Friday, August 06, 2010


I first saw Cody, WY in 1982 on a family vacation where I gazed in awe at the mountains and forests and streams. We went to the rodeo then too, where I fell instantly and hopelessly in love with a real live cowgirl in the stands near us. I’ll never forget that passionate affair, when I said, “Hi”, and she said, “Hi” back. Ah, young love. That vacation was a mistake for my parents, I guess, as it made me decide that by golly I was gonna live in the Rocky Mountain West. Ten years later, it came to pass.

Cody has certainly changed since then. They even have a Wal-Mart and the usual fast food chains. An old friend who used to live there used to complain that the billionaires were pushing the millionaires out of Jackson Hole and into the “slums” of Cody. But somehow the folks down there have managed to retain their identity. Thank God.

Our trip had to include the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum, more like four museums in one, a must-see. And not just because of the Winchester Museum of guns, guns and more guns. I hear tell that they’re still trying clean my drool off the floor and my nose prints off the glass, and I’ve forgiven them for refusing to let me take one of the BARs out for a test drive.

There’s also a well-done museum on the life and lifestyle of the Indian tribes of the area, before the government herded them onto reservations. This includes going inside life-size replicas of their lodges, although disappointingly the audio for the self-guided part was generally inaudible.

There’s yet another display/museum-of-its-own on the Wild West to include, of course, Buffalo Bill and his show. Let me warn you, though, that the security guards there have NO sense of humor. I was just caught up in the moment when I donned a cowboy hat and fringed buckskin jacket and ran through the halls firing my revolver in the air.

Even the natural history section was fun and very nicely done. It’s on multiple stories, each floor climbing from the high desert to above timberline, and showing all the flora and fauna in each eco-system. Of course, those displays the government helped with had the usual propaganda and outright fiction…wolves only eat the sick, lazy and lame, thus improving the health of the herd…this buffalo skull has been carefully dated as being between 15 years and 467 bazillion years old, proving Darwin’s theory…Eeeek! Global Warming! But even that wasn’t so overdone as to make the displays any less enjoyable.

Speaking of which, I have just been informed that no one can write anything about this area without mentioning the key phrase buzzword, “Greater Yellowstone Eco-System” at least three times. This is a codeword for “expand government control of all land outside the park.” But, in the interest of compliance, I will fulfill the requirement. Greater Yellowstone Eco-System. Greater Yellowstone Eco-System. Greater Yellowstone Eco-System.

Next in line for the Cody hall of fame is Cassie’s Restaurant and bar. I had hands-down the best prime rib of my life there; it melted in my mouth. I was rolling my eyes and making such noises of ecstasy while consuming it that my wife tried to shut me up by stuffing a napkin in my mouth because everyone was looking at us. Kind of like that scene from When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in the middle of the restaurant.

Dad and I had prime rib in Kalispell once that a dog wouldn’t bury. And I used to think the now-gone JT’s Bar & Grill in Ringling, MT had the best dead cow flesh in the world. But nobody beats Cassie’s meat.

Finally, the star of the show, the high point of the whole visit, the Cody Rodeo. My wife actually had to talk me into going. Since it’s held every night from Memorial Day to Labor Day, I figured it would be pretty cheesy thing just put on for tourists. It sure wasn’t. It was an honest-to-God REAL rodeo, with real cowboys and cowgirls from local ranches, a few other states, and a couple of western colleges that still have rodeos instead of gay rights parades. Riding and roping and barrel racing; the whole nine yards. This was my favorite moment of the entire week of traveling. It was wonderfully, breath-takingly politically incorrect.

They started out with a couple of youngsters riding around the area with American flags flapping while they played Toby Keith’s Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue. Everyone automatically came to their feet when Old Glory came out, the tourists taking the clue from the locals. We remained on our feet for the National Anthem, and every hat was held over the heart.

We stayed on our feet even after that, as they opened with a real prayer, one that began with, “Dear Heavenly Father” and ended with, “In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.” I had “something in my eye” by that point. If that offends the Muslims and wiccans and whatnot, don’t come to Cody, WY. The good folks there aren’t going to change their lifestyle to spare your feelings, and ain’t going to apologize for what they are.

The head rodeo clown had a wireless head mike to chat with the announcer in between events, and the political incorrectness kept coming. They named some states and asked if anyone was there from that locale; various volumes of cheers answered them. There were lots of Midwesterners; Cheesheads and Iowegians and Uff-dah’s, oh my. Then they asked if anyone from California was there. To the resulting handful of cheers, the announcer boomed, “Welcome to America!”

The jokes continued, smattered throughout the show. The clown lamented about the names of the bulls these days. “What happened to the real bull names, the ones that struck terror and fear into a man’s heart? You know, names like Widowmaker, Sidewinder, Nancy Pelosi.”

Then he stepped in something and was howling because he couldn’t get the smelly mess off his foot. The announcer wanted to know what it was that could make him so upset. Surely he was used to the smell of road apples and cow pies. “It’s not that. It’s worse! I stepped in Obama’s Stimulus Plan!”

So, when you come out West on vacation, you must spend at least a day in Cody. The Heartland isn’t dead yet; it’s alive and kicking in Cody, Wyoming.


Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Ivan Doig, writing about growing up in Montana in the 1930s, mentions a rodeo announcer making the same Welcome to America joke, although I can't recall who was being "welcomed". Some things just get better with age, I guess. He doesn't, however, mention any political jokes, although I somehow imagine Republicans of the day would have substituted Eleanor Roosevelt for Nancy Pelosi, and the New Deal for the stimulus plan.

Ben said...

Did the old guy still work at the Buffalo Bill Museum who yelled at me for riding up and down and up and down in the elevator? Cuz I bet I can kick his ass now.

Mrs. Bawb said...

The message of the "politically incorrect" comments at the rodeo was clearly, "this is who we are out here in the West, we are proud of it, and we certainly don't apologize for it, so if you don't like it, please feel free to leave but don't try to change us!" It felt great to hear those jokes, knowing that the West still has plenty of fighting left!

At one of the local breakfast places in Cody, all the waitresses/waiters were wearing shirts saying "If you can't stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them!" They had purchased them from the DAV and the few they had left sold out in minutes. God bless the West and its values!

Beverly said...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane. In '83, I was a college girl from Ohio that landed a summer job at Bill Cody's Ranch Inn between Cody and the Park. I met my soon to be husband at the night rodeo, he was one of the real cowboys judging the rodeo, we danced at Cassies, fell in love soon after, married in October, and moved to a large ranch where he worked. We've been married 26 years.
Cody is only one of many many wonderful politically incorrect western towns!