“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman
Happy Fourth of July! We rose early and took a quick tour of the Sheridan coffee shops looking (in vain) for Internet service so I could post (and schedule) my recent updates. It seemed the entire town was having connectivity issues so, once again, I calmly closed my laptop and looked forward to the day. I’ve had quite enough meltdowns already, thank you very much. (Wait. Does that many meltdowns make me a snowflake? Hmmm, I guess it does. But a reasonably badass snowflake, if I do say so myself. Plus, gather enough snowflakes in one place and you end up with … an avalanche.)
We toured Fort Phil Kearny (an old fort that only operated from 1866 to 1868) but was an important stop on the Bozeman Trail and housed not only soldiers but lots of civilian family
members, too. It was abandoned in 1868 after a decisive military defeat for the US (second only to Custer’s battle at Little Big Horn which would take place ten years later). It was also one of the few battles in which the Indian tribes came together (Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho warriors) and using the standard US response to an Indian attack to craft a plan and trick the US soldiers into an ambush. Crazy Horse and other warriors acted as decoys and taunted the soldiers into coming down over the ridgeline (an action the acting Captain had been expressly forbidden to take by his CO) where two thousand Indians waited in ambush. All eighty-one men were killed in thirty minutes and marked a decisive victory for the Plains Indians.
Then into Buffalo. Shopped a bit (needed to replace a favorite piece of clothing that has gone mysteriously missing—I will not meltdown, I will not meltdown). A few doors down we found the “campaign headquarters” for Walt Longmire, Absaroka County Sheriff. (Hint: there is no Absaroka County in Wyoming and the author of the Longmire series, Craig Johnson, actually lives in Ucross. I love it when fictional characters become so real that their lives start to bleed over into real life.) We lingered in the store and spent a fair amount of money. I bought a Red Pony T-shirt (with the words “continual soiree” on the sleeve and the first book in the series (signed). Len bought a LONGMIRE T-shirt and a few other must-haves.
We found a great pottery shop on Main Street and browsed for about 45 minutes. I found a simple stoneware bowl that I couldn’t live without. The interior of the bowl was a beautiful salt-fired carbon-trap glaze—one of my absolute favorite glaze combinations—and the drier orange-peel texture on the bottom was to die for.
Then we went across the street to the Occidental Hotel, an old historic hotel that served plenty of Old West characters in its day. (I had been there last year for their open-mic night, along with my fellow Fellows at Ucross, and I knew Len would love the place.) The walls were lined with mounted animal heads and full taxidermy figures. The wolf is a lot bigger animal than you think. BIG paws.
Len wanted a bison burger, and they had one on the menu so we both ordered it, along with a Rainier Beer (the only beer Walt Longmire drinks). (This one’s for you, Walt.)
We walked around the town a bit, stared at Clear Creek as it ran below the bridge in the center of town, noted the flood stage marker that went all the way to nine feet, with the mark above that being RUN. I love this western sense of humor. I get it, it gets me. There was a sign in the bathroom at one of the gas stations that warned tourists not to approach the wild bison with a list of 4 reasons why to not do that with the last two reasons were: 3) The bison may very likely kill you, and 4) It will hurt really bad the whole time you are dying.
We went to a grocery store, bought some cold drinks for the long trip home, filled the cooler with ice, and returned to our lackluster campsite which was made slightly better by a bunch of unauthorized fourth-of-July fireworks being set off in a neighborhood next to the campground.
Next up: Leaving Wyoming (sob!) and heading into The Badlands of South Dakota.