Thursday, September 21, 2017

Exploring Sheridan, Wyoming

The Brinton Museum nestles in the foothills of Montana's Bighorn Mountains. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The city of Sheridan, population just 20,000, offers a wide variety of experiences. If you think the West uncultured, think again. The Brinton Museum houses one of the finest western art museums in the world. In addition to paintings, photography and sculpture, it includes an outstanding collection of exquisitely designed leather craft. 

A rare Blackfeet Grizzly Shirt. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The Chinese used the rammed earth technique to build the Great Wall of China and so did the trustees of the Brinton Museum when they enlarged the facility with the Forrest E. Mars Building (the candy company family are Brinton supporters). Like the wall, the building and its 19th-21st century Western art and Native American collection should be safe for several more millennia. 

Bradford Brinton and his older sister Helen may have been from Illinois but they fell in love with the west, she with Arizona, he with Montana and both with Western and Native American art and artists. Wealthy from  developing the family's farm equipment company, Brinton bought the historic Quarter Circle A Ranch. When he died, he left it to his sister, knowing she would never sell it.

The "Whoopie Cabin." Photo © by Judy Wells.
The house he enlarged and Helen used as a summer home is open to the public 
May through September via tours as is the Little Goose Creek Lodge, known to his friends as the "whoopie cabin." 

Jim Jackson shows a group how he creates his leather work. Photo © by Judy Wells.
One area  is being used as a studio for artists in residence like James F. Jackson, who grew up in his father's saddle shop and now displays and explains his craft to visitors. 

Downtown Sheridan. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Sheridan’s downtown looks as I expected the Old West: wide streets, from the days when horse-drawn wagons needed space to turn around, and many original brick buildings.

A walking tour took me past City Hall, a stone courthouse, a shoe store featuring hundreds of colorful cowboy boots, and a furniture store selling a bed with a hidden compartment for a rifle. 


Looks like a plain bed. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Of course we had to examine the boots and see that bed demonstrated.

But with a one-of-a-kind key... Photo © by Judy Wells.
So when we saw this sign in a print shop window...

... we had to go in and meet Henry. 

And yes, given the chance he will follow you home. 

Like many enlightened down towns, Sheridan's is enlivened with western themed sculpture and murals. 

Do like this growing trend.

The Good Girls, Judy and Debi.
Everyone ends up at the famous Mint Bar, a 1907 saloon redecorated in the 1940’s. The Mint’s vintage neon exterior sign attracts thirsty mouthed patrons from all walks of society. Walk in and sit down; you’ll find game mounts (stuffed animal heads and/or full bodies) and lots of old photos along the walls.

You can’t miss the set of horns measuring seven feet from tip to tip centered behind the bar. 

Photo © by Judy Wells.
 Nor can you miss the skin of a rattlesnake that was just a tad bit longer mounted above those horns. 

The beer is cold, too.

Judy's favorite stop. Photo © by Judy Wells.
One not-to-be-missed stop downtown is the famous King Saddlery, King Ropes. Never heard of it? Just ask a competition calf roper. His or her best ropes probably began life there.
Mike Wooton, rope technician. Photo © by Judy Wells.

 Their saddle may hail from there, too. 

Photos © by Judy Wells.
Its block-deep building contains everything for the Western aficionado, from boots and chaps to hat and hat band, horse tack and medications and every weight, color and texture of rope, left and right handed (!), from an inventory of more than 30,000. Home decor, too.

As if that weren't enough, Don King Museum with its collection of historic saddles, bridles, weaponry, wagons, carriages and artifacts is a must-see. I ask you, where else will you find an old saddle with flowers carved into the stirrup leathers and a naked woman etched into the fenders?

The historic Sheridan Inn. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The Sheridan Inn, part of the Historic Hotels of America, was the place where Buffalo Bill Cody held auditions for his traveling show. Its saloon maintains Buffalo Bill’s wooden bar given to him by Queen Victoria.  

One of two bars Queen Victoria had made for Bill Cody's hotels. Photo © by Judy Wells.
 Cody was a co-owner of the circa 1893 hotel, once considered the finest between Chicago and San Francisco, having talked the railroad into building it. Queen Victoria was so amused by his wild west show she had two front and back bars made for his hotels; the second is in the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming.

The copper and pearl chandelier in the Ladies' Parlor. Photo © by Judy Wells.
The current owner used to play on the front porch while his mother worked at the  hotel and has lovingly restored the historic edifice. The 22 rooms, named for Cody and the 21 people who were most important to him, have been tastefully updated and the public areas have been returned to their glory days. The pearl and copper chandelier in the Ladies' Parlor glistens and the registration desk in the Gentleman's Parlor looks much as it must have 100 years ago.

Stepping through the front doors is like entering a time capsule, albeit one with Wi-Fi.

Trail End. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Trail End is a historic home to visit with a remarkable Horatio Alger-ish tale. It was built by  John B. Kendricks, once a penniless Texas orphan who had made his way into the Wyoming Territory by the age of 21. He signed on as a trail rider on a cattle drive and at the age of 34 in 1891 married the boss's daughter. 

Over the next 18 years he amassed a cattle and land empire with 10 ranches across 210,000 acres in two states. Shortly after building Trail End, the only known example of Dutch revival architecture in Wyoming, Kendricks first was elected governor and then U. S. senator for the state.


The young crowd gathers inside and out at The Black Tooth Brewery. Photo © by Judy Wells.
Sheridan is not just a historic site. In keeping with the times, the Koltiska Distillery and Black Tooth Brewery add to today’s craft scene and a vibrant nightlife. 

It's a real Western town, too. Those aren't drugstore cowboys or all hat no horse cowgirls you see at King's. That's a lifetime of trail dust, horse and cow poop on or just wiped off their boots.

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