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October 25, 2011

Cody, Wyoming (A poem)

by Christopher Miller

Drove straight through from Minneapolis:

through the National Grasslands, through the Black Hills where we stopped to brush our teeth at

a rest stop on I-80 where the sun rose over a sign under a sheet of smudgy glass described the

footprints of dinosaurs located nearby while bison nibbled scrub not a hundred yards away.

Stopped at Mt. Rushmore (smaller than in the movies, exactly as crowded),

ate tacos and tater tots for lunch, cold coffee from styrofoam cups, and

warm water from plastic bottles. Katy counted out our cash in a narrow fan with her fingers,

shook her head no at the Crazy Horse monument when the man asked for 14 dollars.

In the front seat while she studied the map the mountains appeared in a glare

against the windshield tall and white and distant I said stupidly “Katy. Katy look. Look Katy.”

The map open in her lap she stared until the road dipped then went back to her map.

The run-away truck ramps dotted the sides of the hills like brown birthmarks.

Found a KOA behind a screen of tall pines just off the highway as the sun set,

went into town and ate a t-bone steak and thin breaded fried onions and drank beer

from an iced mug so cold it hurt the palm of my hand, dripped slivers of ice onto the

red-and-white-checked tablecloth over the table, the picnic table bolted to a concrete floor.

After the meal slipped towards sleep as if tied to it like an anchor. Back at the site

stumbled towards the new blue tent, kicked off the dusty boots, lay on the bags (zippered together) and

felt the length of my backbone press the dry ground. Remarked in my mind there was no smell of grass,

no scent of water anywhere, just the evening quickly cooling. Katy went out for something.

Later, suddenly awake in the unfamiliar dark, reached out felt the other half of

the bag empty and cold. Listening, heard the semis rumble out of the pass, some other traveler’s

satellite-dish attuned television turned too loud, the wind rip not whistle through the tall pines. A

pair of headlights cast the silhouette of my head on the roof of the tent.

Sat up stiffly, sweaty, cool, afraid. Checked my watch and saw it was late. Through the fabric of the tent

saw the shapes of a dog, a rock, and a tree. Also other tents, motor coaches, and the hut of the bathrooms.

Breath was sticky and dry, looked for my boots to look for Katy and could not remember where I had kicked them off.

Steps and a flashlight floated towards the flap.

Then the zipper softly crackled and there she was,
squatting with her arms full in the door while the
smell of clean hot laundry filled the dry tent like
the ocean


COLONEL WILLIAM F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody first entered the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming in the 1870’s while guiding Professor O. C. March, distinguished geologist of Yale University, who was making a study of the natural resources of the West.

The tremendous possibilities for development of land through irrigation, the rich soil, the grandeur of the scenery, the abundance of fish and game, and the proximity of Yellowstone National Park, all were influencing factors in the decision of Colonel Cody to return during the mid 1890’s.

The Colonel and several friends came to the area with the avowed purpose of land development and the building of a community. The original townsite selected was located at the east end of the Shoshone Canyon, but was later moved to the present site of the city. At the insistence of Colonel Cody’s fellow developers, the site was named Cody in 1895. Streets were laid out and named for General Phil Sheridan and the originators of the community.

By 1902, the town was incorporated and Colonel Cody opened his famous “Hotel in the Rockies,” the Irma, named after his youngest daughter. In the same year, he induced the Burlington Railroad to build a spur into the new town, and pioneered a road to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.. The famous TE Ranch, some thirty-five miles southwest of Cody, was established as a horse and cattle ranch and hide-away for brief periods of rest.

To bolster the economy of the struggling new town, Colonel Cody persuaded his friend, President Teddy Rooselvelt, to establish the Bureau of Reclamation and to build the Shoshone Dam and Reservoir, later renamed the Buffal Bill Dam and Reservoir. With the completion of this dam, the highest in the world at the time, the community was established soundly in the irrigation and electric power fields. Also through his friendship with the President, Buffalo Bill helped establish the first great National Forest, the Shoshone, and the first Ranger Station, at Wapiti.


