William Fredrick Cody, otherwise known as Buffalo Bill, died some 93 years ago. His name is synonymous with the west, and Cody, Wyoming, his namesake town, represents the strange relationship that Cody himself had with the land and its Native population that he so famously included in his Wild West Shows.
Imagine for a moment what it must have been like for the Native Americans who Cody recruited for the trip to Paris for the Exposition Universelle’ in 1889.
Today, Cody is a relatively small town of roughly 9,000 people, located in Park County. The atmosphere of Cody is decidedly steeped in the lore of Buffalo Bill and the Wild West, with most of the cultural events and activities having something to do with the man or the times he came from.
The Buffalo Bill Historical Center is a remarkable, multi-dimensional museum, with five extensive sections devoted to Buffalo Bill, Western Art, Firearms, Greater Yellowstone Natural History, and the Plains Indians, as well as an extensive research library. The Plains Indians section puts the tribes in a historical context as well as delving into their lives today. The museum benefits from Advisory Board member and Crow tribal historian Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, who helps guide the work. Coming this April 29th is the exhibit Arapaho Journeys: Photographs and Stories from the Wind River Reservation. This exhibit will feature contemporary photographs of the Northern Arapaho people by Sara Wiles.
Cody is a natural stopping point for people going to, or coming from, Yellowstone. In the summer, Cody comes alive. There are re-enactments of a wild west shootout in front of the famous Irma Hotel, which contains a bar made of cherry that was given to Buffalo Bill by the Queen Victoria of England at the start of the 20th Century.
There is also Old Trail Town, more than twenty-five historic western buildings and artifacts that make you feel like it’s the 1800s all over again.
What Cody is known for now, outside of Buffalo Bill and the historical center, is rodeo, hence it’s self-given title of, “Rodeo Capital of the World.” The summer brings the “Cody Nite Rodeo,” an amateur rodeo event every night from June 1st to August 31st. Cody’s also home to the one of the largest rodeos in the nation between July 1st and 4th, the annual Cody Stampede Rodeo, a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event. The Stampede has been drawing some of the top cowboys in the country since its inception in 1919.
Old school to the last, Cody, Wyoming is one of those towns that seem to represent a “living history,” with a state of the art historical center and art museum continually moving forward while the rest of this small, beautiful place seems to stand still.