Day 8: Cody, Wyoming
We decided to have a lazy morning since we have been on the go so much. The kids played in the park and went in the pool (we finally used our bathing suits!), even though the water was quite cold. They invented a game of throwing their flip flops in the pool and played it a lot longer than you'd think was possible. My mom and I dad laundry and Ellie read The Thirteenth Tale (one of my very favorite books) that just happened to be in the free library at the RV park.
We found out that the couple who had taken our RV spot had not just stolen our spot but had a reservation and had just parked in the wrong row, which if fairly easy to do. Unfortunately this meant no hotel for us.
Today was the first day that we didn't have to drive very far. We decided to spend the day exploring Cody, which is about 30 minutes from Wapiti, where our RV park is. We didn't make it to town until about 1 pm. We wanted to have Mexican food for lunch because we are all getting sick of hot dogs and hamburgers. Zapata's, the first Mexican place we saw, was full so we decided to walk down Sheridan, the main street, to get to the Chinese restaurant. Sheridan Street is full of restaurants, nice shops selling fancy western ware, and some touristy shops. There is also a pretty park where a woman was singing. We stopped at the historic Irma Hotel, which was started by Bill Cody and named after his youngest daughter, Irma. We bought tickets to the Cody rodeo for that night from a man named Ray who had a handle bar mustache and a lot of enthusiasm. He probably could have talked to us all day. When we walked away I said he looked like the Wizard of Oz and Diego said, "No, he looks like Salvador Dali." And Ellie said, "I'm impressed that you know who he is." And Diego said, "Oh, we learned about him during remote learning." So if you are reading this Katie Moncton and Sue Apey, you rock!
We ate at the the China Buffet. Raise your hand if you have been wondering how things work at a buffet restaurant during Covid. I'm sure most of you are not too concerned about the fate of buffet restaurants but you probably don't have four children who consider the Yummy Buffet in Chicago to be their favorite restaurant. Well, we tried China Buffet in Cody it and it wasn't that scary. They had plexiglass above the food and plastic in front of it. The waitresses were all wearing masks and gloves and we just had to walk up to the buffet, stand behind the plastic and tell them what we wanted on our plate. It worked extremely well and the food was exactly what we all needed, probably more than what we needed.
Then we walked to the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a huge museum that is actually five museums in one. It contains the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Buffalo Bill History Museum and the New Cody Firearms Museums. It was actually cheaper to buy a family membership than it was to pay for eight people, so we are now proud members of a museum we will surely not make it back to before our membership runs out. We strolled through the Draper Museum and saw lots of animals (stuffed, of course, as Ray the rodeo ticket seller had told us). Diego was very upset when he saw the stuffed otters and refused to look at them. We went to a presentation outside called "Relaxing with Raptors" where we got to see and learn all about a peregrine falcon and a great-horned owl.
Then we went through the Plains Indians Museum which had amazing artifacts, a Nez Perce tipi, and a log house dating back to 1911 in the center. Then we went back outside to see the Bill Cody boyhood home that had been moved from Iowa to Cody.
I really enjoyed learning all about William "Buffalo Bill" Cody in the museum devoted to his colorful life. He started riding on the Pony Express when he was 14, fought in the Civil War for the Union, served as a US Army Scout, killed over 4000 buffalo in his lifetime (that's how he got his nickname), was friends with Wild Bill Hickok and Annie Oakley and started the Buffalo Bill Wild West traveling show, which brought the Wild West to the rest of the country and the world. When the third graders at my school learn about the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 every year, the kids are always fascinated when they learn about Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and its traveling band of 150 cowboys, Native Americans, and sharpshooters. It was fun to see old videos and photos of the show and see the map showing the hundreds of places they traveled both domestically and internationally.
William Cody also helped found the town of Cody in 1896 along with several other investors. Cody had traveled through the area in the 1870s and again in 1894 and thought it would make a good place for a town because it was close to Yellowstone and close enought for the Shoshone River to provide irrigation for the town.
