No Shy Anns Here

Linda Burton posting from Cheyenne, Wyoming – When you think of women of the American West, do Annie Oakley and Calamity Jane come to mind? Back in the 50’s Doris Day portrayed both of them in film, and in song; women who seemed to have more fun than hard times. Perhaps you temper that “buttons and bows, sharp-shootin” image with the knowledge of an ancestor whose hardships you’ve heard in stories handed down; women who buried children along the trail and struggled in a land that offered few favors. The truth is somewhere in there, and over on West 17th Street in Cheyenne you can learn about those truths in Cowgirls of the West Museum, run by modern-day women of the west who not only preserve the stories of the past, but who continue to shape the Cheyenne of today. I found another interesting “western woman” influencing the Cheyenne of today, and in fact the art scene around the world; it’s Veryl Goodnight, artist extraordinaire. I found her work in front of the Old West Museum on North Carey Avenue; her bronze statue of a woman by a wagon wheel is entitled No Turning Back; Veryl’s poem is inscribed below; a touching tale of women who “stored their silk dresses and donned calico.” In front of the Historic Depot on West 15th is Cheyenne’s latest Goodnight acquisition: a woman standing with umbrella in one hand and handbag in the other, as though she just stepped off the train. A New Beginning is the title; she faces Capitol Avenue with the state capitol at the far end. A meaningful view?

About the artist, Veryl Goodnight.

Veryl was born in 1947; her family moved to Colorado when she was an infant. She loved horses as a child, but didn’t have one, so she simply sculpted horses in the snow. When she was in third grade she got her first set of professional paints and filled the house with drawings and paintings of horses. Now Veryl and her husband live on 57 acres overlooking Mesa Verde National Park, and she is surrounded by animals; her paintings and sculptures are in public and private collections all over the world.

Veryl works from life; her sculpture studio is at the end of the barn. It includes a “model run” and there’s an overhead door between studio and barn aisle. Her painting studio is in the house, with uninterrupted views of wildlife out every window. Last year Veryl’s book came out; entitled No Turning Back (just like that pioneer woman statue), it is the story of her life and includes photographs of her work. Veryl has created more than 20 different “women of the west” bronzes since 1984. She spoke at the dedication ceremony of A New Beginning in Cheyenne in June of last year. A double honor; her presence, and her artistic vision, a part of Cheyenne today.

About Cowgirls of the West Museum

Founded by women who want to keep the western spirit alive, the Cowgirls of the West Museum honors strong women of the past and present who have made amazing contributions to western culture and history. “We are a grass-roots organization dedicated to the history and legends of pioneering western women,” they state. “Our pioneering women worked very hard right alongside men to make the American West the one we know today.”

The Museum is also an Emporium; the Museum houses items of cowgirl history that have been donated or put on loan — artifacts and antiques, western saddles and tack, clothing and memorabilia. Cowgirl member volunteers are on hand to answer questions and tell the stories of the notable women from the Cheyenne area and other regions and states. In the gift shop you’ll find western-themed home decorations, handbags, artwork, clothing, jewelry, and made-in-Wyoming gifts.

The Cowgirls host regular luncheons with speakers who present educational western programs; open to the public on second Mondays; call 307-638-4994 to reserve. Cowgirls host western events throughout the year and offer speaking programs; organizations and school classes are welcomed for special tours or programs. Coming up in October is the History of the Farthing Ranch, Carol Farthing speaker; she’s a CFD Hall of Fame Honoree and a recipient of the Wyoming Tribune Community Spirit Award. Michelle Woerner will be there too; she’s the founder of K9’s 4 Mobility and trains and places Assistance Dogs.

Membership is open to everyone — You Don’t Need To Rope & Ride, Just Have the Western Spirit Inside! The Annual Contribution is $30.00. Cowgirls have a Memorial Scholarship Fund for students attending Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne; it’s intended to help students pursue their education while incorporating their love for the west.

No shy Anns in Cheyenne, it seems, just women with vision, energy, and a love of the west.

Old West Museum to see No Turning Back

Cheyenne Depot to see A New Beginning