Sweetwater

Welcome to Sweetwater County, Wyoming. You’re looking at 10,500 square miles of deer and antelope playing. Where seldom is heard any cell phone reception. This is God’s country.

Sweetwater lies nestled between Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, clinging to the underbelly of the Cowboy State like a bloated tick. This is some of the most magnificent terrain in the Union.

This isn’t a county you hear talked about often, and with good reason. There’s nothing here. The county itself is larger than nine U.S. states, but the population is barely big enough to form a Methodist choir.

Wild horses thrive in Sweetwater. About 1,500 of them roam across the high desert, cantering among the greasewood, the pepperweed, and the pink hopsage. This is an extremely remote region. In a dire emergency, you’d be hard pressed to find a TJ Maxx.

A few days ago, Ryan was late for work, driving among the miles of sagebrush along Highway 374 when he saw something that caught his eye.

There in the distance, nestled beneath the shadow of a large rock butte, was an olive-drab house. It was a modest home, with children’s toys littering the lawn—that is, if you can call a bunch of dirt a “lawn.”

Ryan saw flames shooting from the windows.

His truck skidded to a stop. He glanced around but saw no emergency lightbars, and heard no sirens.

This is Wyoming. Emergency response time in the Forty-Fourth Sate is not speedy. In most U.S. states, the average emergency response time is 15 minutes, which is about the time it takes to defrost a frozen burrito. Wyoming’s statewide response time, however, is upwards of 35 minutes.

Ryan did not waste time. He hit the brakes, then leapt out of his truck, and approached the two kids standing in the driveway. They were small children, both under age 10. Both scared spitless. Their faces were red from the sub-zero windchills, their eyes bloodshot with panic.

He asked the kids whether anyone was inside the home. The kids, immobilized by fright, nodded their heads. They said something to the tune of: “Our mama and brother are inside.”

Ryan glanced at the house. Pillars of fire were erupting from the kitchen.

The first thing you should know about Ryan Pasborg is that he used to be a firefighter over in Superior (pop. 211). This was not his first saddle bronc ride, he had been trained for this sort of thing.

Still, there is one quality that no amount of technical training at the fire academy can provide, and that is uncommon courage. You either have it or your don’t.

Currently, there are 1,216,200 working firefighters in the U.S., and 745,000 of those men and women are volunteers who work crummy hours. Volunteers do this for free, mind you. Together they protect 68 percent of the U.S. population.

Simply put, if you’ve ever wanted to see uncommon courage, visit your local fire brigade.

Ryan sprinted into the flaming house.

“He didn’t have time to think,” Deputy Jason Mower later told KSTU 13. “He knew what he thought was the right thing to do and he acted.”

Ryan crashed inside, dropped to all fours, and crawled through a world of brown smoke and ash. Visibility was nil. Breathing was impossible. Ryan was working blind, and his lungs were immediately burning.

He commando-crawled into the kitchen, shouting, but getting no response.

“Hello!”

He bumped into limp the body of a 4-year-old. He carried the child outside, and placed the boy into his truck with the other siblings. Then, because Ryan hadn’t had enough fun yet, he plunged into the inferno again, looking for Mama.

He found her. She was in rough shape. The young woman was severely burned, struggling for air.

Ryan dragged the woman outside into the biting Wyoming frost. She had already quit breathing, so he began chest compressions.

Meantime, the woman’s children were watching Ryan from behind his windshield, their eyes widened with horror, their cheeks slick with tears. Who was this guy? Who was this perfect stranger, breaking their mother’s ribs with his bare hands, performing mouth-to-mouth?

The woman finally breathed. It was almost miraculous the way her abdomen instantly tightened and her ribcage expanded. She pulled in a sudden gasp of air and her eyes opened.

When the calvary arrived, Sweetwater’s first responders found a 32-year-old man, painted in black soot, hacking and coughing, carrying a badly burned woman in his arms.

Ryan Pasborg. A passerby. Just some guy on his way to work one morning.

Lightbars flickered to life and filled the air with red and blue. Sirens whined. Tires screeched. Mother and child were both flown to the University of Utah to be treated for burns. They are not out of the woods yet, but they are alive.

“People like Ryan,” said Deputy Mower, “are a testament to the overwhelming power and strength of a community that we are so fortunate to share with one another as friends and neighbors here in Sweetwater County.”

