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A Visit to the fabulous Nelson Museum of the West and Playing Cowboy at the Terry Bison Ranch

sunny 82 °F

Howdy Partner!

The morning was free so I headed into town to catch a couple remaining museums. The Cowgirl Museum happens to be closed on Sundays & Mondays. The Nelson Museum of the West does not have a very exciting title but I went anyway. Was I ever pleasantly surprised! Located on one of the main streets downtown it has 11,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space. It displayed Indian artifacts, bronze sculptures of different Plains animals, artwork of the first Native Americans, & Art of the Pueblos. There are exhibits of artwork of famous western artists, such as, Charles Russell, Frederic Remington, Will James and others. A vingnette of renowned western artist and Wyoming native, Burt Proctor's living room, with his saddle, hat, firearms, safe, furniture, and fine paintings were displayed. Another showed how early Cattle Barons lived in opulent style. There were mannequins dressed in US Cavalry uniforms, both Commissioned Officers, and Non-commissioned calvarymen from their beginning during the Indian Wars (1860-1890) to when the mounted Cavalry was disbanded in 1943. Mechanized Infantry replaced the horse-mounted units.

Saddlery, Bits & Bridles, Hats & Boots were artfully shown, as well. Featured in a glass case is the Forrest Riley Saddle. Mr. Riley was a wealthy California rancher who commissioned the building of this parade saddle, chaps, vest, spurs, gauntlets and gunrig. It took over 5 years to complete and $250,000. was spent (in 1953 dollars) to build this outfit from the finest hand-tooled leathers, & ornamented with the best gold & silver. The quality of the engraving & workmanship is remarkable. California saddles tend to be more ornate reflecting the Spanish/Mexican style than the Wyoming saddles whose leathers are beautifully hand-tooled but less gaudy. My opinion. There was a gallery of taxidermied Plains & Mountain Trophy animals, a total of probably 30-35, as well. The exhibits explained how the 'cowboy' evolved. The Spanish & Mexicans were the first to handle cattle herds. The Spanish, as you recall, brought horses and beef cattle to the Americas in the 1500's. The use of these 'cattle herders' moved into Texas and California before reaching Wyoming & Colorado. The huge cattle drives from Texas through OK, CO,WY to Kansas and their stockyards created a demand for these men, and the folklore was thus created.

To get some of the Wyoming 'Cowboy Flavor' I drove south of Cheyenne to the Terry Bison Ranch which sits on the Wyoming-Colorado border. A fully-functional ranch, it caters to tourists with a restaurant offering bison meats, a train ride to observe the bison herd (80-100 animals), camels, ostriches, & peacocks, and saddle rides for guests. There is also an RV park on the premises. (Ugh!) Anyway, I signed up for the package; the train ride to see the bisons, a 2 hr. horseback ride, and dinner at the Senators Steakhouse & Brass Buffalo Saloon.

Arriving at the appointed time, I proceeded to the stables where they keep about 50 horses. After signing liability waivers, I mounted 'Splash', my horse for the next 2 hours. When I asked what the horse's name was, I thought they said, 'Dash'. Oh boy, I thought, 'I am in trouble'. As it turned out Splash was very docile. We are referred to as 'Guest Riders' by the staff, i.e., greenhorn rookies! We left the yard led by a 45+/- yr. old widow lady who had lost her husband at 28 as a military casualty. Her 15 yr. old son and 12 yr. old daughter rode with us. Having a Masters Degree from UofW in history she gave an interesting account of the area as we rode. The Terry Ranch dates back to Wyoming Territory days when it encompassed 100,000 acres of prairie land. Over the years it has been reduced to its present size of 24,500 acres. She took us in a southerly direction and soon crossed into Colorado. Climbing to the hilltops, which offered a spectacular visual of the Rocky Mountains in the distance, and traversing the valleys we saw some crotch-horned antelopes, a coyote, & the bison. These antelope are the fastest land animals in North America able to reach sustained speeds of 50 mph for extended periods of time. After an hour or so of riding we spotted an elk herd of about 100 animals. It was quite a sight to see. On the return we had to ride through 'rattlesnake gulch', an area of the snake nests. Warned of their presence I was a little nervous as the horses get spooked by the snake rattles. A story our guide related. It seems that on a saddle ride through this area a 'lady guest rider' stopped her horse opposite a coiled rattlesnake to take a picture. Just the moment the snake struck the horse moved forward and the snake bit her saddle a few inches behind her. A close call, for sure! I just kept Old Splash moving, no stopping! These Wyoming cowboys do have Rattle Snake Roasts or BBQ's, I learned. It would be interesting to attend one. I understand that the meat 'has a little bite to it'!
We returned to the stables as the evening was approaching. My body felt like I had been in a prize fight. Saddle-sores on my butt, and I had difficulty raising my right leg over the saddle to dismount. After a couple of beers at the Brass Buffalo Saloon some of the pain subsided. I had a bison surloin steak, baked potato, and salad, then left for home (my RV). After painfully removing my cowboy boots, I washed up and collapsed in bed, never moving an aching muscle all night! It was all an enjoyable experience.

Posted by dixter 07:09 Archived in USA Tagged cowboy fever

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