Bayard Fox

Bayard F0x

Nearly everybody in town knows that Bayard Fox used to work for the CIA, and in his spare time (such as it is) he has been working on a memoir about it. But he spends most of his working hours today running his ranch and managing the websites for his business, Equitours. The company’s customers travel to Italy, Botswana, Australia, India, Belize, and many other countries on 6 continents, for horseback riding excursions–all arranged from a bungalow on the western edge of Dubois.

“We’re by far the largest in this business,” he says. “But it’s a niche business.”

Equitours is also the only equine travel agency that runs its own riding operation on the side, which is at Fox’s Bitterroot Ranch, 26 miles to the east of town. One advantage of this arrangement is that Fox can personally keep in touch with his customer base by taking rides with the guests. This way he can keep his fingers on the pulse of both Americans who want to ride horses in an exotic location overseas, and visitors from overseas who want to ride horses in the real West.

The ranch keeps 200 horses and also some Black Angus and Highland cattle. “With the vacation business the way it is right now,” he admits, “it’s damn nice to have a little income from the beef.”

They say that everybody in Dubois has a back story, but Fox’s tops most of them for adventure. Even his summer jobs during college were extraordinary: He worked as a seaman, as a forest fire fighter, and as a longshoreman in Alaska. After graduating from Yale, he lived and worked in Europe and Africa, and later set up a langouste fishing business in the Solomon Islands. (This happened after he was badly injured in a horseback riding accident while working for the CIA in Iran. He couldn’t walk, but he could dive for the fish.)

Of all places on earth (and Fox knows many of them), why settle for good in Dubois?

“Montana’s nice, but it’s a bit more populated,” he replied. “I like this place politically and economically. You can be freer here than anywhere in the world.” East Africa used to be like that, he added—for whites. “I like the wildness of the country. I love the climate. The existence suits me really well.”

Fox bought Bitterroot Ranch in 1971, tipped off by a relative who lives in the area. Initially the ranch operated as a wilderness hunting camp, and later he added a guest ranch serving primarily international visitors. The idea of twinning the business with an international equine travel agency came to his wife Mel (whom Fox met when she worked as a wrangler at Bitterroot). They founded Equitours in 1978.

Mel had many contacts in Kenya, where she grew up, and she was eager for a reason to return. After all his travels, Fox had his own contacts in many other countries.

“The idea appealed to me,” Fox says. “It seemed like a great way to make money in the winter” when the action on a Wyoming guest ranch are grinds to a halt in many feet of snow.

For the first five years, the couple accompanied guests on overseas tours. As a result, Fox can write compellingly about the advantages of touring a foreign land on horseback. “Horses and horseback riding are deeply woven into the culture and history of most cultures,” reads an article on Equitours’ website. “This is how our ancestors travel, and for those with a sense of history there is no more appropriate way to go… Horses are a great introduction and ice breaker almost anywhere.”

These days, he and Mel stay closer to home, except for one month-long trip to escape part of the hard winter. “It’s not everybody’s cup of tea to spend the whole winter here,” Fox says. “After the end of December, the place is not hopping until the end of April.”

Speaking as the search engine optimizer for the content of his websites, however, Fox maintains that Dubois is just as good a place as anywhere else for an online business, and better than some. He has one consultant in Michigan and is about to engage another in North Carolina.

“I think 90% of the stuff you need to do you can do by phone and email, remotely,” he says. “The bottom line is, I don’t see a hell of a lot of difference between here and New York City.” Except, perhaps, that there may be more service outages in the city, where he wouldn’t be able to enhance his consumer relations by riding with his guests.

He hastens to add that there are some “handicaps” to operating Equitours out of Dubois. If something goes wrong with a computer, the nearest repair service is an hour away. Travel can be cumbersome, especially in winter when the Togwotee Pass between Dubois and the Jackson airport may be closed by a storm.  Anyone who needs to commute regularly from Dubois will face challenges, especially in the winter.

In order to be happy in Dubois, he goes on, “if you have much intellect, you need a lot of independence of spirit. And you need to be able to amuse yourself without a lot of company.”

For such times, Bayard Fox recommends reading and writing. In fact, it’s probably the ideal circumstance in which to finish your memoir about the CIA.

Wind River Country, by Bayard Fox with photographer Claude Poulet, Fremont County Press, 2009. “A true love and passion for the land, the place, and its people are evident on every page,” wrote a reviewer for the Billings (Montana) Gazette.
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Mary Lou Petty

Getting to know Dubois is like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. The people who make their homes here are unusually unique and individual. Many of them are artistic, or if they aren’t already, they tend to become so. The setting–the incredible geography and scenery, nestled between two mountain ranges, and the plethora of wildlife–draws artists and creative folk from far and away. For some others, it draws out the artist inside.

One such individual is Mary Lou Petty, a psychotherapist turned jewelry artist who has relocated from Chicago to Dubois. What could be the appeal of Dubois for such an accomplished professional?

“I love the generous spirit of the Dubois community,” she said. “I originally came to Dubois with my husband to fly fish and camp, 20-plus years ago. Five years ago we became part-time residents. I was still doing psychotherapy in Chicago, but gradually began thinking of moving to Dubois.”