God’s country.

47 comments

  1. Susan H Poole - February 7, 2022 9:50 am

    I’m just about speechless with awe and raw emotion at your story, Sean. God is always near. And He sent this hero Ryan to the rescue in Sweetwater County.🙌

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  2. Anne Arthur - February 7, 2022 10:11 am

    Wow!! God bless Ryan, a hero.

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  3. Alison Baird - February 7, 2022 11:53 am

    Sean, thank you for encouraging me in my weakness. This pandemic is beginning to wear on me. Panic attacks, tears, the whole nine yards. Thank you for strengthening my faith and helping me feel less alone.

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  4. Carolyn Kelley - February 7, 2022 12:11 pm

    Thank God for our hero’s who so often are over looked.

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  5. Suellen Dehnke - February 7, 2022 1:23 pm

    God bless all the firefighters and first responders.

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  6. April - February 7, 2022 1:26 pm

    We need to recognize more heroes. Thankyou Sean.

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  7. Jan - February 7, 2022 1:34 pm

    God bless Ryan and all the other brave men and women who put other people first and risk their lives daily to save others. Thank you to each and every one!

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  8. Paul McCutchen - February 7, 2022 1:36 pm

    Sometime you find out what you were put on Earth to do. Sometimes it is to save a family.

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  9. dianakinser55 - February 7, 2022 1:39 pm

    I read that Ryan also bought several hundred dollars worth of clothing and necessities for the family, too. Praying for that young mama to make it! Thank God for heroes like Ryan.

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  10. Cathy M - February 7, 2022 1:47 pm

    There are hero’s everywhere and Ryan is just that. I pray for the mother and child’s healing and recovery. I pray also that what Ryan did encourages others to step out and help our fellow man. The world may be upside down but there are still great people everywhere. Thank you Sean, for inspiring all of us to help others when given the opportunity. I am ready to make a pound cake when you and Jaimie find a home in our fair city. Y’all are going to love it!

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  11. Constance Owens - February 7, 2022 2:01 pm

    Some mornings, Sean, I skip over your blog post. Forgive me for that. Just know, it is not because I don’t want to read it. No, it depends on whether I feel like crying or not. Because, by golly, I cry when I read most of your posts. Today’s was no exception. I love firefighters. I have them in my family. My nephew is a retired fire chief in South Carolina. And his son was a firefighter for many years. Today, I didn’t mind crying. Although the title of the post didn’t give me a warning. I am touched by your writing every day. And, by the way, I don’t have a problem with you moving to Alabama. I lived in Montgomery for one year back when my husband attended officer’s school at the military base. I’ve been to Birmingham, too. Beautiful city, in my opinion. Alabama is a beautiful state. Rolling hills in the most unexpected places. So, I think it is a beautiful gesture that you are moving to Birmingham to fulfill your wife’s dream. You’ll never regret it. Making your partner’s dreams come true is a gift to both of you. So, enjoy it. You’ll see the gift on your wife’s face every morning.

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  12. NancyB. - February 7, 2022 2:12 pm

    Thank you, Ryan! Your heroic actions (hopefully) saved a family. Thank you to all First Responders whose heroic actions save people every hour of every day. My respect and admiration for the jobs you do!

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  13. Barbara - February 7, 2022 2:23 pm

    God is good, He provides to care for His children,

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  14. Martha - February 7, 2022 2:32 pm

    Amazing! What a blessing.

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  15. Gayle Wilson - February 7, 2022 2:35 pm

    Sean, God bless Ryan Pasborg, God bless ALL firefighters, EMTS, first responders and the list goes on, and God bless you for sharing this story with us. There is always light if we look for it. Ryan Pasborg was the light for this young woman and her children.

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  16. Shelton A. - February 7, 2022 2:40 pm

    God bless you and thank you, Ryan. You are a hero and an example to us all. Lord, be with the children and their mother. Reunite them as a family and let them live in peace. I hope they can have a reunion with Ryan under much better circumstances. Thanks for sharing, Sean. We may not be be called to run into a burning home, but let us all live in love with courage of Ryan. Blessings and peace.

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  17. Willie37 - February 7, 2022 2:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Sean. Bless the Fire Fighters and EMTs everywhere.

