Back in Big Sky
Sergeant Daniel Haydon on the path to supervising the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office Canyon Section
Sergeant Daniel “Dan” Haydon, Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Office, Canyon Section is clearly and admittedly uncomfortable talking about himself. He would rather discuss his wife Laurren, his admiration for the seven diverse deputies he supervises, his dog Sylvie (named after Sylvan Lake in Yellowstone) or some of the old school Big Sky stories he has heard courtesy of Sam “South Face Sammy” Wilson.
Showcased behind him during the interview were the maps that show the full expanse of the sheriff ’s office canyon section jurisdiction – a tremendous responsibility.
“We cover, essentially, from Spanish Creek to the end of Gallatin County,” he said. It is a massive area and something he said is only made possible by the deputies. The beauty of the sheriff ’s office is that deputies receive training for other areas. One is on the clandestine laboratory team, another is a canine officer, there are defensive tactics instructors and firearms instructors. All of them are coordinators for Gallatin County Sheriff 's Search and Rescue. They get to learn different skills and bring them back to Big Sky.
Haydon has always appreciated the diversity of the job.
“That is something I really love about the sheriff ’s office. I get to wear a lot of different hats and help the community in so many different ways,” he said.
He could have never predicted as a career path, but he is happy. In fact, if there were an alternate world or if he could live his life over again, he says he would not do anything differently.
“I wouldn’t change a thing. I feel like I am exactly where I want to be for me and for my family and for the community. I couldn’t have planned it but I couldn’t be more pleased,” he said.
He was working as an EMT for an ambulance company in Iowa when he started applying for jobs as a law enforcement park ranger. Yellowstone National Park (YNP) got back to him.
“I turned in my two weeks notice, fit everything in my truck and drove, without ever being out here. I had no expectations,” he said. He took to the job, appreciating the interactions with people and the opportunities to use different skills.
While proud to be from Ames, Iowa he realized when he hit YNP that he was meant for the west and has embraced many western outdoor hobbies like backcountry skiing and hiking. Yellowstone is a remarkable place. He remembers pulling his car over to the side of the road the first time he saw bison. Pausing to admire, he was floored by their fierce size and magnificence. He tries to recall that feeling when he gets stuck in a bison traffic jam caused by tourists when he now visits YNP.
Haydon transitioned to the sheriff ’s office after meeting his wife, who was raised in Big Sky and was even present for the iconic and infamous days of the Black Bear.
Life took them to the valley – to Bozeman – for a bit, but they were anxious to get back. They harbor an unshakable appreciation for the Big Sky life – all the wilderness, all the fun to be had.
At the end of the day, though, Haydon says that Big Sky is special not simply because of the availability of the outdoors, but also because of the people.
Even the relationship that exists between the sheriff ’s office and the Big Sky Fire Department – the fact that they share a door and help each other out – is unique, he explained.
He feels appreciated in the Big Sky community in a way that many people in law enforcement may never understand. Even doing speed monitoring off of Little Coyote, people were waving, appreciating that he was there.
“I love working in a place where we have our community’s support and our community knows we are going to do them right. It makes a world of difference,” he said.
People look out for each other. In the midst of all the growth, there is still a small-town heart to the community, similar to how he grew up in Iowa.
During his suburbia childhood, kids were shipped outside and expected to play. He was part of a posse of neighborhood children. Still, adults watched the goings-on and reported any missteps to parents. Haydon once threw a snowball at a car. By the time he was summoned home for dinner with a whistle, the phone in the family house had rang – and his shenanigans had been promptly reported to his mother. He was in trouble.
Those incidents helped shape him into the man he is today. He said he is grateful the neighborhood kept such a close eye on him. That same feeling of caring and connection is present in the Big Sky community, he said.