- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2003

CODY, Wyo. — The towns that bookend the great Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks are distinctly different.

Jackson is the sport utility vehicle, Cody the recreational vehicle.

Jackson has the tony Coldwater Creek clothing store. Cody has a Wal-Mart.

Jackson, at the south end of the Teton-Yellowstone corridor, is more likely to have celebrities’ private planes sitting on its runway. Cody’s airport is across from a Dollar Discount Store. If you are flying directly to the parks, you’ll fly into one of these two towns — Cody to the east, Jackson to the south.

Jackson is the town, Jackson Hole the area. “Hole” is a Western term for a high valley, in this case a 50-mile-long basin. Jackson was Davey Jackson, a local trapper.

The Jackson town center is a collection of boardwalks with shops and restaurants. There’s even a bagel place. Jackson also is the jump-off point for great rafting.

The town square features a bizarre sight: arches covered with hundreds of antlers. This is where the world’s only public auction of elk antlers takes place every May. Boy Scouts comb the nearby National Elk Refuge for horns discarded by maturing bulls. The scouts sell about 5 tons in two hours, to be used for furniture, belt buckles, even a powder sold in Asia as an aphrodisiac.

Most of the money returns to the refuge for the following year’s elk feeding program.

Cody is the “rodeo capital of the world.” The Cody Nite Rodeo — the longest-running in America — has operated for 64 years, the last 25 years or so from an open-air arena on the edge of town. Riders from New Mexico, Mississippi and Saskatchewan wrestle bulls, race steeds and dust their thighs with their big-brimmed hats as they stagger back to the gate after being tossed. Children are invited down to try to get a ribbon off a calf’s tail. The smells of popcorn, dirt and animals fill the air.

Cody was named by, and for, William Frederick Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill.

The Buffalo Bill Historical Center, which houses five museums, honors the men who came to tame the West and the people they pushed out in the process. Cody respected the Indians and blamed their problems mostly on broken promises by the white man, but he did scalp one, and his famed Wild West Shows were responsible not just for perpetuating, but in many cases creating, the stereotypes and false images that have hounded American Indians ever since.

In the museums, exhibits and films show Americans banning the religious Sundance and flooding out villages as they reroute the Missouri River, forcing nomad hunters to become sustenance farmers.

An art museum shows works of famed Western artists such as Frederick Remington and George Catlin.

A gun museum shows the giant role firearms played in the region’s history; it displays hundreds of weapons, some simple, others pieces of art, and leaves out the politics.

Cody has Bill Cody’s Ranch, in Wapiti, which is almost exactly halfway between Cody and Yellowstone’s east entrance. It’s not a traditional dude ranch in that there’s no set schedule. Alarm clocks are available at the front desk.

For most of a day, we sat on the porch at one of the 14 cabins and read. Remember reading? Wapiti — pronounced WAH-pi-tee, a local name for elk — is a post office, restaurant and school, and Cody is about 25 miles to the east, so most people just have their meals at the ranch.

Wyoming natives John and Jamie Parsons chucked their desk jobs in Denver eight years ago to chase a dream. The bubbly Jamie, who scribbles smiley faces on correspondence — and means it — is everywhere somehow, pitching this horse ride or suggesting a fishing trip and standing waving from the porch with her two big golden retrievers, Cinch and Stoli, as the trail rides move off.

Horse rides are the big event; two hours in the morning and evening, four hours, and all day. Multiday pack trips and fishing trips in the nearby Shoshone National Forest also are available.

On a crystal clear summer day, Jay, our wrangler, led us on the Lost Creek Trail, up steep paths through thick woods of the Shoshone National Forest, the first national forest in America.

After a while, the trail opened up onto the mountainside, and up we went — sometimes, it seemed, almost at full vertical. Eventually we were at the top, about 8,000 feet.

One range after another rolled to the horizon, like a giant mussed blanket. Some still carried patches of snow.

To the north, Jim Mountain rose 10,500 feet. Beyond it was the large reservoir formed by the 325-foot Bill Cody Dam, at one time the tallest in the world and itself a must-stop.

The view was wonderful, exhilarating, exciting, intimidating and terrifying.

The wind pushed the torsos of the horses like sails, and they calmly shifted their hooves, seeking purchase on the ground.

Every few minutes, they would dislodge a pebble or rock, and it would get deathly silent as petrified South Florida flatlanders listened to the rock take several minutes rolling down the side of the mountain. We tensed in our saddles, parents imaging their children vanishing over the side or as weeping orphans.

Jay hopped off to get a picture of the family. “Wait,” he said, “Let me back up for a better angle.”

Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce: Box 550, Jackson, WY 83001. Phone 307/733-3316; Web, www.jacksonholechamber.com

Cody Country Chamber of Commerce: 836 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414; 307/587-2297; Web,: www.codychamber.org

Cody Rodeo: Every night June 1 through Aug. 31. Cody Stampede July 1 through 4. General admission: adults, $13, children, $6; reserved, $15 and $8. Write Box 1327, Cody, WY 82414, or call 307/587-5155 or 800/207-0744.

Buffalo Bill Historical Center: 720 Sheridan Ave., Cody, WY 82414; 307/587-4771; Web, www.bbhc.org. Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer; shorter hours rest of the year.

Bill Cody Ranch: 2604 Yellowstone Highway, Cody, WY 82414; 307/587-6271 or 800/615-2934; Web, www.billcodyranch.com.

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