Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t care much for shopping...or spending money on more ‘stuff’. My better half will tell you that my favorite trick is to arrive at our destination so late in the day that she has little or no chance to shop.
However, based on a recommendation in our guide book, “Off the Beaten Path – Nebraska” by Diana Lambdin Meyer, our next stop was a “must” see…and a chance to stop makes Laurie happy too!
Well…here we are in North Platte Nebraska and, yes, that is a giant sign with a picture of Buffalo Bill Cody on it! He appears to be guarding the fort beside him…
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody (February 26, 1846 – January 10, 1917) was an American scout, bison hunter, and showman. Buffalo Bill started working at the age of eleven after his father's death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 14. During the American Civil War, he served from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout to the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872 for "gallantry in action" at Loupe Forke, Platte River, Nebraska.
This is the “fort” that Buffalo Bill is guarding… It’s the Fort Cody Trading Post. The Trading Post is located just north of I-80’s interchange with US Highway 83 in North Platte.
As per our guide book, “This place has the most eclectic collection of gifts, from astonishingly tacky trinkets to exquisite jewelry, pottery, western clothing, antiques and leather goods. There are a zillion too many things to mention.” As we learned during our visit, Fort Cody is also a museum of sorts…with oddities, old western clothing, Stetson hats, spurs, Buffalo Bill documents and other western memorabilia.
This is a BIG souvenir shop… This photo shows just one side of this many faceted retail establishment. I can spot painted wooden plaques, wooden boxes, rubber chickens, religious items, signs, antique western wear, mounted hunting trophies and horns from longhorn steers.
Opening in 1968 with the completion of I-80, this version of the Fort Cody Trading Post has now been in business and operated by the same family for 48 years!
In May of this year, USA Today named Fort Cody as one of the 10 best places in the USA to buy souvenirs. To view the complete listing, just go to http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/10greatplaces/2014/05/22/souvenir-gift-store-shop/9436173/. In 2011, Travel+Leisure Magazine named Fort Cody as one of America’s Kitschiest Roadside Attractions. Check it out at http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/kitschiest-roadside-attractions-in-america.
Yup…this is a two-headed calf! I told you that this place is eclectic, perhaps even a bit weird… In the stockade behind the fort, kids can explore a frontier jail, wagons, a log cabin and one of the few remaining ‘Muffler Men’ in the United States! Yes, I didn’t know what a Muffler Man was either…
“Muffler Men” are a tribe of fiberglass titans, 14 to 25 feet tall, which stand watch along the American roadside landscape. The first statues were holding big car mufflers, so the ‘tribe’ was named "Muffler Men." The figure in Fort Cody’s stockade is a Native America brave that was originally used at a service station. Believe it or not, RoadsideAmerica.com has a map and a listing with photos of “Muffler Men” across the entire USA. You can check out these unusual American attractions at http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/37422.
Buffalo Bill is even on display…although he’s not a taxidermy mount… This is one of the outfits he wore later in life when he was promoting his “Wild West Show”. Buffalo Bill lived in North Platte for 32 years at his home known as “Scouts Rest Ranch”, which is located along the beautiful North Platte River. We didn’t have time to visit his ranch during this trip...but it is a future destination for us.
Scout’s Rest became a state historical park in 1965. Since then, his big Victorian mansion and the horse barn have been restored. A wealth of Cody memorabilia has been acquired and placed on display. Cody owned some 4,000 acres here. The park encompasses 16 acres of the original ranch (including the house and barn) with another 233 acres in the adjacent state recreation area. To learn more, go to http://visitnorthplatte.com/attraction/buffalo-bill-state-historical-park/.
This is another view of a corner of the Fort Cody Trading Post. In this photo I can spot antique Native American beadwork and jewelry, a headdress, pottery, painted reed crosses and Buffalo Bill Plaques. In another area, I spotted carved wooden animals, painted stones, mugs and John Wayne Toilet Paper… (I wonder if the latter product is licensed by the Wayne heirs)
To continue with the expansive selection of stuff offered for sale as the Fort Cody Trading Post… Let’s see, there is: food; candy; lots of western books, retro soda pop, play sets, t-shirts, cowboy and cowgirl outfits, puppets, leather goods including moccasins, western CD’s, soaps, 3D bookmarks; Christmas ornaments…and more!
Buffalo Bill Cody was one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West. He started performing in shows that displayed cowboy themes and episodes from the frontier and Indian Wars. He founded his Buffalo Bill's Wild West show in 1883, taking his large company on tours throughout the United States and, beginning in 1887, even in Great Britain and continental Europe.
This is one view of the huge action Wild West show diorama on display at the Fort Cody Trading Post.
Fort Cody Trading Post is the permanent home of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Miniature! The show, made by Ernie and Virginia Palmquist, took 12 years to carve and contains over 20,000 hand-carved pieces.... The grand parade features cowboys from all over the world, wearing costumes and carrying flags of their countries. Inside the parade route are the circus acts that accompanied Buffalo Bill on his world tour, among them the snake charmer, the fat lady, and the knife thrower.
The detail and expanse of the Wild West show is pretty amazing! There is a kitchen, eating area, a barber shop, a crooked game of cards. There is even a tiny woman with a cigarette being flicked out of her mouth with a bull whip!
Here’s another vignette from the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.
Wild West shows took the reality of the West and glamorized it for the eastern audiences in order to give it an exciting appeal. The shows adapted western life to fit an exaggerated yet captivating image which the eastern audiences both expected and were intrigued by. They were a marriage of reality and theater and were designed by the showmen to be both “authentic” and entertaining.
The Fort Cody Trading Post's miniature Wild West Show is animated, with many action figures and actions portrayed. The show is activated for the benefit of tourists, kids and shoppers every half hour…
Various Wild West shows were developed. They were all started by people with generally flamboyant names such as Dr. W.F. Carver, Pawnee Bill, "Buckskin Joe" Hoyt, and Mexican Joe. Well known characters and performers such as Bill Pickett, Red Cloud, Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley made names for themselves in these venues. In any case, the first, most famous and most successful of all these shows was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. To learn more about the Wild West show phenomena, just go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_West_Shows.
This is one more view of some the detail of the Wild West exhibit. It’s hard to conceive of the effort, patience and skill it took to create this huge diorama!
Buffalo Bill Cody was a very interesting character and, in his time, he was probably the most famous personality or celebrity that there was. He was pro-women’s rights, supported fair treatment of Native Americans and he started the movement to irrigate parts of the west to raise crops. He also supported conservation by speaking out against hide-hunting and pushing for a hunting season. To learn more about Buffalo Bill, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Bill.
Even I was entertained by the exhibits and products for sale at the Fort Cody Trading Post. The best part was that Laurie didn’t spend too much money! We would recommend this interesting and extensive attraction to other travelers. The Trading Post is located at 221 Halligan Drive in North Platte Nebraska. Phone: 308-532-8081. Website: http://www.fortcody.com/Home.html.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave