet, elevation 8,000 feet, along Interstate 80.
In 1992 Sammons bought the town and its trading post from a New Jersey family for $155,000.
But after more than 30 years, Sammons decided it was time to move on. He auctioned the town off last week.
“I built Buford as far as I wanted to build it,” Sammons said in a phone interview. “The adventure is over.”
A Vietnamese man bought Buford for $900,000 on April 5 after about a 15-minute auction.
The new honorary mayor envisions the town as the perfect home for his family, much as Sammons did 30 years ago. Furthermore, Sammons has a connection to the new owner’s homeland, a coincidence he finds “totally amazing.”
“I served in the Vietnam War in 1969,” Sammons said, adding that during the war he was in Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City — the hometown of Buford’s new owner.
“Now he’s in my town. Vietnam always had a negative taste in my mouth. But now because he bought Buford, Vietnam has a good taste in my mouth.”
The new owner and Sammons also have something else in common: a faith. Both men are Buddhist.
“It really has brought me full circle,” Sammons said.
Although he’s concluding his three decades in Buford, he remembers the day he and his wife rolled into town in a Lincoln Continental.
Sammons’ neighbor, Edwin Davis, whose family arrived in Buford from Boston in a covered wagon, would later confess to Sammons that he gave them six months.
The Lincoln was quickly traded for a Jeep, and Davis and Sammons became friends until Davis, who “probably didn’t weigh 100 pounds wringing wet,” died at age 105.
Once while on vacation, Sammons decided to travel the 1,000 miles from the Wyoming plains and revisit his old home in sunny Southern California before flying to Hawaii.
He found his old landmark old post office torn down and more trees planted around the city, which made Newport Beach almost unrecognizable to him. He also found a home that may have been his, but he couldn’t be certain.
“I wouldn’t have bet any money it was it,” he said.
Before Buford was auctioned off, Sammons lived largely in anonymity. He was amazed by the response he received from 84 countries with people inquiring about his tiny town.
“The day of the auction, I [had] lived in Buford for 30 years and nobody knew it.”