The Marlboro Man and me


At one time, this Wyoming man’s face was the most photographed image in the world.

Darrell Winfield, 85, the original Marlboro Man, died Jan. 12.  And now I can publish a column that I originally wrote in 2000.

I interviewed him at his ranch and then later called him to go over the facts.  He firmly told me, “No, you cannot publish that. You cannot write anything about me.  It is all owned by Marlboro,” he said.

So this column has sat there in my files for 15 years waiting for this day.  Here goes:

That face.  It is possible that this man’s face is the most photographed face in the modern world.  His face shines down from billboards and reflects from ads in magazines and newspapers worldwide.  It could be easily argued that the sun never sets on his image.

 Ands this man lives here in Fremont County, Wyoming.

 He is a quiet, laid back guy.  A horse trainer and horse trader.  And he’s one of us.  Just a local Fremont County guy who thinks this is the greatest place to live in the world.

For 22 years, Marlboro has used his image to portray the man’s man world portrayed by this cigarette.  He is Darrell Winfield and he lives on a nicely kept 40-acre spread six miles north of Riverton.

And he smokes Marlboros.

I hadn’t talked to Darrell for about 10 years.  The idea to go see him came up when our Irish reporter visitor, Kevin Magee, was wondering about what stories he could do here that he might be able to use back in Belfast.  When he lit up a Marlboro, I mentioned that the “Marlboro man” lived here.

“Nah, “ he replied,  “You’re kidding.” He continued to protest and said there really was no such person.

“Sure there is.  And he lives here in Fremont County,” I told him.

So the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we drove over to visit.  Darrell’s wife Lennie greeted us at the door.  A pleasant, warm woman, she ushered us into the house and offered us coffee.  Darrell was sitting back in an easy chair chewing the fat with his buddy Wilie LeClair. 

For someone who has had more than 100,000 photos taken of him, the most prominent shot of him on the wall in the den was a series of photos showing Winfield getting thrown from a horse during one sequence. 

When he laughs, he squints his eyes and that crinkled look comes to his face that has looked down on a billion people from Taiwan to Paris to Cairo. 

I mentioned that during a Wyoming tourism promotional trip to Taiwan in 1989 I had seen thousands of billboards around Taipei with his face on them. 

Then one of the photographers who often shoots the photos of Winfield walked into the room, Jack Ward of Philadelphia.

Ward said they would often have 300 36-shot rolls at the end of a shooting.  I suggested they measure the photos they took of Winfield in feet rather than shots.  Ward said it would be more appropriate to measure it in miles.  He says there are enough shots of the Riverton cowboy to stretch around the world.  And indeed, they do stretch around the world in the way Marlboro has promoted the image.

What kind of man is behind this image?

In the setting we saw him, Winfield is the ultimate family man. He and his wife Lennie have six kids and 11 grandkids.  He was planning annual trip the day after Thanksgiving to Rock Springs for a horse sale.  He always takes the boy grandkids on this trip as a weekend for the boys.  They love it, he says.  They go to the Outlaw Inn in Rock Springs and the kids can swim and they go out to eat at night.  He said his two young granddaughters have been clamoring to go along so finally Lennie will go, too, to watch the girls.

On the subject of his wife, Winfield, the old horse trainer, says he has been training her for 40 years.  “Ain’t got her trained, yet, though,” he laughed.  Lennie looked over and smiled at that remark and offered us more coffee.

With the sun slipping behind the hill, we decided to go outside and snap some shots.  Ward came along and helped take some pictures.  Darrell struck a classic pose and Kevin and I took turns being in photos with the original Marlboro Man.

Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at  He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written five books. His most recent book is “MY WYOMING 101 Special Places,” is now available for purchase.


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