Day 14: Wild, wild west.

IMG_1321Laying low in Cody, WYo today.  My first move after a painful rise, was to head up to the main house and properly meet my Airbnb hostess, Jo, who served me delicious locally roasted coffee and scones made by her mother-in-law.   Jo and her husband, Bounty, and their son, Hector, and big, beautiful Akita, Rooster, live on the same property as Bounty’s mom and dad.  This is a small ranch, only 20 acres, but they have about 5 horses, one mule, some chickens and slew of chickens.  It is a perfect western ranch with a killer view of the mountains and range.

Jo was awesome.  She is originally from Denmark and met her husband about 10 years ago when she came here to work on a horse ranch.  She is an adventurer and a rare breed here:  a liberal!  We bonded over our shared hatred of Trump but she also cautioned me to keep mum around the other guests.  You never know….

Thankfully, Jo, offered me her guest room in her beautiful, new house that she and Bounty just finished this past May.  It is spectacular.  So is the original log cabin next door that her mother and father in law live in.

I moved out of the cabin and into the guest room and thanked her for the freshly lit fire in the wood stove.  It was in the 30’s this morning here and it never got above 60, so camping is on hold for now.

Next, I headed to the unfortunate Walmart super store.  Luckily, it hasn’t killed the downtown yet since this is a tourist town.  Actually, one of the original tourist towns.  Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1901, as a tourist town and launching pad for people headed to Yellowstone.

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I learned more about Buffalo Bill at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a wonderful museum that has five separate museums within it, including a natural history museum, Native American museum, and museum of Buffalo Bill himself.

He was born and raised in Iowa and the territories, and learned from an early age how to scout and hunt from the Indians in his town.  He was a hunter, a scout, a legendary fighter, and a showman.  He is studied in business colleges for his marketing skills and he really was a legend.  He hired a diverse population of performers to take his Wild West show on the road.  Native Americans, cowboys, Cossacks, Turks, Arabians, Africans, and Asian performers traveled with him on his big, big show and he even out-sold B.T. Barnum.

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But his true passion was promoting and preserving the natural beauty of the west.  He wanted to build the west but also save it.  A trick  that I’m not sure he succeeded in.

He built Cody from a tent city to a bustling ranching, farming, and later tourist town of almost 10,000.  When he team up with Teddy Roosevelt, the founder of Field and Stream, and artist, Albert Bierstadt born in Prussia but raised in New Bedford, MA!) to form the Boone and Crockett club, they were apart of a group of people to form the first conservationist group in the USA.  Teddy and Buffalo Bill were especially aware of how the big game they loved to hunt were disappearing.  The buffalo in particular.

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By 1887, there were less than 500 buffalo left in the world, with 100-200 in Yellowstone alone.  Where there had been thousands roaming the plains just a few decades before, the bison had been slaughtered by the American Army during the Plains Wars.  General Sheridan had encouraged this saying he aimed to decimate the Indian’s commissary.  

Wild Bill was keenly aware of this and he worked with Teddy, John Muir, and others to establish Yellowstone National Park – the first national park – to protect the buffalo, elk, big horned sheep and other species that were disappearing from the plains.  

At the Cody Museum, I learned about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows that were amazingly diverse and were responsible for bring awareness of indigenous peoples from not only the USA, but all over the world, to the people of cities.  Pretty incredible. 

Also at the museum was an exhibit of Albert Bierstadt’s paintings of the west.  On his first expedition to Wyoming in 1859, he went out intending to kill a buffalo, but when he saw one in the wild, he froze.  He couldn’t follow through with killing such a magnificent beast, and instead, he picked up is paintbrush and began a decade’s long passion for documenting the buffalo and their almost extinction.

His painting, the Last Buffalo Hunt was so remarkable as it depicts both the nobility of the native people’s connection to the buffalo, but the sadness of knowing that this way of life was going into extinction.  

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Bierstadt’s paintings were instrumental in raising awareness to the public that this possibility would be a tremendous loss.  He, along with Buffalo Bill, John Muir, and Teddy Roosevelt were responsible for stopping this injustice and preserving the buffalo. 

It makes me angry to think that now, Trump could destroy all of their hard work.  Thankfully, a federal judge has placed a suspension on the grizzly hunt that was supposed to start on Sept. 1, but that can all change so quickly.  How fragile is this planet, how easily one idiot could lay waste to generations of work.  

My day ended with kitch.  I wandered over to the Irma Hotel in Cody for a drink at the bar.  This hotel was Buffalo Bill’s own hotel and named for his daughter.  Inside, it is western kitch to the max and outside, there was a free gunfight being staged.  It was pretty awful, but I had to stay since I had made the mistake of parking my car right behind their stage.

After escaping the gunfight, I drove over to Cassie’s for prime rib at the bar.  Cassie’s was a brothel.  She did such a roaring business that she kept expanding the building outwards and now the dinning areas are in the old brothel rooms.   At the bar, there was a piano player playing hits and a couple that sat down next to me, the husband was a park ranger for Yellowstone.  I was able to pick his brain about the park, so success.

I drove back to AppleJack Ranch and found a fire waiting for me in the wood stove and all the lights off except for the porch.  It was only 8:30 but everyone was asleep.  Jo explained to me “that is the Wyoming way.”  Now, I don’t feel so silly going to sleep at 9:30 or 10.  I could live here. 

 

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