Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Chief Joseph Highway and The Buffalo Bill Center of the West

It was time to leave Yellowstone, and we had decided to go back to Star Valley by a different route. Never having driven the Chief Joseph Highway, (named for Chief Joseph and his band of fleeing Nez Pierce Indians), we first drove to Silver City and then turned onto the highway heading southwest to Cody.
Following the Shoshone river, we drove parallel to it’s beautiful and steep canyon. At one point in the drive, we passed a place where half the highway had collapsed into the abyss. A single lane was still open and so we could continue to Dead Indian Pass. This was named for the brave member of the band who, dying requested to be left behind.
Descending the pass, there is a forty-foot limit to vehicles, we finished the stunning drive to Cody, Wyoming. Just west of the city lies Buffalo Bill State Park and we could find a campsite for ten dollars a night, (it would have been twenty dollars for a nonresident. It was along the large reservoir and was dry camping, meaning no water or electricity).
It had been twenty years since we had last been to the Buffalo Bill Center of The West, and the next morning we returned to Cody. There are five museums at the center and of interest for us was the Firearms Museum and the Western Art Museum.
During college, I had worked a variety of jobs and at one point I worked for two years checkering gun stocks and forearms of various shotguns, (in that position I had also traveled to trap shoots, including the Grand National held at Vandalia, Ohio). The main interest at the museum was, for me anyway, to view inlays into the wood and metal inscribed receivers of the guns.
Inside the Museum we walked past beautiful artistic examples of such inlays. Often the artists had used ivory, colorful rosewoods, and ebony to name just a few. They had also carved and added many different figures made of gold silver, and even platinum, (one of the problems with such inlays was that they had to be able to withstand the recoil of the gun firing.
Besides the stunning guns there was a fully stocked inscribers workbench. We recognized many of the same jeweler’s tools we use ourselves. Of course, we enjoyed the beautiful craftmanship and we enjoyed our time at that museum.
Inside the museum we ate a brief lunch and then toured the Western Art Museum. Besides the many paintings by Russell, Remington, and others, (we both prefer Russell’s work), there were numerous examples of castings. Years ago, we had the chance to view the bronze foundry located in Lander, Wyoming and so we appreciated the different techniques used, (among other casts, the Lander foundry cast the Jaguar statues at the Carolina Panthers Football Stadium).
Another painting I enjoyed was the painting by a native American Indian who had painted Custer’s Last Stand from the Indian viewpoint. It contrasted sharply with the romanticized, and historically wrong legends of Custer’s last Stand.
On the way back to our vehicle, we walked through the Natural History Museum which even had examples of fossils and rocks! What could be a better to end our day! We only had time to visit three of the five museum complexes and   for us anyway, this center is a must stop place. If you are ever in the area be sure to visit the world-famous Buffalo Bill Center of The West Museums. Clear skies

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