From Gillette, we drove about 6 hours west to Cody, WY. It was a little farther distance than we usually like to drive, but we there were some things we wanted to see in Cody. On the way,we drove over the Bighorn Mountains. This was our first glimpse of them.
On the way, we pulled off at this overlook to enjoy the view.
In Cody, we stayed at Absaroka Bay RV Park. The sites are a little narrow and most of the back-in sites are very short. The pull-throughs are also a kind of short, but they have provided a little extra gravel along sides of the roads so we were able to park our toad sideways. The campground has paved interior roads, gravel sites, and grass between sites.
Cody, WY was named for William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody and lies in the Bighorn Basin among the Bighorn Mountains to the east, the Absakora Range to the west, and the Beartooth Mountains to the north. William Cody first entered the Bighorn Basin in the 1870s. Its beautiful scenery, rich soil, and abundance of fish and game prompted his return in the 1890s with several friends for the purpose of land development.
The original site of the town was at the east end of the Shoshone Canyon, but was later moved a little farther to the east to its present site. Cody's fellow developers insisted the town be named Cody. The town was incorporated in 1902.
William Cody was instrumental in getting the Burlington Railroad to build a spur to the new town. He talked his friend, President Teddy Roosevelt, to establish the Bureau of Reclamation and build the Shoshone Dam and Reservoir (later renamed the Buffalo Bill Dam and Reservoir) west of town. These developments greatly added to the success of the town.
Cody also used his own money to build a hotel in town he named after his youngest daughter, Irma. Every evening in the summer, there is a gunfight re-enactment on the street outside the hotel. Chairs are rented for $1 and posters are sold with proceeds going to charity. The dialogue was a little corny, but the characters were interesting. The characters circulate among the crowd before the show signing autographs and posing for photos. In this bar scene during the show, Buffalo Bill is wearing the buckskin jacket and Wild Bill Hickok is seated in front of the dance hall girl in blue. Although a little shorter (Buffalo Bill was a little over 6' tall), the character looks amazingly like Buffalo Bill.
Museum of the Old West at Old Trail Town lies on the original town site. Old Trail Town is a collection of buildings, wagons, and other artifacts from the late 1800s. The buildings were collected from various locations in Wyoming and Montana, moved to Old Trail Town, and reconstructed.
The buildings include a saloon and two cabins used by Butch Cassidy.
The cabin in the photo below was originally located on Buffalo Creek west of Kaycee, WY. It is where Butch and the "Hole in the Wall Gang" planned some of their robberies.
The main attraction of Cody, WY is probably the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This is not only a comprehensive museum of the history of Buffalo Bill himself, but of the entire area. The museum has five buildings - one for Buffalo Bill, one for the natural history of the area including geology and wild life, one for the history of the Native Americans of the plains, one for western art, and one for American firearms.
The western art museum has paintings and sculpture by Fredric Remington, Charles M. Russell, and other well-known artists who portrayed western history and myth. In addition to numerous sculptures and paintings by the various artists, the museum includes a reproduction of Fredric Remington's studio.
The Plains Indians Museum portrays the history, traditions, and culture of the Native Americans of the plains. The museum contains examples of their art, weapons, homes, and costumes.
Margery was intrigued with the "on-board" travel accommodations for babies. Note the cradle board beside mom's leg.
All the other museums were very informative, bur our main interest was learning about Buffalo Bill himself. We first met up with William Cody in Le Claire, IA, which was his birthplace. The house he lived in as a child has been moved from the Le Claire area to the grounds of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody. Actually, the story we heard back at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Le Claire was that the house stood vacant and for sale for a long time with no interest. The residents of Le Claire were dismayed to learn that the eventual buyer would be moving the house to Wyoming. Sometimes you have to lose something before you know it's value.
Buffalo Bill was a very interesting character. He was a gold prospector, a pony express rider, a Civil War soldier, an Army scout, and a buffalo hunter. He earned his nickname while hunting buffalo for the Kansas Pacific Railroad to supply meat for the railroad workers.
But he is best known as a showman because of "Buffalo Bill's Wild West." Although we usually hear it called "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show," the word "Show" was never part of the title. In 1893, the name was changed to "Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World," which was quite a mouthful.
The museum follows Cody's adult life and understandably puts a heavy emphasis on his show. Cody created what was to become Buffalo Bill's Wild West in 1883 and the show would continue in one form or another for about 30 years. The photo below shows a buffalo hide coat with beaver trim worn by Cody. Behind the coat is a photo of Cody wearing the actual coat on display and holding the rifle on display.
The show usually began with a parade of the performers wearing their finest attire. During the show, there were staged races, shooting demonstrations, feats of skill, and re-enactments of stagecoach robberies and Indian attacks. The show typically ended with re-enactment of Custer's battle of the Little Bighorn with Cody himself playing General Custer.
Many famous personalities were also part of the show. Sitting Bull, who was a Lakota Sioux who took part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, appeared in Buffalo Bill's Wild West. The famed sharpshooter Annie Oakley joined the show in 1885. The photo below shows one of the dresses she wore in the show.
In 1887, Cody took the Wild West to England and performed for Queen Victoria as well as other European royalty. In 1889, the show toured Europe. Cody became the most recognizable American in the world.
The museum also contains displays of many of Cody's furnishings and belongings. The photo below shows some of the contents of his ranch.
Buffalo Bill died in Denver in 1917. Contrary to popular belief, he did not die penniless, although his considerable fortune had dwindled significantly.
We learned a lot about Buffalo Bill while in Cody. The Historical Center is a fantastic resource for information on Buffalo Bill and on the history of that area of the west.