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  18. Farris Jones - February 7, 2022 2:46 pm

    Thank you Ryan , you were one of God’s angels that day!!! Praying many blessings and speedy recovery on this family!

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  19. Charlotte Virginia McCraw - February 7, 2022 3:03 pm

    WOW. Just WOW!! Your words are, of course, as smooth as silk, full of truth and emotion and humor. And, my eyes teared up at the thought of the tremendous courage of this young man who saved a family. I hope in Sweetwater County, he is applauded by everyone for the hero he most definitely is.

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  20. BrienC - February 7, 2022 3:22 pm

    Sean, I read your stories every morning. And I always love them. They are the uplifting we need in a world full of noise designed to wear us down. That said, I have a pet peeve: The life-saving techniques of CPR are never accurately portrayed in script. As someone who has been to CPR training every few years for the last four decades I cringe when I see it acted out on TV or in film. If someone is not breathing, it doesn’t mean their heart has stopped – yet. I don’t know all the facts here, but if you had added Ryan checked for a pulse before beginning chest compressions, I’d being much happier. Love your stuff. BrienC

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  21. Bkr - February 7, 2022 3:26 pm

    Wow. This made me cry … my husband used to to be the chief of a small town volunteer fire Dept. He and all the great guys that would drop what they were doing when they got dispatched were truly servants. Thank you for this story.

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  22. Patricia Gibson - February 7, 2022 3:39 pm

    Having graduated from my own state fire academy, I know what it took for Bryan to be so courageous. God bless all our heroes and prayers for that family.

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  23. Steven Riss - February 7, 2022 3:52 pm

    I have commented before to your wonderful column Sean. I am from Wyoming and I would like to tell your beautiful followers a little story about Wyoming. I drove from Newcastle Wyoming To Upton Wyoming a distance of 25 miles. I encountered a total of a 5 car traffic jam in that distance. All at about 5 miles apart. All 5 drivers waved at me going 70 mph. Somehow when you live farther apart you are somehow closer. We need to be watchful of each other. Love to you and Jamie from Wyo. In your new home. We will be watching out for you even if there is a big distance between us.

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  24. Susan W Fitch - February 7, 2022 3:53 pm

    Double WOW! Thanks for sharing this!!!!!

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  25. Bonnie Vandercook - February 7, 2022 4:28 pm

    I make a concerted effort to walk up to vets, firefighters, and police personnel to thank them for their service. I can not tell you how many times my words are met with looks of total surprise, especially here in Portland, Oregon. Before Covid, I would shake their hands. I don’t believe that many know how very grateful citizens truly are. Times have been rough here for people in these professions and not just because of Covid. One thing I am really amazed by is the fact you cannot buy them a simple cup of coffee. It is not allowed. So, I will continue to give them my verbal thanks. It is free, but it has a beautiful effect on their faces. God made sure this young man was right where he should be with the knowledge he needed. But more importantly, the courage to do the right thing. As it has been said, most of us would run from such danger. They run towards it. God bless them all.

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  26. DAVID A WILSON - February 7, 2022 5:07 pm

    GREAT story; best I have read in a while!

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  27. AlaRedClayGirl - February 7, 2022 5:24 pm

    This guy is a hero. Too many think actors, singers, football players, etc are the ones to emulate. Nope, it’s people like Ryan here. Explain this to your children and grandchildren. God bless our first responders!

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  28. Tom Wallin - February 7, 2022 5:37 pm

    Awesome. Way to go Ryan. You are a true hero!

    Reply
  29. Pingback: Sean of the South: Sweetwater | The Trussville Tribune

  30. Frances - February 7, 2022 6:00 pm

    “What if God was one of us, just a guy you’d meet on the bus?”– Jars of Clay
    Thank you, God, for your presence among us! Thank you, Sean, for reminding us!

    Reply
  31. Linda Moon - February 7, 2022 6:37 pm

    The high desert has often been God’s country for My Guy and me. Ryan Pasborg is a hero up there where God lives. And you are a Godsend for us readers who are grateful for people like Ryan and for a writer who reminds us that God shows up in most unexpected ways.

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  32. Bobby - February 7, 2022 6:48 pm

    Amen brother!

