Home Away From Home, Wyoming

A Full Day in Cody

We started our day with a tour of Old Trail Town which shows the old West as it really was. It was a sunny but cool day, perfect for wandering in and out of the authentic cabins moved to Cody. This was where the original town of Cody was located. There were over twenty buildings, some we could enter and some roped off. All had authentic items in them and nearly all had either a bison head, a pronghorn head, a deer head, antlers from various animals or animal skulls. Each cabin is unique in its own way.

Bob Edgar, a Wyoming native with an interest in archeology realized that old historical buildings were rapidly disappearing so in 1967 he began the work of gathering the buildings and relics that are now located at Old Trail Town as this was where Cody had chosen for the first townsite of Cody in 1895. Many of the buildings were taken completely apart, moved and then reassembled. Among the relics at Old Trail Town are horse-drawn vehicles, memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier and Indian artifacts. While much of the memorabilia is in the various cabins the majority is housed in a very extensive museum viewed at the end of the trail.

The first cabin we entered was “Curley’s Cabin”. Curley was an Indian scout for Custer and luckily was able to escape the carnage at Little Bighorn as he was on the outside circle of the Sioux and Cheyenne. Many believe he was the first to bring the news of Custer’s defeat. The cabin was originally built near Crow Agency, Montana.

In 1882 some of the first sheep arrived in Central Wyoming brought by Luther Morrison. Morrison originally came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and built this cabin in 1884 located at the foot of Copper Mountain east of Shoshone, Wyoming. As in the other cabins, the walls were encircled by mounted animal heads but in addition, there was a two-headed calf! There was also a lovely old organ. Talking about juxtaposition.

Hole in the Wall cabin is a two-room cabin which was built on Buffalo Creek in the Wall Country, west of Kaycee, Wyoming by Alexander Ghent. It was known as the rendezvous place for Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and other outlaws of the famous “Hole in the Wall Gang”.

Our next stop was the graveyard where five of the more infamous folks were buried. The first grave we visited was that of Jeremiah Johnson or better known as “Liver-Eating’ Johnson. Johnson was a trapper, hunter, wood hawk, army scout, marshal and Civil War veteran. He got his nickname because reportedly after he killed someone, he would take a bite of their liver. Yuk! Johnson’s body was moved to this location and one of the pallbearers was Robert Redford who played Jeremiah Johnson in the movie.

Other graves were those of Jim White also known as Buffalo Hunter, Jack Stilwell known as Frontiersman, Phillip Vetter, a trapper killed by a grizzly, W.A. Gallagher and Blind Bill, cowboys who were murdered and then the famous or more likely infamous Belle Drewry, the Woman in Blue. Supposedly she was involved in the murder of Gallagher and Blind Bill. She was buried in a blue dress.

Next, we visited a tribute to the famous Mountain Men including James “Old Gabe” Bridger, a hunter and trapper and Jim Bridger. Possibly the first man known as a Mountain Man was John Colter, a trapper who worked for Lewis and Clark. During his journey, he found “Colter’s Hell” which is where a tribute to him is now located. Although it cannot be accessed from Old Trail Town his monument can be seen in the distance. Legend has it that when captured by the Blackfeet he was forced to run for his life. He outdistanced the entire tribe for seven miles and survived, naked and weaponless but alive.

One of the last places we visited was the Rivers Saloon. It was frequented by Butch Cassidy, W.A. Gallager, Blind Bill and many other colorful cowboys of the old west. It is the oldest remaining saloon in northwest Wyoming. I saw bullet holes in the door!

Last but certainly not least is a museum filled with artifacts of the Old West including a horse-drawn hearse from the late 1800s. Initially, I didn’t realize what it was and then – wow!

We had decided to picnic again today so we went to the park at the Cody Visitor’s Center and had a nice lunch on the grounds. We still had two more museums to visit at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West so we returned there. We immediately went to the Plains Indians museum because we knew we would spend more time in there.

Jerry had remarked earlier that most of the photographs that we see of the Native Americans are either of children or men. Why not women? We asked at Old Trail Town but they were mystified as well. When we entered the Plains museum the very first and very large photograph we saw was of a woman. The first part of the museum emphasized the important role that the women played in their everyday lives.

“We women had our children to care for, meat to cook, and to dry, robes to dress, skins to tan, clothes, lodges and moccasins to make. We not only pitched the lodges, but took them down and packed the horses and the travois, when we move camp. We were busy, especially when we were going to move. I love to move, even after I was a married woman with children to take care of. Moving made me happy.” Pretty Shield, Absaroke (Crow)

Continuing on through the museum we saw life-sized women and men mounted on horses. Interestingly, before horses arrived on the Plains, dogs were essential to maintaining the season rounds. Dogs were not only family pets, but they were also used to carry the lodge poles and covers when families moved. After horses arrived the poles became longer and bigger so dogs were no longer used for that purpose.

One of the most interesting exhibits consisted of a life-size buffalo hide tipi. As buffalo disappeared from the Plains, women began making tipis from canvas so very few buffalo hides tipis exist today. This tipi showed evidence of many patches and repairs as well as hands and circles painted in red pigment. The audio that accompanied the exhibit explained the life of the Indians throughout each season.

The last museum we visited was the Cody Firearms Museum. It houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world with over 7,000 firearms and 30,000 firearms-related artifacts.

By this time, we were getting a little weary so we returned to the campground for a little rest as we knew we had an exciting night ahead.

After a little respite, we went to the Cody Cattle Company for dinner and a show before the rodeo. We were assigned seats for dinner and unfortunately, we were at a table with four people from Denmark. I chatted with the lady sitting next to me briefly but other than that neither of the others spoke to us keeping to themselves. I’m not sure they could speak English as I never heard them say anything in English. Dinner was beef brisket and/or chicken served with a choice of salad, slaw, vegetables and cowboy beans. It was good but the best part was the outstanding show. The band, The Three C, played a varied selection of old and new western songs. The guitarist was absolutely outstanding and has won several national titles. Watching him strum each of his guitars was mesmerizing.

Immediately after the show, we walked over to the rodeo. A PBR rodeo, it features all of the usual contests: bull riding, bare bronc riding, barrel racing, roping, and others. The rodeo started with a salute to the flag and prayed to our Lord and Savior. What a nice way to begin an evening. Someone had told us to take a jacket as it might be cold and when the wind started blowing it did indeed get a little chilly. Jerry and I have watched rodeos on television in the past but the real thing is a little different. The cowboys and cowgirls are a brave bunch and from the junior contests we saw, it looks like the future of the rodeo is on solid ground.

What a great day!

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