Little boys and girls twirled ropes and played western games. In the middle of downtown, horses were auctioned.
On a recent Saturday, it was a throwback to the Old West in the heart of Cody. But it wasn’t hardly a long-distance throw.
That’s because Cody and the Old West are knotted together every day, not only on a given fun day. Sure, automobiles, not covered wagons, roll down Sheridan Avenue and the city of 10,000 embraces modern amenities as excitedly as other red-blooded Americans.
Still, scratch the surface and cowboy history and spirit live on in hearts. There are probably more men wearing cowboy hats walking around than there are men wearing baseball caps.
And they are not part of some wild west tourist show showing off, but rather, wearing their regular, everyday attire.
Standing on the corner gazing at traffic, it will not be long before a van passes hauling horses or cattle.
The cowboy trade, ranchers, riders, rodeo entrants, are ingrained in the culture, though never more so than once Cody Nite Rodeo commences.
Cody, and nowhere else, schedules rodeo every single day between June and the end of August. The town embraces its designation as “The Rodeo Capital of the World.” As many have said, “Cody is rodeo.”
Since the roads are paved, and kids do not ride their ponies to school, Cody is probably as cowboy as any community can get in 2019.
Much of that can be traced back to town namesake, William F. Cody, alias Buffalo Bill. One doesn’t have to work very hard to unearth the Cody-the-person connection to Cody, the community.
The landmark building downtown is the Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill in 1902 and named after one of his daughters.
Buffalo Bill’s visage adorns a sign in front of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce.
Shops downtown sell cowboy hats and cowboy boots.
The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is just about the largest building in town and is definitely the most prominent, with its five-museums-under-one-roof theme.
Among other things, the visitor can view western art, check out the guns that won the West, learn about Native Americans of the Plains and absorb details on all aspects of Buffalo Bill’s life and his integral involvement in so many ways with the Old West, including keeping its myths and stories alive.
It sounds like a myth, but it’s true that Buffalo Bill auditioned potential cast members for his Wild West touring company in the heart of downtown. That would have been a blast to watch.
Children of previous generations said they wanted to be cowboys when they grew up (when not pre-pubescently committing to police officer or fireman). Those notions were usually driven by popular TV shows or movies.
In and around Cody, though, the western life for boys and girls has always been nearer than celluloid, just out the front door on the family ranch. They might start riding horses or roping calves as youngsters.
Playing games on a city street for a day was neat, but the real thing might well beckon at home.