When a friend offered to show me and my sister around Cody this weekend, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to escape the Jackson labor day crowds and explore Yellowstone’s east gate. What I hadn’t expected was the rich history of a small town that felt pretty secure with its real-deal western roots.
Cody is located outside the east gate of Yellowstone that I have somehow managed to miss until this point. I’ve frequented West Yellowstone both by snowmobile and car and even walked several days to reach Gartner, Montana (the journey being the destination, of course) out the northeast gate of the park, but somehow have skipped Cody. And I’m not the only one.
Cody was (gasp!) filled with locals. Wyoming license plates begin with a two-digit county designation that makes it excruciatingly easy to identify where a car is from. Teton county plates boast “22” and are a prime target for small town speed traps all over the rest of the state. Incidentally, “small town speed traps” is a fair description for the majority of our nation’s least populated state. But in Cody, all I saw was “11”. 11 on the RV’s at the campgrounds and 11 outside the local Silver Dollar Bar (never to be confused with Jackson’s Silver Dollar bar- they still allow smoking in this one). We were utterly surrounded with that rarest of breeds, the Wyoming local.
We entered what appeared to be the epicenter of the native habitat with lunch at Pete’s, more formerly known as Peter’s Cafe & Bakery. I ordered the egg salad sandwich and the grandmotherly lady scooping it up commented, “the only problem with this sandwich is that it’s messy.” I answered “that’s what makes it so good” and she affirmed with a “this one’s really good. I made it myself an hour ago.”
I took that as a pretty good sign. Anytime someone that looks like a grandma is selling food she made herself I get pretty excited. And she delivered.
Cody is named after William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody and the legends fully live up to his colorful name. The first story came from my raft guide friend (so you know if must be true) as we approached the Buffalo Bill Dam. Old Bill wanted the people that lived in the canyon to move up to Cody and increase the population of his town. The people of the canyon said “no thanks”, so he built a massive dam (the tallest in the world on its completion in 1910) and proceeded to flood the canyon. The people moved to Cody. Nice guy, that Buffalo Bill.
I’m not sure how big Buffalo Bill dreamed Cody would become, but it sits at a grand total of 9.5 miles today. It calls itself “The Rodeo Capital of the World” and depends mostly on tourism. It’s always, always windy and either crazy hot or crazy cold. Money flows in off and on from oil but it seems like a large part of what keeps life simple is the notorious Buffalo Bill Dam. It irrigates over 93,000 of farmland in the Bighorn Basin. Maybe that Buffalo Bill wasn’t such a bad guy after all.
You Tube of the Day: cover of Taylor Swift’s Love Story This guy re-wrote the lyrics from Romeo’s perspective and sang/played them on You Tube. Taylor Swift tweeted and posted on FB about it. Interesting to see if the kid gets a record contract from this. Social media and old-fashioned “anyone can do it” American opportunities at their best.