Since we were running out of time before the museum closed, I was sadly only able to run through the Whitney Art Museum. I didn't make It to the Frederic Remington room, which my mom said was wonderful. The boys and I ran through the Firearms Museum very quickly but it was kind of overwhelming to me and I am also not a big gun person.
We stayed at the museum a full three hours and we certainly could have stayed longer. After we left my parents said it was one of the best museums they have ever been to (and they are museum loving people).
We went back to the Zapata Mexican restaurant, where we had made a reservation. The food was just okay and the kids were annoyed that there were olives, lettuce, and cheese on their tacos. They are taco purists, just like their daddy.
Then it was finally time for the famous Cody Rodeo, which takes place every night in June, July and August, Covid be damned. Fear not, we wore our masks the entire time, didn't use any restrooms or buy any food, and stayed as far away from others as possible. There was a t-shirt for sale that said, "Rodeo vs. Rona." I hope rodeo wins.
I have never been to a rodeo, so this was all new to me. We were all pretty horrified by the men riding bare back on a bucking horse desperately trying to stay on for 8 seconds. It honestly looked like they were about to break their back or their neck or all of the bones in their body. Many of them were bucked off and one time one of the horses actually fell over so that rider got to go again. What was even more impressive than the riders were the two men on horseback who had the lovely job of trying to pull the rider off after the 8 second buzzer (if he hadn't already fallen off) and then grabbing the horse to slow it down and get it out of the arena.
Then came the calf wrangling portion of the evening. The cowboys had to lasso the calf, jump off their horse and then tie the calf's legs together as fast as possible. It sounds innocent enough, but it was one of the most violent acts of animal cruelty I have ever witnessed. They lassoed the calves with such force that when they pulled the lasso tight around the calf's neck they pulled the calf into the air and then bounced it onto the ground. Then the cowboy jumped off his horse, grabbed the calf, threw it down to the ground and tied its legs together. The winner did this in 9.5 seconds, less time than it takes me to eat an M and M.
Being a lover of words and names, I was not disappointed by the names of the rodeo contenders. Their names were such perfect cowboy names. There was a Cole, a Colton, a Ty, a Tyler, a Britt, a Bryce, a Brady, a Jace, a father and son named Houston and Worm Shipley, and a guy named Paul whose name sort of fits because that's my dad's name and he really wants to be a cowboy.
Finally, there were some women (Breanna, Bella, Bailey, Brett, Braley, Brady, and Deni Lou - these were the exact names, I am not making this up) allowed to compete in something. The cowgirls also got to participate in lassoing a calf, but they didn't have to tie it up. It was much easier to watch.
Throughout the night, there was an announcer with a deep voice named Coulter (another fitting name) who kept things rolling, a rodeo clown who told really bad jokes, and a DJ who keep the stands rocking with songs like "I Love Rock and Roll" by Joan Jett, "Thunder" by AC/DC and "Don't Stop Believing." The DJ also played little snippets of music when necessary— "I'm Sorry" by Patsy Cline when someone missed lassoing the calf entirely, or the theme song from Shark Tank right before a rider came out. There was even a children's dance contest to dance to Baby Shark. I was very upset that not one of my children even tried to dance. We could have won a free trail ride from a local ranch or an ice cream cone at DQ. Are these boys really my children?
The final event we watched was the boys bull riding. The boys seemed to be about 13/14 years old. There were only four contestants and the first one fell off and seemed to be stepped on by the bull. He walked out of the arena, but he was clutching his ribs pretty hard as he left. The bull riding was a lot less scary to watch than the bucking house competition because the Bulls just aren't as mad. We were hoping to see Quentin, the boy we met a few nights earlier at the Trail Shop Inn, but he didn't compete. When we left, we saw a boy riding on a mechanical bull on near the exit and it was Quentin. He seemed very happy to see us. He informed us that the hurt his collarbone in the rodeo the night before and couldn't compete. In a way, I was glad. It was hard enough to watch people you don't know look like they may break in two, much less someone you do know. Even Quentin's mom said she doesn't go to the rodeo to watch him because it's too terrifying.
The best thing about the whole night is that if I ever go back to a rodeo, for the rest of my life I can say, "This ain't my first rodeo."