Cheyenne, Wyoming

Hell on Wheels or Magic City of the Plains?

Well, I have spent today being a tourist. I have decided it is best to try to see things as a tourist because as a local I think I tend to overlook things. I am going to try to see everything as though it is new, different, and exciting. I have to remind myself that this culture that surrounds me is indeed a very unique culture, although one that I maybe have grown accustomed to.

So today I took the self guided walking tour of downtown. Funny, the AAA book describes the 1867 town as famous across the States, known as the ‘hell on wheels’; “overrun by gamblers, cowboys, speculators, shopkeepers, and real estate salesmen”

However, the city walking tour pamphlet describes the same city as having widespread fame as the ‘magic city on the plains’. Where ‘eager entrepreneurs…anticipated large profits’, and where ‘railroaders, speculators, merchants, wealthy tourists, and military personnel….made their homes’. (what about the gamblers!?) hahahahahaha!!!

I imagine that both were true!! Just goes to show that what people see and what they remember are largely determined by what they want to see and remember!! And I guess the wilder phase came first and the city probably became more genteel with time.

There are lots of cool old buildings and the people are still friendly – did I mention the friendly people? A friend of mine here once told me that Cheyenne was voted on a survey to be the most friendly city in the US. And I believe it!!

Lots of people say ‘Hi’ on the street and are always so very apologetic if they should happen to bump into you. One day I was at Subway at the cash register and my order was all ready and !? oh my gosh!!! where was my money!!?? urgh!! Must have left it in my other jeans!! Embarrassed, I apologized and offered to come back and pick up the food after I ran home to get my money.

So the guy behind the register starts pulling dollars out of his own pocket!!! And then the guy behind me in line says “I have a $5 note

if you need one”. Holy Cow!! Is that friendly or what?! I finally found a pile of quarters in the bottom of my purse – but I have to say – only in Cheyenne!!!

For those who don’t know Cheyenne, it is the capital city of Wyoming, and the largest city in the state, with a whopping 50,000 odd residents. The elevation is about 6,000 feet. It is in the southeast corner of Wyoming. It’s rapid growth was due to the transcontinental railroad which got here almost before it did – it also has an important military outpost, then Fort D.A. Russell now Warren Air Force Base. The city was named after the Plains Indians who once lived here.

So I took lots of pictures today, of the Tivoli which is now the Chamber of Commerce but was once a classy speak-easy and brothel, which is rumoured to have had secret passageways to the adjoining businesses on the second floor; and of the large red stone, part gothic style church, with the long stained glass windows where Wild Bill Hickok married Agnes Lake Thatcher and the priest noted in his registry “Don’t think they meant it”. Hickok died in a poker game gone bad five months later.

I stopped to inspect the old buildings of the Becker Hotel block – the 2 block area once housed 17 saloons with bordellos on the second floors. I also saw an old theatre or two where the rich folks in town would pay big bucks to bring in great entertainment.

When mom and Eric were up to visit a week or so ago, we went to see an old fashioned melodrama in the Atlas Theatre. It was very animated with a classic plot consisting of a damsel in distress, a dastardly villain or 2 and a strong hero. They even had dancing girls, who would appear on the stage at the appropriate moment and hold up the appropriate signs, ‘cheer’, ‘boo’, ‘hiss’, just in case the audience might forget who the good guy was!!

Unfortunately some of the audience members must have looked at the dancing girls a little more than was needed, the town sheriff was pretty upset and had to take one of them outside for a shoot-out! I think the poor guy from the audience lost!!

To finish up the tour I had to do my ritual of bonding with the city on my rollerblades. So I bladed around for while, got some exercise and listened to my walkman. When I got back to my car, the bright full moon had risen in the inky sky over the clocktower of the old stone train depot creating a romantic scene. The night air smelled cool and good. so I bought some wine coolers and came home and wrote this letter!!!

PS – I rode the mechanical bull at Cowboy South later in that week!! What a rush – when I got off my hands were shaking with adrenaline and boy did my inner thighs burn!!! It was fun!! I’d like to try it again – but they took it away after the rodeo – the girl I was with said I was the best girl rider that night, and lots of people I didn’t know told me good job so I think I did good (probably because I was one of the most sober people to ride – you know it’s always a bad sign if the rider is having trouble walking up to the bull!)