By: Randy Tucker
We met at the University of Wyoming back in the fall of 1977. Gino was a big Italian kid from upstate New York who found his way to Laramie after his freshman year playing football at the University of West Virginia.
He came to the Cowboy State because of a poster he’d noticed advertising hunting and fishing in Wyoming.
“I saw the mountains, the streams, the elk, and moose in the background and knew that was for me,” Gino said.
“I completed my degree in U.S. History, picked up a teaching endorsement and started to teach and coach football, basketball, and track at small high schools in Wyoming.”
Gino earned his degree in civil engineering, went to work for his family construction business initially, then set out on his own.
We kept in touch all those years, and he would come to Wyoming in the summer to go fishing and catch up on old times.
When we were college kids, I hunted ducks and geese with an Iver Johnson single shot 12 gauge shotgun. Gino brought a Beretta 12 gauge out west with him, and we had many memorable mornings and late afternoons shooting redheads, mallards, green, and blue winged teal off decoys set in the drainages of Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Hattie west of Laramie.
Gino tired of living in New York State. One summer he told me his house payment was $1100 a month, but his property taxes were $1,500 a month.
We don’t have that problem in Wyoming. Property values are high here, but taxes remain low.
Gino decided to look for a position in Wyoming and came out in late May one spring. Our annual gun show was opening that weekend.
Riverton, Wyoming has one of the biggest gun shows in the Rocky Mountain region over the Memorial Day weekend each year with hundreds of dealers and thousands of participants.
I took Gino to the gun show, and he was amazed.
He was looking for a an AR 15 in .308 caliber, and there were dozens, maybe hundreds of them available.
I asked him how he was going to pay for it, and he quietly slide a couple dozen hundred dollar bills from a pocket inside his jacket.
“That’ll work,” I laughed. “These guys love Benjamin Franklin.”
We found an AR he was interested in, and Gino and the dealer began to dicker on the price.
When they were finished, Gino gave him $1,500, and the dealer threw in three boxes of .308 ammo as a bonus to the sale.
As we left the dealers’ table, Gino leaned into me and asked, “They just sold me a semi-automatic weapon and 60 rounds of ammo. What if I loaded it and started firing?”
“Have you noticed that everybody here is packing?” I replied. “You’d be riddled in seconds, and I wouldn’t be able to get out of the way.”
“Good point,” Gino said.
I picked up a Ruger .22 from another dealer and we were through buying for the day.
We stopped for a phone call to the feds for a quick background check, and we were out the door in five minutes.
Gino was amazed at the entire transaction. Amazed at how smoothly it went, how easily he paid for any gun he wanted with cash, and how quickly we did business.
I reminded him that Wyoming is still one of those states where you’re largely free to do what you want, when you want – a vanishing example of what was once America.
Gino took a job in the small mountain town of Pinedale and hasn’t moved.
Randy Tucker is a retired history teacher and freelance writer from western Wyoming. He has a lifetime of experience in farming, ranching, hunting and fishing in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.