First she considered opening a practice, but gradually she realized she would be the only mental health professional in town. “I was too used to an urban practice with support and backup from colleagues,” Petty explains. “When I retired from my Chicago practice in September 2007, I decided I would volunteer and express my need to be of help here in Dubois through the Community Food Bank, the Salvation Army Extension Unit, and other charitable activities.”  But one thing led to entirely another.

She had taken silversmithing/lapidary classes from a teacher in Chicago, and in Dubois Petty followed with a class called Jewelry Making with Precious Metal Clay, from Marlyn Hindoman who lives in nearby Crowheart, just over the border in the Wind River Reservation.

“Both of those teachers inspired confidence to go off on my own and explore materials and designs,” Petty says. “Some designs work; some don’t.  But that is how I learn.”

Her whimsical wildlife carvings with the rustic mountains are anything but realistic, but they’re fun.  Dubois is also known for the petroglyphs and fly-fishing, so these end up as subjects of her designs as well.

“Being surrounded by mountains and abundant wildlife inspires my work,” she says. “The Wind River runs not too far from our house and the surrounding area is known as the Valley of the Warm Winds.  Thus, the name: Warm Winds Designs.”

Living in the most remote town in the lower 48 can make sourcing “a chore,” Petty admits, so she feels fortunate to be able to get her supplies through the Internet. (Yes, Federal Express and UPS deliver to Dubois, and there is a post office in town.) Her first suggestion to anyone considering a relocation to Dubois with the intention of telecommuting: “It would be easiest if they were already established in their craft.”

Mary Lou markets her jewelry line both in a few local retail outlets and online via her website. It’s also for sale in Dubois at the Dubois Museum Shop, the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center, and the Tickled Trout Gallery.

Petty’s goal is to have a new design for her collection every year. Her hobby- turned-craft isn’t quite enough  to make a living yet, but Mary Lou’s intention is to “have fun, and keep my brain active,” and to make enough money for a nice trip every year.

Next:  A home exchange for a Paris apartment and a house outside Ferrara, Italy.

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Rick Collignon

As the owner of Recreational Resources LLC of Dubois, Rick Collignon putters away all day on his computer, fax and cell phone. What the folks on the other end of the line didn’t realize during a recent conference call was that Rick was on horseback at the time, at an altitude of around 10,000 feet in the Fitzpatrick Wilderness.

This avid outdoorsman has the best of both worlds. He spends his free time fishing, hiking, and hunting in the Wind River Valley of Wyoming–and his work time as a consultant to the Fish and Game Department for a different state, South Dakota.

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Rick Collignon is a great example of how the Internet, with its access to incredible amounts of information, has opened opportunities for anyone to succeed as a consultant from almost anywhere.  He has a contagious love for the Dubois area and for all of its outdoor offerings, paired with an insight into telecommuting that’s both realistic and informative.

“Telecommuting requires a certain type of person to be successful,” says Rick, “a tremendous amount of self-discipline and drive, good organizational skills, and the ability to work alone a vast majority of the time.”

As with any job, you must make your work time accommodate your clients’ hours, so you can find yourself talking to DC in the early AM and the west coast late into the evening. It’s also about your creativity and your ability to not only think outside the box, says Rick, but also how to create a marketable product. You’re selling yourself when you are self-employed. What can you offer that beats the next guy?

Another important key factor is to maintain your network of business relationships. They are key to insure you’re in the right place at the right time.

The Right Place

Another key to successful telecommuting is to place yourself in an area–be it city or country, mountains or beach–where you’ll have the most productive mind-set. If your thoughts can’t maintain focus in the city, then perhaps solitude is the key.

It certainly has been for Rick. After months of hard work (predominantly over the phone or email), he successfully negotiated the Missouri River Land Transfer for the State of South Dakota. His success enabled Rick and his wife to purchase the KOA campground in Dubois and revamp the facility–something they are both enjoying.

“Dubois is one of those places,” he says, “where a consultant has all the quality access and communication links to the world through the Web needed to successfully compete in today’s markets, while providing an outstanding life space which stimulates those invaluable creative talents needed to excel in this line of work.”

The cost of living is low, the quality of life high. What more could you possibly want?

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Why Neversweat?

Today, they call it Dubois (pronounced Doo-boys, not Du-bwah), Wyoming, officially the most remote town in the lower 48. It’s the place that many of us could not stop returning to after our first visit, where we eventually decided to make our homes.

The first non-native American settlers here, trappers and lumberjacks, wanted to name the town Never Sweat, after its relatively mild weather and dry winds. They weren’t allowed to keep the name legally, but it persists in the area anyway in the names of clubs, sports teams, and businesses.

To us, the term NeverSweat represents a way of life. A solid day’s work at our chosen professions, surrounded by some of the most spectacular landscape anywhere. The company of many others who enjoy and accept us for who we are, not for who they think we ought to be. The recreation or relaxation in an environment that never fails to renew our spirits as well as our bodies.

Dubois Main Street

It’s time to share this gem of a location with others. Look here for stories of a diversity of individuals (and we are all individuals in Dubois) who chose to settle here when they could have followed their professions almost anywhere.

What lured us here? The great, wild terrain, of course, and the variety of gratifying ways to explore it in our spare time. The top-notch Internet connection, thanks to one of the first and best fiberoptic networks in the West. The low cost of living and low taxes. The restaurants, and the places to find a latte in the dead of winter. The proximity to Yellowstone and Jackson Hole but also, mercifully, the distance from both. And, of course, the people.

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