The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is a complex of museums displaying artifacts and art of the American West, Founded in 1917, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center is the oldest museum in the West.

The museums include the Buffalo Bill Museum, which features general western articles and historical items that help tell the story of W. F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s life. A large amount of background and historical information is provided so as to put his life into context with what was going on in the country, especially out west, at that time.

The Plains Indians Museum features exhibits related to Plains Indian peoples, their cultures, traditions, values and histories, as well as the contexts of their lives today. Since 1979, the Plains Indian Museum has been a leader in promoting public recognition of the importance of Plains Indian art due to its nationally significant collection. The majority of the collection is from the early reservation period, ca. 1880-1930, and relates primarily to Northern Plains tribes, such as the Lakota, Crow, Arapaho, Shoshone, Cheyenne. The holdings also include important contemporary objects, ranging from artworks to quilts. In September 2007, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center acquired the Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, recognized as the most historic and important privately held collection of Plains Indian artifacts, art work, and related materials in the world. The collection includes clothing, eagle feather bonnets, bear claw necklaces, buffalo hide tipis and tipi furnishings, shields, cradles, peace medals, and moccasins. It dates from the late 18th century to pre-1890s. The Plains Indian Museum also sponsors the Plains Indian Museum Powwow held each June in the Robbie Powwow Garden at the historical center, an event which attracts dancers from all over North America

The Whitney Gallery of Western Art features paintings and sculptures of the American west. The gallery first opened in 1959 and re-opened on June 21, 2009 following a re-installation. The gallery is organized thematically, with spaces dedicated to heroes and legends, the heroic cowboy, wildlife, horseses in the West, inspirational landscapes, first people of the West, and the Western experience. Replicas of the studios of both Frederic Remington,and Alexaner Phimister Proctor, help visitors learn about the artists and their techniques.

Cody Firearms Museum

Cody Firearms Museum within the Buffalo Bill Historical Center

The Cody Firearms Museum houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world.The collection includes firearms ranging from a 16th Century hand cannon to guns of modern manufacture, and includes guns from almost every significant gun manufacturer in the world. The Winchester Collection, the heart of this museum, was transported from New Haven, Connecticut to Cody in 1976. Dedicated in 1991, the Cody Firearms Museum provides a permanent home for the Winchester collection as well as the largest collection of DuBiel Arms company, rifles in the United States today.Visitors can also learn about topics in firearms manufacturing, including factory workers, business competition,and innovations in production. Within the exhibits, visitors are able to trace the evolution of modern firearms technology from its earliest days through today’s variations. Membership to the Cody Firearms Museum allows access to the Cody Firearms Museum Records Service, which provides information from original factory records of the Winchester, Marlin or L.C. Smith companies based on the make and serial number of the firearm.

The Draper Museum of Natural History features approximately 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) of interactive exhibits highlighting geology, wildlife, and human presence in the Greater Yellowstone region. Videos, natural history dioramas and photography replicate the sights, sounds, and smells of the area, and specimens of grizzlies, wolves, bighorn sheep, moose, elk and other wildlife are on display. The Draper Museum of Natural History opened to the public on June 4, 2002 and bears the name of Nancy Carroll-Draper, Buffalo Bill Historical Center trustee and benefactor.

