Byron Tomingas is a superb storyteller.
He was born in 1947 in Jackson Hole and is known for creating Jackson’s first rock ’n’ roll band while a sophomore in high school. Here he shared with me a story about his brother, Henry, who ran small boat scenic and whitewater trips in the valley in the 1960s. Henry is credited for naming Kahuna and Lunch Counter on the Snake River.
Hallie, Byron and Henry’s mother, and Rellda Guest spent all night worrying about their sons, who had gone out boating the Saturday before their high school graduation party in 1962.
Henry Tomingas and Jimmy Guest were on Jackson Lake near Mount Moran when the boat started running badly, the result of water leeching into the gas that had sat all winter. A huge storm suddenly blew in over the Tetons as they sometimes do and the waves became enormous. The boys tried to get out but couldn’t buck the waves and had to give it up and sit on shore.
Soaked and ill-prepared to spend the night out, Henry recalled how they he’d picked up a pack of free matches earlier while they were picking up supplies from the store. Everything was soaking wet, but they finally got a fire going with the last of the matches. They continued working on the boat while taking breaks to huddle around the fire.
The Park Service kept trying to send a boat out but the water was too rough. About midnight they called Hallie to say they were suspending the search until the weather calmed down.
Henry and Jimmy got the boat running again, but it didn’t have any power. They bucked a couple of waves and paddled with frozen hands, but again the engine died and they drifted right back to the beach.
At 6 a.m. the phone rang. Hallie, at 96 years old, still remembers that walk to the phone. The Park Service said, “They are fine.”
Byron remembers how tense the others were as they worried about their sons. He still remembers their stiff movements and pale, drawn faces. Hallie had already faced the loss of her eldest son, and it was devastating.
In Rellda’s case, it was her last son. Her older boy, Johnny, was a sensational skier and a dangerous and fearless driver. One time, while driving over Teton Pass with a car full of passengers, a low tire caught fire. The tire — a tube tire with thick sidewalls — could still be used. He drove like he skied, pushing the limits, and had several wrecks. Johnny joined the Air Force and was based in Colorado. On leave he and four friends piled into his car to head over Berthoud Pass near Aspen. It was there he had his final car crash, which took them all.
Jimmy Guest was much like Johnny, fearless and reckless, which made him a champion skier and a dangerous driver. He once lost a slalom race that he should have won. He disappeared right by the trees and it turned out that he was pasted to one of them. He lost his two front teeth. He had a car crash near Pinedale that took a friend’s life. And Byron remembers a bunch of kids water skiing on Jackson Lake into the dark a night there was a big bonfire on the beach. Out of the darkness there was a crash. Jimmy was coming in with his boat, traveling up the gravel beach at Catholic Bay. He came zooming full throttle; kids scattered, and the boat screamed and slid all the way up to the fire. He casually reached over, shut off the engine and said, “Anybody got another beer?”
I knew Rellda Guest well. She was what you would call a real lady: soft spoken and very kind. She worked at The Wort for many years, an essential like Wilma Taylor, Steve Bartek and Bob Tomingas.
Both Henry and Jimmy went to the University of Wyoming and graduated. Jimmy was a member of the UW ski team. Jimmy became a teacher in Pinedale, married and had children. In his 60s he was walking down a path and had a massive heart attack that took him. Henry lives in Alaska and still likes to visit his hometown of Jackson.
Visits, celebrations and send
A belated Happy Birthday to Cindy Divan King, who just celebrated her 65th. Her husband, Rolf Belden, prepared a scrumptious dinner for family and friends. He even baked a cake in honor of the occasion. Cindy and her two brothers have sold their business, JB Mechanical, and are now retired. Good luck to Cindy as she begins another chapter of her life.
Sisters Cindy Knight and Kathy Cottam are in the process of selling their home and will moving to the Shenandoah Valley in the near future. They both have sons in that area and want to live closer to them. Cindy is the former director of Teton Youth and Family Services, and Kathy was a registered nurse at St. John’s Living Center. This is a big move for the two Wyoming natives.
Former Jackson residents Nancy and Bob Jaycox were in town last week visiting friends. The Jaycoxes are the original owners of McDonald’s in Jackson. They winter in Florida and summer in North Carolina. I enjoyed a telephone conversation with Nancy and found that they are both doing well.