27 Sep
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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

1 October 2012


22nd September 2012

Can I get a yee-haw? We left the Yellowstone area for another long drive today, right across Wyoming to the small town of Buffalo. This is the real Wild West, home of wagon trains and cattle round-ups, shoot-outs and indian war parties. And we did flash past a group of gen-u-ine cowboys on horses with hats, gen-u-inely rounding up some cattle in a big cloud of dust. Perfect. I was too slow with the camera, though, and we were certainly too English to pull over and take photos of them!

We detoured way up into the Bighorn Mountains to look at the other side in the Wild West, an Indian Medicine Wheel. It sits on an impressive mountain top with vast views on all sides and is probably very spiritual for those with belief. I enjoyed the views. In fact these mountains have some absolutely epic views down across the endless prairies below them, unbelievably vast.

And so we ended up in Buffalo, in the historic Occidental Hotel. According to the info pretty much every famous person from those energetic days, from Buffalo Bill Cody through Calamity Jane to Teddy Roosevelt stayed here at some point. We were in President Hoover’s bedroom. The hotel was a wreck by 1980 and only restored in 1997 by a very cool old couple who financed it with the successful series of wildlife books for kids that they wrote. Now it’s an impressive and incredibly characterful time capsule of the cowboy era. And we happened to be staying on the night when a whole bunch of cowboys were descending on the joint for a wedding reception at which the bride – a country-western singer – would be entertaining her guests with her own band. Not joking, a for real cowboy wedding. There were about a hundred big hats, and it seems that cowboys never take off their hats. There was lots of music, dancing and beer, apparently until about three in the morning. Oh, and meanwhile over in the next town a guy got killed in a fist fight. Now, can I get a yee-haw?

You may be wondering whether we joined in the cowboy merry-making. Despite being invited, we didn’t. Perhaps fellow introverts will understand when I say that I just wasn’t sure how to approach trying to socialise with a boisterous party of complete strangers, or what I would gain from it. I was impressed, though, just wandering through the bar after dinner. These were not cowboy aficionados, these were the real thing. And having seen the vast, hot, empty spaces of Wyoming, and knowing that in a month they will be vast, snow-blanketed, empty spaces I can see why these guys are mostly built like tanks with stubble you could strike a match on.

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