"" Writer's Wanderings: Road Trip 2015 - Buffalo Bill Ranch

Friday, October 30, 2015

Road Trip 2015 - Buffalo Bill Ranch

Limiting our drives to 5-6 hours a day we were always looking for things to fill in with. After all once you get to the hotel who wants to just sit in a room? We arrived a little early in North Platte, Nebraska, so we plugged in the address to the Buffalo Bill ranch I'd found in an online search. We were glad we did.

William F Cody or Buffalo Bill as he was more commonly known built his large Victorian mansion on a piece of the 4,000 acres that he owned in North Platte. It was built in the heyday of his Wild West Show in 1886. His first show was actually performed in the town on July 4, 1882.

The first show, actually called the Old Glory Blowout, is said to be the beginning of the rodeo. It expanded and became a troupe of 1200 eventually that traveled east to give easterners a taste of the wild west. There were hundreds of animals including a herd of buffalo. Indians were a big part of the show as well as some of the more famous included Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, Geronimo, and Rains in the Face who was reportedly the one who killed Custer at the infamous battle.

My brother and I had cap guns like this!
Included in the performances was roping, trick riding, and shooting and the stars were Annie Oakley, Wild Bill Hickok, Bronco Bill and Will Rogers. The show would end with an enactment of the Indians burning a white village with Buffalo Bill and his troupe of men coming to the rescue.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show even went to Europe and toured and performed in England at the request of Queen Victoria. But William F. Cody wasn't always a performer and showman. His life story includes being a frontiersman being paid to kill buffalo for food for the railway workers, a scout for the Army, and a guide for wealthy Easterner's buffalo hunting trips. He also had a short stint as a Pony Express rider. A video that details a lot of his life is shown in an upper room of the mansion as part of the tour.
If this had been our transportation, I wouldn't have come.

Sixteen acres of the original 4000 were turned into a State Historical Park in 1965 and since then the house and the original barn have been restored and much memorabilia collected. Walking through the house is fascinating and fun. The acreage is beautiful and we had a nice sunny afternoon to explore.

In the barn is a display of several fancy carriages and wagons from the era and lots of posters of the Wild West Show as well as pictures. Not far from the barn is a log cabin that would have preceded the era.

One of the other attractions in the area caught our eye, The Golden Spike Tower. Thinking this was where the golden spike was driven that connected the two railroads, Union Pacific and Central Pacific, we were excited to go visit. It would have paid to do our homework. The spike was driven in a ceremony on May 10, 1869 in Promontory Summit, Utah.

"So there's no gold spike here?" asked Bob.

"No," said the sweet lady at the gift shop. "But we have small replicas you can buy."

Disappointed, we still paid to go up in the huge tower that resembles a spike and view Bailey Yard is said to be the world's largest rail yard. The brochure says it's where east meets west on the Union Pacific line. Each day 10,000 cars are handled on 2,850 acres of land stretching out eight miles.

It was quite a view from the top but unless you were really into railroading, it was just a nice view. I enjoyed looking down and seeing a pumpkin patch and a maze cut in the cornfield next to the tower. Reminded me that we were really getting into the fall season.

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