It’s A Fine Fall Day

Linda Burton posting from Cheyenne, Wyoming – Fish and ducks and geese didn’t scurry, and there was no fringe on our top; but a Trolley ride on the first day of fall is a mighty fine way to spend a day. Autumn began in Cheyenne at precisely 8:49 AM this morning and I was ready for the Farmers Market at Depot Plaza just about that time. Pumpkins and apples on display; mums in pots; pies and peppers and fresh-baked zucchini bread; the mood was set, framed by the two things that define Cheyenne – trains, as depicted in the arch overhead, and ranchwear, for sale across the street. With a slice of that zucchini bread in hand, I headed for the Trolley, parked right outside the gate. The Trolley Passport in my hand promised a “fully narrated historic tour that captures the lively character of days gone by.” I’m ready for the ride.

“I love to talk,” said our narrator and Trolley driver Jim. “So my wife told me to get a job driving the Trolley.” This brought a laugh from my fellow passengers and me. “I can’t help it,” Jim continued. “Since I moved to Cheyenne I’ve spent most of my time studying its history. I think it’s a fascinating place. I would blab all day to my wife about what I’d learned. Now I can just tell you.” We nodded. Good idea! The other passengers related where they were from – a young couple just moved to town, people from Minnesota, Florida, New York state. “I’m homeless,” I said, and then explained about the Journey, which brought a lot of questions about when I’d get to their state. Jim promised to give me some good stories about Cheyenne.

A left turn from Capitol Street onto Lincoln Way, and on our right Wyoming Home, a bench out front, well-used. Jim drove, and talked, and drove, and talked some more; we learned about the Nelson Museum of the West on Carey Avenue; no stop, but come back to see Indian basketry and pottery and exhibits of the US Cavalry. We passed the Wyoming State Museum on Central Avenue – ten galleries in this giant facility. “You’ll find the history of Wyoming in there,” Jim told us, “I spend a lot of time in the Archives studying. Allow yourself an afternoon to explore.”

Around the corner then, the spacious grounds of the State Capitol on our left, the building on our right. “The cornerstone was laid May 18, 1887. The dome is real gold leaf. You can see it from every road that comes into the city.” Jim pointed out the statuary on the lawn, the buffalo, the rider on the horse, Wyoming legends, both. A long drive along Carey Avenue through historic neighborhoods and pretty homes; the tree-lined streets showed just a hint of fall; gold leaves filtered down onto manicured yards. The Botanic Gardens to the right; I made a note; tomorrow I’ll come back for sure; I see a lake beyond the curving drive. “Nine acres and twenty-five specialty gardens,” said Jim.

Our first stop. The Frontier Days Old West Museum, located right beside the grounds of Frontier Days events. “Twenty minutes here,” we are advised, as we synchronized our watches. The museum is a “three-parter” – it has one of the country’s largest collections of horse-drawn vehicles; it has a fabulous collection of western art; and it traces the history of Cheyenne Frontier Days from when it began back in 1897. A lot to cover in 20 minutes! I walked fast; decided to skip the movies and see the displays end to end, snapping pictures of everything that caught my eye. First thing, there’s a surrey, with fringe on the top! I wandered through carriages and stage coaches and old mail wagons, remembering the story my Dad loved to tell about falling beneath the wheels of the mailman’s buggy when he was only three. “I had blood all over my white sailor suit!” he’d say, and show the scar at the edge of his forehead.

Hurry! I almost ran through the art exhibits (I’ll come back!); glanced at the Frontier Days exhibits (Willie Nelson comes here!); found the restroom (of course!) and plopped back in my Trolley seat, the last one to arrive. Jim was talking about Frontier Days; I need to catch up on that; another note to myself.

A Trolley ride is great for figuring out what to come back and see; peeping through the windows at the Historic Governors Mansion (not open today); picking up tidbits about the lifestyle of the town (“It doesn’t rain much, but when it does it floods,” showing the park that was designed to catch stormwaters and put them to use); pointing out the slate sidewalks over a hundred years old and what once was Cattle Barons Row. We passed the historic Plains Hotel (first hotel in America to have a telephone in every room); the modern hospital with the helipad; the restaurants on 17th (Pizzeria Venti, and 2 Doors Down, which is, literally, two door away from the pizza place, both owned by the Innis family).

A pass by the train tracks and the spot where the Shoot-Out takes place on summer afternoons. It’s a movie-like western backdrop of fake storefronts; today’s trains clearly visible behind. We’re back on Capitol now, the Trolley’s at the curb. And Jim is still talking. But we don’t mind a bit; past and present, we know this town a little better now. It’s a fine fall day, and I’m storied up.


The Autumnal Equinox. The word “equinox” comes from the Latin words for “equal night.” The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the Sun crosses the celestial equator.

It is the summer’s great last heat, It is the fall’s first chill: They meet.–Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt