Sunday, September 25, 2011

Charmed by Cody and Buffalo Bill

We arrived in Cody around noon and checked in at the Ponderosa Campground, a great choice. The pull-through campsites were close together, but adequate and the bathrooms were immaculate, my primary requirement from a campground. The lady who checked us in was a walking tourist magazine and pointed us to all the great places to visit. We had to choose from among a wealth since we only had a day and half before moving on to Yellowstone. We decided to visit the Old West town only a short distance away. All the buildings are authentic, moved from one place or another. They consisted of a school, several settler cottages, a store, the saloon, a blacksmith shop, the carriage house, Curly’s cabin (an Indian guide to General George Custer and one of the few survivors of the Little Big Horn), the cabin used by Butch Cassidy and his hole in the wall gang, and a cemetery. There was a little museum as well as all the buildings. We wandered around for about an hour and a half. One of the most interesting areas was the cemetery where they reburied a number of people exhumed from other places who were important to Cody’s history. They were moved and reburied thanks to the efforts of a number of Cody citizens and organizations. Several have large monuments. There is certainly a sense of pride in Cody and a reverence for their famous sons and daughters.

As we were preparing to leave, a group of teenagers dressed up for a wild west reenactment arrived. Several of the girls looked like saloon babes decked out in satin, feathers, and fishnet stockings. They were making a movie for their English class on western literature. What fun. We hung around for awhile while they planned out what they were going to do. Several were talking about killing off their husbands. After visiting the town we stopped at a shop/museum nearby that features a large miniature display. It had military forts, Indian villages, pioneers travelling across the country, Indian buffalo hunts, Buffalo Bill’s wild west show, and railroads. What a labor of love putting such a display together and there was no entrance fee. A number of the display areas had audio explanations of the scenes. It was a great 45 minute stop and well worth the time.

The next morning after breaking camp and going to Mass at St. Joseph's (which turned out to be a Communion service because the pastor was out of town at a diocesan priests’ meeting), we went to the Buffalo Bill Museum nearby. It will probably be one of my favorite stops of the trip. The museum is divided into sections on Buffalo Bill, the Plains Indians, Firearms, and Western Art. I loved the section on Buffalo Bill. What a man, very much ahead of his time. He supported women’s suffrage, was one of the first to urge the preservation of areas as national parkland, and believed in paying a decent wage to his employees. His wild west show employed about 600 players and the logistics to go with it were astounding. But what I loved most about the man was his love for family. He and his wife had four children and only one grew to be an adult. There was charming letter from his daughter which she wrote shortly before her marriage telling him what a good father he’d been and asking him to love her husband as a son. Later Buffalo Bill wrote a delightful letter to his newborn granddaughter telling her he hoped she would love her granddaddy even though he was noisy and gruff and not be afraid of the shooting because he loved little children. One of my favorite photos in the display was Buffalo Bill dressed as Santa for some school children. After reading all the exhibits on his life, I was especially thrilled to see that the day before he died he was baptized a Catholic by a priest, an old family friend. What a fitting end to this saga of a good man, one of the most unique characters of the wild west.

One comment about our travels west: so many priests have multiple parishes. The Cody priest had his main church, St. Joseph, and two others listed in the bulletin. In many places we’ve visited, the bulletins show two, three, even four parishes being served by one priest. We are so blessed in my diocese to not have this problem – yet. Pray for religious vocations and good Catholic parents who foster them.

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