It’s not unusual to live without a car in New York or Chicago, easy to do in Boston or Minneapolis, and takes special planning to manage in Portland, ME or Milwaukee. But Tom Wann lives carless in Cheyenne WY, which makes him unique indeed. Interestingly, Tom doesn’t live downtown, which, like so many smaller cities relies on funk rather than essentials to drive its economy. Tom lives three miles away from Depot Square, in a ranch house on a suburban street that he selected because it’s three miles to his office at Blue Cross of Wyoming, and a block away from a strip center with an Albertson’s, a few eateries, and a decent bar. His two-car garage has three bikes in it plus a bike trailer that he uses on big shopping days.
Aside from not owning a car, Tom is a true representative of what I think of as the American West. He has clear, well-reasoned ideas about how we ought to do things unmuddied by ideology or the distracting opinions of people who live too close to one another.
Taxes: charge everyone 10% on every purchase, income, and property. Split it 50/50 between the state and the feds. Have an election every year and let people vote how to allocate their tax money. Let them vote on more for highways, more for education, less for defense.
Gun Control: Create a rigorous educational and registration program for anyone who wants to own and carry a gun. Tom figures it will take about 40 hours of training in gun handling and maintenance, psychological tests, and firearm safety. Make people pay a fee for the training and registration. Once passed, they can carry any weapon anywhere except where there are armed personnel guards (like the White House). This will stop the crazy pattern of people going on shooting sprees in places where they know others will be unarmed, like schools and churches. If psychotics know that trained, armed people are everywhere, they will stop killing.
Tom’s ideas are consistently fresh and often bold, but not half-baked. He’s a well-considered college graduate, eleven-year Army veteran, a Master Sergeant in the Special Forces who served three tours in Iraq. He even applies his straightforward honesty to himself. After leaving the Army and finishing his Bachelor’s in Computer Animation, Tom was unemployed for months before he landed a job as a Security Guard. “The problem with Vets is that we think so highly of ourselves. We have all these great skills, combat skills, readiness skills; but we can’t adjust to civilian life and our skills aren’t easy to transfer. That’s why so many turn to drugs or alcohol or have mental issues. I just faced reality and became a security guard.”
Tom eventually landed a career-path position on the IT staff of Blue Cross of Wyoming. He eyes shine when he describes the automation potential. “I like technology. I get excited about technology. I get TOO excited about technology. The people I work with are, like, ‘I don’t know how to use computers,’ and I’m like, fellow, computers have been around for sixty years, its time to get on board.”
Tom’s mother moved her daughter and son from outside Baltimore to Good Rock WY when Tom was nine. Aside from his time in the military, Tom’s spent most of his time since then in Wyoming and Colorado. More than a year ago, Tom and his wife split up. That’s when he decided to buy his house, sell his car, and get more involved in cycling. “I ride to work every day. The faster I ride the better I feel. One day I left work really mad; I rode home in 10 minutes 23 seconds. I felt great when I walked in the door.”
Cheyenne’s cycling community has become one of Tom’s main social outlets: group rides, charity events, and social evenings. It has been a good community while Tom continues to adjust to being single. “I never really wanted to have kids, so when I was 25 I did the V-thing. The dating scene for a 33-year-old atheist with no car who doesn’t want kids is pretty limited in Christian Wyoming.” Tom laughs when he says this, as if he doesn’t really believe it. I sure don’t.
How will we live tomorrow?
“I would like to think that we are going to make the world better for others, if not for ourselves.”