Steve Lindfors has purposely pre-planned this side trip–back out of Yellowstone–so his family can take in a rodeo, something that no one in the family has ever experienced. I can see by now that Steve really likes to “do it up right.” He truly envisioned a “vacation of a lifetime” from the beginning.
Get this: he checks out of the Roosevelt Lodge in the Park’s Lamar Valley, motors east and south out of Yellowstone on scenic Chief Joseph Highway toward Cody, WY. On the way they’re caught in a buffalo jam on the road. They have room reservations at the “gem of Cody” Irma Hotel, opened by Buffalo Bill Cody in 1902, named after his daughter. It seems Cody kept a room at the hotel for years even though he owned and worked an expansive cattle ranch nearby called the TE Ranch. A notable list of Western “icons” have stayed at the hotel over the years: Frederick Remington, Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane–undoubtedly befriended by Cody while running his famous Wild West. (1883).
During daylight hours, the Lindfors visited the Buffalo Bill Historic Center and were captivated for most of the day with its American West memorabilia & natural history exhibits, especially the American Cowboy history and artifact collections.
The Buffalo Bill Cody Museum is one of five major exhibits in the Center. It is considered the flagship attraction because of the city’s and the region’s inseparable ties to William F. Cody (1846-1917), who actually was a legend in his own time. Wisely, the town early-on realized Cody’s fame would outlive him and started to capitalize on his reputation and legacy. Tourists loved it!
Known as a frontiersman, guide, scout, and showman–and was one of the founding fathers of Cody, WY, Buffalo Bill is a respected early communicator who spoke broadly to many audiences, including people and dignitaries of foreign nations, about the “promise of the American West.” It wasn’t just theory, either. He personally capitalized on this promise by developing the TE Ranch and another large property in North Platte, Nebraska. In 1948 the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad gave the Isaac Cody home to the Buffalo Bill Historical Association in Cody. They had, years earlier, moved it to Cody from LeClaire, Iowa knowing it would be a popular tourist attraction for those staying at the railroad-owned Burlington Hotel. Oddly, it is now considered one of the oldest buildings in all of Wyoming. “Willy” only lived in this house until he was seven, however his memoirs include fond recollections of this boyhood and the time when he lived “across the road from the Mississippi River.”
Teenaged Steven was more captivated by one of the Center’s other exhibits, however. “The most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world is on display there,” exclaimed Steven, recounting the visit. “It traces the evolution of firearms–and in a wonderful interpretive way. What a cool museum!” The Winchester Collection seems to feature more than just Winchesters, too. All sorts of gun manufacturers are represented “in impressive fashion” as part of the attraction. Needless to say, “they had Steve and Steven at ‘Winchester.’ ” Two out of the four Lindfors spent a lot of time in this exhibit I am told.
Another “do it up right” moment happened Saturday night. The Lindfors are enjoying the hotel’s prime rib buffet–right on the front porch of the Irma Hotel. As they’re eating, a gun-fight reenactment busts out on the street directly in front of their table. They’re incredulous–loving every minute. Then, as darkness approaches, our buckaroos gallop over to attend one of America’s longest running and most famous rodeos. You guessed it. The Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede Rodeo. Another first for everyone in the Lindfors family!
“There were bucking broncos, and calf roping, and clowns and barrel racing, and bulls. Just what you’d expect. It was so incredible to finally be in a real rodeo arena. Fun to take it all in. Fabulous people watching. We all loved it.” I spoke to Steven fairly late, after they arrived “back at the bunkhouse.” Our cowboys and cowgirl were all “tuckered out” it seems, and ready for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow they will head back to Yellowstone and begin a multi-day sightseeing junket there. “Packing in as much as we possibly can,” yawns Steve as he bids me goodnight.