Look What The Wind Blew In

Linda Burton posting from Cheyenne, Wyoming – “Does the wind blow here all the time?” brought me a loud “Yes!’ from the restaurant hostess in answer. I’d just walked across the parking lot for my Sunday evening dinner with shoulders hunched against the strong winds, my jacket zipped to the top. Yesterday it tried to blow the limbs off my Christmas cactus as I unloaded the car; I ran fast to get inside the first of the double doors. And the doors have signs instructing “High Winds Please Pull Door Shut.” Even the little card-swiper devices for unlocking the doors have protective lids over them; you have to lift in order to insert the card. I need to find out about the wind fences I saw alongside the freeway, I’m thinking, remembering mile after mile of curved wooden rails that seem to be connected to nothing, but are everywhere, on the windward side of the road. That was one clue, for sure. And after all, I know Cheyenne sits high on the mountain plains; elevation 6,098 feet, the second-highest of the 50 capital cities.  I picked up a brochure before I sat down.

With my order in place for pork tenderloin and green beans, a proper Sunday meal, I began to scan the brochure while I waited for my food. Published by Visit Cheyenne; named Cheyenne, Wyoming Live the Legend 2012. Photos on page 1 showed me a historic downtown building in rusty red brick and dusty sandstone; the stately domed capitol; a trolley car. There’s a horse in mid-buck, its rider flying through the air, arms flailing yet hat intact; there’s a sheriff’s six-pointed star proudly proclaiming True West’s No. 1 Western Town. True West magazine recently bestowed that honor, it goes on to say.

And then I read: …the Cheyenne Spirit…carved first by the pioneers and molded by the path of the great railroad…rich and colorful lifestyle beckoned the Easterner with the romantic lure of the West, attracting the rowdy town bars…alongside the elegant opera houses….Before its impressive structures…Cheyenne was a land of rich heritage…from the stalwart people who first roamed its majestic plains to European nobility in search of new adventure…virtuous, infamous, or somewhere in between….

There’s a picture of a ticket to a hanging, dated November 20, 1903: Tom Horn born 1860, employed by the Pinkerton Agency. Crime, the murder of Willie Nickell. Villain, victim or both, Tom Horn remains a mystery yet today. Visit the Tom Horn Room in the Laramie County Courthouse; read the notorious confession and decide for yourself. Visit Willie Nickell’s grave at Lakeview Cemetery.

Visit Cheyenne suggests a half-day itinerary for the limited visitor – see the newly restored Cheyenne Depot, a National Historic Landmark, with an art deco lobby and a museum chronicling the railroad’s relationship to Cheyenne; buy a ticket for the Cheyenne Street Railway Trolley for a 90-minute overview of the community. The Trolley stops at the Frontier Days Old West Museum, the Nelson Museum of the West, Wyoming State Museum, Historic Governor’s Mansion, Wyoming Capitol, and Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. After all that, the visitor is invited to peruse a few true western stores, such as the Wrangler for jeans, boots and hats, and Wyoming Home for western furniture and artwork. And there is a free downtown carriage ride. Whew!

If you’ve got a full day, the suggestion is to add the Terry Bison Ranch, nine miles out of town, for horseback riding or a train ride through the middle of a bison herd. In the evening, there’s a downtown gunslinger show at 6 PM; later choose between a Bit-O-Wyo Horse Barn Dinner Show in the mountains west of town or Old Fashioned Melodrama at the Historic Atlas Theater; cheer the hero and hiss the villain. Ah, the West.

I pull out my pen to begin making my list, and discover that most of these events are strictly summer fare, not available in September. Ah, rats. No gunslingers, no hissing and booing, no free carriage ride. The museums, the capitol, and the shopping are still up for grabs, though. And, discovering how people who live in Cheyenne today really live, heroes and villains notwithstanding. On the last page of the brochure I see a few more accolades; CustomWeather, Inc named Cheyenne to its Top Ten Summer Climates list; Golf Digest lists Cheyenne as one of the Top Ten Golf Towns. And the American Lung Association ranks Cheyenne as the #1 Cleanest City in the United States.

Ah, the wind. Across the street a train goes rolling by, a hundred cars at least, shipping out Wyoming coal.

Visit Cheyenne, One Depot Square, 121 W 15th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82001, 800-426-5009, www.cheyenne.org