Sunday, October 9, 2011

Travel the Wild West - and Remember

On our way out west we spent a day in Cody, WY, a throwback if ever there was one, if you spend time in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, five museums in one.  And I highly recommend doing so.

Hoss - Pa - Adam - Li'l Joe
We first walked into the Firearms Museum and saw numerous firearms, including what was left of Lucretia Borgia, the rifle Buffalo Bill used to shoot buffalo.  There are thousands of firearms here, more than I imagined you can have in one spot, with a history of the development of firearms.

Li'l Joe's Gun and Holster

Pa's Gun and Holster
The museum has the six-shooters worn by Pa and Li’l Joe of Bonanza fame, shown here, the latter being left-handed and the holster matching perfectly.  Try to think of that TV show without hearing the theme music in your head – then look at the blog post from July, 2010 because we have the opening music and video there.  Scroll to the bottom of that page to get to the video.

All during the time I was walking through the museum I couldn’t help but think: our kids NEVER had western heroes.  They wouldn’t know Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, the Lone Ranger if you showed them pictures, I’m sure.  The era is gone, and now the kids worship singers who wear their pants halfway down their thighs. 

OK, so maybe we wore ‘em low from time to time, but some of the yahoos I’ve seen have to walk bowlegged to keep them from falling completely off, elastic waist or not!  And plaid underwear to match?  Uffda.  I bowl  in a league featuring just such a fellow – the elasticized waist allows him to drop what looks like flannel pajamas below his gluteus maximus, revealing the aforementioned shorts at the conclusion of his delivery.  A real sight.

I digress.  To return to my story, the firearms museum was only the start of the local mission, and simply a delay until we could take the trolley tour of Cody, after which we returned to complete the museum tour.

Buffalo Bill, who was born in LeClaire, IA, just north of the Quad Cities, may have been the original promotions man in addition to the skill set that allowed him to kill a lot of buffaloes.  In his defense, when he saw how others were pretty much slaughtering the animal with disregard to the mutual future of man and animal, he did set out to do some correction.  And they still became nearly extinct.

In his Wild West show he used quite a large collection of cowboys and Indians traveling across the East, complete with horses and war whoops.  Jerky, black and white movies at the museum documented the performances.  And nearly all of his promo photos include a hat set on jauntily and a debonair tilt of his head.  He was a confident man.

When I got to that part of the museum devoted to his story, I couldn’t help but spend some time viewing Annie Oakley, the original liberated woman.  She had quite the life story, including time spent training some 15,000 women to shoot a gun, and according to the museum was training American soldiers the same way about the time of the Spanish-American war.

Another Bill, Wild Bill Hickok, who died in Saloon No. 10 in Deadwood, SD, had his own business connection to Calamity Jane, another Wild West heroine who was featured in the 1953 film of the same name.  Doris Day, once America’s Sweetheart and later the World’s Oldest Virgin, played the role in the movie and sang favorite songs like “The Deadwood Stage” and “Secret Love”, the latter topping the Billboard charts at one point.  (C’mon, croon with me . . .  “Now I shout it from the highest hills, I even told the golden daff – o – d – I – I – l ls . . . “)

Doesn't look that comfortable, does she?
The movie is memorable to me because I saw it in Austin, MN, probably on a Sunday afternoon at the Sterling Theater, with Larry Holstad, eating our way through more popcorn and candy than we should have.  I just can’t get the sight of Doris Day riding shotgun on a stagecoach (in the opening scene) out of my head.  It helped that she was a lovely lady.

So it was appropriate during this trip West that as we drove we listened to “Seriously Sinatra” – a channel on XM Radio featuring old favorites like Doris Day, including her top hit “Que Sera, Sera” and other crooners in addition to Sinatra himself.  Perry Como, the old smoothie (“I’ll be looking at the moon, and I’ll be seeing yoooooo!”), Peggy Lee – “Fever!”, Nat King Cole, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Bobby Darin . . .  It was a flashback, I tell you.  Remember when you had a stack of LP’s at home with music like that?  Perhaps even Chet Akins or the Percy Faith Orchestra?

It was all Memory Lane.  Head West, young man (or woman), and be as young as you want to be.

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