With Easter only a few days away, it seems fitting that Jesus is making an appearance for everyone to experience. The Chapel at the Usuline Academy in New Orleans, Louisiana has a welcomed visitor in the form of a shadow some say is an image of Jesus bearing a crown of thorns.
An auction and $900,000 later, the self-proclaimed smallest town in the United States — that's Buford, Wyo. — has a new owner.
Buford is a small place for sure, but so is the world.
A remote, unincorporated area along busy Interstate 80, Buford was sold at auction for $900,000 on Thursday to an unidentified man from Vietnam.
Its owner for the last 20 years, Don Sammons, served with the U.S. Army as a radio operator in 1968-69.
After meeting the buyer, an emotional Sammons said it was hard for him to grasp the irony of the situation.
"I think it's funny how things come full circle," he said.
The buyer attended the auction in person but declined to meet with the media or to be identified. Sammons and others involved in the auction would not discuss the buyer's plans for Buford.
It will take about 30 days for all the paperwork to be completed before ownership of the place located almost equidistant between Cheyenne and Laramie in southeast Wyoming changes hands, Sammons said.
The new owner will get a gas station and convenience store, a schoolhouse from 1905, a cabin, a garage, 10 acres, and a three-bedroom home at 8,000 feet altitude — overlooking the trucks and cars on the nearby interstate on one side and the distant snowcapped mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado on the other.
The town traces its origins to the 1860s and the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. Buford had as many as 2,000 residents before the railroad was rerouted.
Sammons, who moved to the Buford area about 30 years ago from Los Angeles to get away from the busy city life, bought the trading post on Jan. 31, 1992. He plans to retire from his unofficial title as "mayor" and write a book about his experiences in Buford, he said.
"I felt my time here has been very happy for me, and hopefully the new owner will be able to enjoy what I've enjoyed over the years — conversations with people, the uniqueness of the area and so on — and keep the history alive," Sammons said.
As workers boarded up the windows of the convenience store behind her, Rozetta Weston, a broker with a Cheyenne real estate auction company that represented the buyer, said the buyer was excited to own a "piece of the United States." But she declined to discuss the buyer's future plans for Buford.
Weston said the buyer and a companion arrived in Wyoming — their first trip to the United States — on Monday, touring Cheyenne and the University of Wyoming at Laramie before the auction.
Williams & Williams Co. of Tulsa, Okla., conducted the auction on a sunny, windy day outside the trading post, which has been closed since Dec. 31. The number of bidders was not released.
Dozens of people, including some of the 125 residents who live in remote areas and get their mail at the outdoor post office boxes on the property, showed up for the event. Officials with Williams & Williams stood out in their business suits among the locals dressed in jeans and western attire.
Inside the convenience store, most of the candy, snacks, pop, beer and all the Marlboro cigarettes had been sold off already. Bags of charcoal, whistles made from animal antlers and dozens of T-shirts proclaiming Buford as the smallest town in the United States remained unsold.
Wearing a weather beaten cowboy hat, Gary Crawford, who lives about 4.5 miles northeast of the trading post — "Post Office Box 7" — said the trading post is important to the surrounding residents who mostly live on widely scattered ranches.
"At different times, this has been a community gathering place where you caught up with your neighbors and shoot the breeze, learn what's going on, who is around," Crawford said.
He looked forward to meeting the new owner.
"I think we may have very nice, new neighbors," he said.