Everything in surprise packages

In Bozeman, Montana with my hopes for going to Glacier National Park thwarted by being unable to find lodging, I decided to see what else I could do. I checked the internet and found a great deal on a hotel in Cody, Wyoming, which would give me the opportunity to see more of Yellowstone even if it was backtracking a bit.

Beautiful moonrise as I drive into Cody

So back I went to Yellowstone, seeing even more phenomenal landscape diversity, but not many animals, before landing in Cody for the night. My hotel had an outdoor fire pit with s’mores provided, and that was all that I had energy for before I passed out on the bed.

Cody is known for two things, the rodeo and the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. I was skeptical about both, but as my theme has been to stay open and experience the local color, I signed up. The museum was quite wonderful, and unexpected to find quality in such an out-of-the-way place. A good example of preconceptions being useless and unfair.

Bill Cody’s portable camp bathtub

I spent two hours exploring but you could easily take longer. I loved the old film clips and learning about William Cody’s path to stardom and loneliness, especially as he was such a showman and loved the out-of-doors. He was a man after my own heart and traveled with a portable camp bathtub. I LOVE baths. They had a massive array of exhibits on Native American life as well and wildlife art and a section on Yellowstone and naturalists. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

I stopped into the Proud Cut Saloon that I heard had a bacon cheeseburger to die for. Yep, die by cardiac arrest! It was awesome. A man came and sat next to my bar stool and we shared pleasant conversation . Ron was visiting a friend in town and I don’t know how it came up but I mentioned that one thing I’ve yet to do in life is go white water rafting. And lo and behold he was going the next day and INVITED ME TO GO! You should be shaking your heads saying “OF COURSE he did!” Right? Because that has been the karma of this journey day after day. But I do not take it for granted. After getting the details about rafting I heartily agreed to go, making sure I would be able to pull out-of-town by the mid afternoon because I was on my way to Calgary and was on a time schedule.

I gave him my business card and he said he would check with his friend and call me later that evening. I left the bar whistlin’ Dixie, thinking the world such a marvelous place, and went off to the rodeo.

Cody Rodeo

I am extremely soft-hearted and I was a bit worried that this rodeo business would bother me because of animal cruelty. But I was also determined to stay open-minded and experience it for the cowboy’s sake…I mean for MY sake! I am happy to report that no animals were hurt, and they all looked pretty well cared for and I suppose it’s better to live a life of bucking around for 25 seconds a night rather than be eaten as a beef steak.

As for cowboys…they are an interesting lot. So polite with all the “Mam’s” and doffing of hats. A prayer was said before the start of the rodeo and we stood for the national anthem, hats over our hearts. But with all this cowboy courtesy there was an attitude of superiority over the “little woman” and just like in country music, females are treated as cute little thangs to be cuddled and coddled, but not quite equal in status to a man. At least that is my GENERALIZATION, and I’m sure it’s not true for all cowboys, but for a couple of the ones I met later in the cowboy bar, it was a definite theme. And of course this does not sit well with my feminist tendencies and riles me (notice the word choice, I’m even starting to write with a western twang!).

More Buffalo B. museum

But there is a little bit of country inside this girl. My mom was raised on a farm with horses, and I found myself singing along to the country music station, admiring the cowboy hats, boots, loving the romance of horses and western paraphernalia and smiling at the polite “howdy mam’s” that I got periodically without batting an eye.

After rooting at the rodeo and keeping an eye peeled on those tight wranglers and chaps, I went over to a nearby cowboy bar and hoped for some dancing. I was most pleasantly surprised to walk in to live music, and a dance floor filled with smiling couples. I was welcomed at the door by various strangers, young men, old men, and seniors. There was one sweet old couple that must have been about 80. I loved it and in no time was two-stepping and swing dancing with man after man. I didn’t even have to give them the normal 30 minutes to-buck-up-to-bravery, or get fed up and dance alone.

In visiting with my dance partners I found out there was a dance group/club in attendance, so that accounted for the expertise I found in the male dance population. They were a friendly, warm group of people and I left there cheered that small town life can be pretty darn sweet, even if there were a few rednecks around to ruin the fantasy.

In the meantime I had heard from Ron the white-water rafter and found out all was a go for tomorrow! The only thing was his buddy had to do a work errand first delivering water in his truck, but he would call in the morning, we could all meet for breakfast and then we’d hit the river.

I rose the next morning wondering if I really should be going rafting as I had a 6 hour drive ahead of me, but I put that thought behind me to seize the opportunity of floating down river. But I never got a call from Ron and had to check out at 11am, so I thought that it would be best for me to just head off on my drive north toward Calgary and give up my rafting dream for the day. Ron ended up calling at about noon. He and his friend had blown a tire on the large rig and had no spare, no cell coverage, and he just felt AWFUL and ended up borrowing some nearby neighbor’s phone to call me. They were stranded but were still planning on going rafting later, and I was welcome to join them, when they got the tire fixed.

Things work the way they do for a reason. I wasn’t meant to go rafting that day and I was happy to be on my way to the next cute town. But the kindness of strangers is still so much appreciated and their willingness to take me on adventures makes each day like opening one of those surprise gift bags that I bought as a kid not knowing what was going to be inside. The excitement and anticipation of what it might be is the delight of my life.

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3 thoughts on “Everything in surprise packages

  1. I’m enjoying reading about your trip.

    Back in ’00, my brother, grandmother, and I drove from Fairbanks, AK to Chicago, IL, and our route took us through this part of the country.

    I remember being entranced with Cody, WY. The first place I ever had brown mustard. So vivid is my memory of that day!

    Lovely part of the country, and great post telling about it!

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