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  33. Joy Dollar - February 7, 2022 7:08 pm

    Praying they are ok! And thanking God for Ryan!!!!

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  34. Pat - February 7, 2022 7:15 pm

    So glad that you’re back in excellent form! Missed you for a couple of days. Hope that it was vacation time. Your blog starts my day with a smile (sometimes a tear!). Prayer going up from Olympia, WA, that Mom and son recover. It will be difficult, though. Retired RN speaking. Blessings for your day!

    Reply
  35. Chasity Davis Ritter - February 7, 2022 7:43 pm

    God bless the fire fighters and all the other kinds of first responders out there. The Bible says no greater love than that a man would give his life for a friend and so many of these first responders do just that. I attended a Funeral last week for my best friends uncle who was a firefighter for 36 years. I had never seen anything quite like it and the “Last call” given to him from the fire department. So many firefighters there paying their respects and shedding tears for their fallen brother. Thank you Lord for those that give more than others. For those that are so much like you. God bless this man that kept a tragedy from becoming more to the two little kids standing scared in their driveway. Thank you Lord for those angels who walk among us just doing their jobs 🙏

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  36. Stacey Wallace - February 7, 2022 7:52 pm

    May God bless Ryan and heal mother and child. Thanks, Sean!

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  37. Karen - February 7, 2022 7:52 pm

    Ryan is a hero. He represents the best in our country. I am praying for this family as they recover.

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  38. MAM - February 7, 2022 9:08 pm

    Everyone who reads this is praying for the family’s recovery and especially that the mother recovers well. It won’t be easy, but she certainly has God on her side. Ryan was the angel God sent to her and her kids. And Wyoming is a wonderful state. Met my husband there, married there and our first child was born there. And I’m glad people still wave as you drive by. If it just weren’t quite as cold, we might have retired there.

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  39. Barbara West - February 8, 2022 2:11 am

    Dear Sean – I really enjoy your column! Today (Feb 7) you talked about Sweetwater County which is where I was born. I thought I’d mention that Sweetwater County is not near the Tetons – it is in southern Wyoming! It’s funny how people get around these days. I moved from Rock Springs to Lander Wyoming, then to Santa Rosa, California and at age 48 to Greenville SC. My husband and I retired in Hiawassee, Georgia and just bought a beach place in Bradenton, Florida.

    Anyhow, we LOVE keeping up with your column which we just learned about a year ago. Blessings to you!

    Reply
  40. Haynes - February 8, 2022 2:30 am

    God is wonderful and Ryan was at that date and time God’s hands and feet. Please give us a follow up on this one

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  41. Ann Marie Bouchet - February 8, 2022 4:06 am

    Thank God for Ryan Pasborg…..and thank God for Sean Dietrich for celebrating the bravery of Ryan Pasborg

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  42. Debbie g - February 8, 2022 7:00 am

    Amen Ann Marie.
    Love you Sean and Jamie and love to us all
    Let’s keep passing love around

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  43. Joe Call - February 8, 2022 8:46 pm

    Sean, I love your stories, especially those about those who truly go the extra mile to save others in so many different ways.

    However.

    Please consult a road map (even Google Maps) from time to time. Sweetwater County ain’t nowhere near Yellowstone or the Grand Teton.

    Reply
  44. Leslie J. Hanson - February 9, 2022 4:06 am

    Your essays and commentaries always leave me with the knowledge that amongst all the negativity we are bombarded with daily there is inevitably the God’s goodness in man abounds. Thank you for always providing thought provoking, beautifully written positive inspiration.

    Reply
  45. kbavousetKaren Bavouset - February 11, 2022 8:10 pm

    Dear Sean, this was the most touching story and thank God for Ryan Pasborg. God was surely with him as he rescued this Mom and child. He was an angel in disguise. There are so many Ryans in this world that never get noticed and I am so glad you took the time to share this with us.

    Reply
  46. Mary Lee Coley - February 13, 2022 2:40 pm

    Three simple words…Love, Love, Love.

    Wonderful story. Love is a powerful thing and this man is filled with it. Thank you to him and thank you for reminding us that love is still alive and well wherever we might be.

    Reply
  47. Carolyn - February 14, 2022 12:31 am

    Thanks, Sean, shows the awesome people who aren’t always recgnized!

    Reply

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