BUFFALO BILL HISTORICAL CENTER – Cheyenne & Black Hills Stage on display in the Buffalo Bill Museum Collection
Outdoor Sculpture at Buffalo Bill Historical Center
Outdoor Sculpture at Buffalo Bill Historical Center
Outdoor Sculpture at Buffalo Bill Historical Center
Outdoor Sculpture at Buffalo Bill Historical Center
The History of the Sheridan InnIn 1892, the railroad had been built as far as Sheridan, Wyoming. With westward expansion in its height of popularity, the railroad line served to bring adventurous souls out West in search for a new life, and sending agricultural goods, coal and cattle back East. Recognizing the significance of the railroad in establishing the new frontier, the Sheridan Land Company, with the blessing of the Burlington and Missouri Railroad, undertook the ambitious task of building the Sheridan Inn. Construction of the Inn began in December of 1892 and was completed only six months later.The Inn originally sat on one and a half acres of land and was 130 feet long and 50 feet wide, surrounded by a porch that was 150 feet long and 30 feet wide. It is reported to have cost $25,000 to construct.Shortly after the Inn was built, William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, an entrepreneur and world-renowned showman, purchased the business of the Inn as the first establishment in his W.F. Cody Hotel Company. Buffalo Bill, a frequent visitor at the Inn, often held auditions for his Wild West Show on the Inn’s front lawn, offering train passengers an up-close glimpse of the “Wild West.”

The Inn also served as a stop for Buffalo Bill’s W.F. Cody Transportation Company, which ran a stage line between the Inn and Deadwood, South Dakota.

In the following years, the Sheridan Inn remained one of the central attractions of the area, offering weary travelers many of the amenities and luxuries only seen back East. The Inn was the first building in Sheridan to have electric lights, for example.

With the rise of other means of transportation, the Inn’s popularity began to wane. Through much of the 20th Century, the Inn found itself under numerous owners, all struggling to keep the Inn maintained.

The tolls of the Inn’s hasty construction in the winter of 1892-1893 were becoming more apparent with each passing decade. From the late 1930s through the 1960s, the Inn found itself in a constant state of changing ownership, as the proprietors struggled to maintain the building and operate the business. Despite earning a designation as a National Historic Landmark only a year earlier, the Inn closed its doors in 1965 after the owners found themselves in financial and legal troubles. Community members and advocates of the Inn feared the worst, as rumors of bankruptcy and the Inn’s demolition spread through Sheridan.

Recognizing the historical significance of the Inn, the Sheridan County Historical Society came forward in an attempt to save the landmark. As a last ditch effort to save the structure itself, the Historical Society held an auction, during which the interior furnishings were sold. Despite bold attempts to raise the necessary funds, auction proceeds feel short and the Inn’s future remained in doubt.

In 1967, Neltje—a New York heiress who had relocated to Wyoming only a year earlier, purchased the Inn. She immediately became known as the “woman who saved the Inn” and undertook the ambitious task of renovating and updating the building. In 1968, Neltje re-opened the Inn’s saloon, which was followed a year later by the re-opening of the dining room, the Ladies Parlor and the Wyoming Room, an all new addition to the Inn that was able to host large social gatherings and events.

During Neltje’s nearly two-decade run as the Inn’s owner, the Sheridan Inn’s role in the community was revitalized. The Inn hosted many public events and elegant dinners, in addition to a popular art gallery. In 1985, Neltje gifted the Inn to the Denver Children’s Hospital Foundation, in hopes that the Inn’s revenue would be able to support the hospital. A year later, struggling to make money, the Inn’s doors were once again closed, with a for sale sign propped up in the front yard. The Foundation’s successor’s brief ownership of the Inn, from 1988 to 1990, found the Inn in the midst of bankruptcy and an uncertain future.

With the support and dedication of the newly revived Sheridan Heritage Center, the Inn was purchased out of a bankruptcy sale in 1990 by a Joint Powers Board. Shortly thereafter, the Inn re-opened to the public and ownership was soon turned over to the Sheridan Heritage Center, Inc., the non-profit corporation that has owned the Inn ever since.

Today, the Sheridan Inn hosts the 1893 Grille and Spirits restaurant on its completely restored first floor. The original Buffalo Bill bar still greets patrons of the Inn’s saloon, while the formal dining room, Wyoming Room and Ladies Parlor all host everything from private dinners to Rotary meetings to wedding receptions to art shows. The Sheridan Heritage Center is currently in the final stages of a decade’s long fundraising effort to complete the renovation of the Inn’s second and third floors, which will eventually feature a fully operational 22-room boutique hotel.











Visions of the American West: Masterworks from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center

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