On our route to Yellowstone National Park (see previous blog posts) stands a site where the Old West, its gunslingers and its gunfights are still remembered and celebrated – Cody, WY. Cody is, of course, named for Buffalo Bill Cody and you can learn a lot about the Old West by spending a day or two here on your way to Yellowstone.
They perform a street pageant “shootout” in the evening during the summer in the alley just outside Irma’s, Buffalo Bill Cody’s hotel (Irma was his daughter). Characters included Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickock, Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Butch & Sundance, Crazy Cora the saloon owner and one other bad guy. The show is free, and if you don’t want to take one of the free seats on the rocks or grounds outside the hotel, you can pay $2 for reserved seats, which were folding chairs, but more comfortable than rocks. The reserved seats went fast, and the gunfight drew a large crowd, so arrive early. The pageant was somewhat poorly acted and we think the dialogue was improvised. But it had a few explosions and loud gun fire. You can also get a poster for $2, and afterward the cast posed for pictures with all comers like me and signed the poster, so I actually enjoyed myself. (Note: The show has changed since we visited, so the cast of characters is slightly different).
- Dug Up Gun Museum
Then we strolled down the block and visited the Dug Up Gun Museum, which displays guns dug up or found in trees or in outhouses, from the 1700s to the 1920s. It was surprisingly interesting and it’s free! The guns were in pieces in some cases, practically fossilized in others and others were still loaded. Some of the old guns I had to wonder how you could shoot anyone with them.
- Buffalo Bill Center of the West
The Buffalo Bill Center is five museums in one. I liked the Buffalo Bill Museum the best and recommend you start with it. It had his actual childhood home on the site and a bunch of other items belonging to him and his family, artifacts from the Buffalo Bill Cody Traveling Show and some belongings of Annie Oakley. You are met at the mouth of the museum by a hologram of Buffalo Bill.
Other museums include the Natural History Museum, a Western Art Museum, a Firearms Museum (an overwhelming number of guns) and a Native American Museum, which I found also worth touring as it told the history of the Plains Indians and had a number of artifacts.
Photos of Buffalo Bill Center:
- Old Trail Town
Then we went to Old Trail Town, a bunch of original old buildings brought to the site from places in Wyoming and Montana, including homesteader cabins, a general store, a school, post office, stable, and lots of other buildings, including a couple of buildings Butch & Sundance actually visited, such as the Hole in the Wall Cabin and the
saloon. There is also a historic cemetery (dug up and reinterred here) including that of Jeremiah Johnson (Robert Redford played him in a movie).
Photos of Old Town: