Packing up and leaving,after selling his town

For years,Don Sammons was the biggest shot in Buford. He owned everything. The gas station,the trading post,the cafe. Needed anything while passing through town? Sammons was the man to talk to

Written by New York Times | Denver | Published: April 10, 2012 3:47 am

Dan Frosch

For years,Don Sammons was the biggest shot in Buford. He owned everything. The gas station,the trading post,the cafe. Needed anything while passing through town? Sammons was the man to talk to.

In fact,he was the only man you could talk to,being the sole resident of Buford,all 10 acres of it,a windswept Wyoming outpost just off Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie.

Billing itself as the nation’s smallest town,unincorporated Buford went to auction last week,after Sammons decided to move on after two decades of living here. The sale drew interest from people around the world who dreamed of owning a bucolic US town on the edge of the frontier. The auction lasted less than 15 minutes before a mysterious Vietnamese man offered a winning bid of $900,000 for Buford,which has been around since the mid-1800s.

“We’ve auctioned off all types of properties,” said Amy Bates,chief marketing officer for Williams & Williams,a real estate auction compan”. “But we’d never auctioned off a town.”

Sammons,61,moved here in the ‘80s along with his wife. After his wife died,he bought Buford in 1992 for $155,000 from a family who hailed from New Jersey. He replaced the gas pumps,used the old school house as an office and rebuilt the trading post,turning Buford into a popular way station for travellers. In 2006,his son moved out,and Sammons became Buford’s only resident.

“People always ask me,‘Didn’t you get lonely?’ ” he said. “But there’s a big difference between being lonely and being alone. There are people in New York who have millions of people around them,and they might feel very lonely.”

Buford was not so lonely. More than a thousand people would stop by each day. After work,Sammons would often stroll over to his house for dinner,before sitting on his porch,where the view of the mountains shooting up over the plains. Recently,though,Sammons had started feeling his work here was done.

“I was kind of hoping my son might want to carry it on,” he said. “But he explained to me that it just isn’t his thing.”

The new owner,a man from Ho Chi Minh City,had flown in from Vietnam for the auction. His broker,Rozetta Weston,said he wished to remain anonymous. It was unclear what the man had in store for Buford.

In a twist of fate,Sammons served in the Army during the Vietnam War and had been to Ho Chi Minh City when it was still Saigon. These days,he tried not to think much about the war. But in some ways,selling to this man seemed right.

“I had been to his town in Vietnam,and now he’s buying my town,” Sammons mused. “We’re both Buddhists. It’s brought me full circle.”

For now,Sammons will try to get used to waking up in the new home he bought in Windsor,near his son. But he plans on visiting Buford a few times a year—if for no other reason than to see how the place is holding up.

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