Where The Buffalo Roam

By Cornelia Read

I have traveled more this summer than I have… um… in a long time. In fact, I have traveled so much that my brain feels like it’s scattered across the continental United States. Including Alaska. Because, hey, Alaska is on the continent, even though there’s some Canada in the middle.

Which is not a complaint–I love traveling, and I’ve had an amazing time rocketing back and forth and stuff. I’m just kind of stupid.

I have a theory that the deal with jetlag is that your body travels at the speed of sound or whatever, but your brain is in a covered wagon behind two oxen on the Oregon Trail. Kind of getting jostled. And it takes a while for the twain to re-meet.

So here is where I just got back from: Wyoming. Where the buffalo roam. And the elk, and the bison, and the antelopes, and the horses and stuff.



I got to go stay on my Uncle Bill’s ranch outside Cody, which was pretty fucking awesome. Here is what we ran into on the driveway, on the way in:

These guys are just kind of pets, who wander around. I thought that was pretty great. But then one of them decided to scrape the paint off the rental car’s hood with his teeth. Not so great.

And, frankly, he was a little pissy about it.

Which seems a little entitled to me, considering what the hood looked like.

But hey, it was totally beautiful there, even though there are wolves and you kind of shouldn’t go outside without “bear spray,”

and so maybe it’s not so great if you’re a young elk (this was also on the driveway, BTW):

But, seriously, beautiful… here is one of the trout ponds:

And here is one of the 183 alligators that Uncle Bill shot last winter in Florida:

Uncle Bill likes to shoot stuff. He is very, very good at it. He taught me a bit about shooting while I was there, too. I kind of suck at trap shooting, as it turns out. I only hit one clay pigeon on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Out of about 50 each day. So, you know, MASSIVE suckiness on that front. And I think he was a bit disappointed.


(This would be me, NOT HITTING ANYTHING)

Thankfully, I did better with the crossbow:

Here is what I hit:

Not too shabby.

And also, he loaded up a nice pistol for us and let us shoot at the range he’s set up on the place:

I did okay with that, too:

Although when I posted this pic on Facebook, I got shooting tips from no fewer than four men. Only one of whom I actually know in real life. No women offered comments–perhaps because I didn’t actually ask for advice? Testosterone is funny stuff. Go figure.

Also, I beat Uncle Bill at chess three times. Which was pretty great. But then again, he’s 93 and he’s only been playing for a year. And he beat ME six times. So… well… it’s kind of like the time my sister sent a postcard home from Switzerland in eighth grade that said, “Dear Mom, I was in a ski race the other day. I came in third. Unfortunately, there were only three people in the race.”

Although as my sister likes to point out in retrospect, “the other two people made the Swiss Olympic ski team, so I didn’t suck THAT badly…”

Don’t even ask how many times he kicked my butt at Go. Because that’s just embarrassing.

But the best thing about being there, other than the fact that Wyoming is so gorgeous:

(this is where we stopped to picnic, on the drive up from Jackson)

Was getting to hear Uncle Bill’s stories at dinner.

I posted a link to the interview he did with a naval research institute magazine about getting shot down in the Phillipines during WWII the last time I posted here, but I got to hear way more details about that adventure in person.

Like, about how he had a COMPOUND FRACTURE of his leg and they were on the island for six weeks, and he made himself a crutch out of the bomb cradle from this Japanese plane that got shot down a couple of days later–wrapping the metal with the shrouds from parachutes in the Jap plane. Which had thirteen dead guys in it. 

I asked him what they ate while they were there.

“Coconuts,” he said. “Although I did see one of those Komodo Dragons, and thought maybe I could get it so we could grill it and have it for dinner, but then I realized that it was going into the plane to eat the dead Japs, so I decided against it.”

They finally got the two guys in the best shape to build a raft and go to another island for help–from the Phillipine guerrila fighter dudes. They finally got picked up by a submarine.

“What was that like?” I asked.

“Food was good,” he said. “Always is on a submarine. But the view’s terrible.”

He ended up in a hospital in Australia for a couple of months. The guy in the bed on one side of him had his arm in a sling after cracking up a Jeep. Guy in the bed on the other side had his leg in a sling. He told Uncle Bill that everything had been going fine “but then her husband came home.”

Uncle Bill has a Wyoming license plate with a Purple Heart on it. And he totally earned it.

Also, he told me about going hunting with my Great-grandfather Fabyan in the Twenties, which was pretty great to hear about. Bill is the eldest of my dad’s eight siblings. So, the stories about family stuff go way back. Which I love.

(Uncle Bill is second from left, top row. Sorry this is such a crappy repro–photo of a photo, taken with my phone.)

And he gave us his passes to the Buffalo Bill Center, in Cody. Which is an incredible museum.

They have astonishingly beautiful paintings of the west:

And incredible Plains Indian artwork:

And then we went to Bubba’s for Barbecue:

Which was pretty damn fabulous:

Also, I learned how to make really good buttermilk biscuits from Billy, who works on the ranch. He’s from Florida. I made sausage gravy, which Billy said looked relatively authentic. Though he makes his gravy from sausage he makes himself, out of wild boar he shoots in the Everglades.

He made his biscuits with Crisco, for us, but at home he makes them with lard he renders from the wild boar fat. The dude is SERIOUSLY awesome. And he’s also a rocking crossbow coach. Well, and pistol coach. We said we were psyched to get to do “biscuits, bows, and bullets” with him.

Uncle Bill has asked me to come down to Florida to shoot alligators, which I totally want to do this winter. But I’m also hoping to taste some of that boar gravy… and more of Billy’s biscuits.

Anyway, the whole trip was astonishingly wonderful. And we scattered some of my dad’s ashes on one of the trout ponds–under some falls where he always suspected a really giant trout was hiding.

I also loved getting to go to the bone store with my stepmom and half-sister–and travelling with them generally:

Even though my half-sister kicked my ass at trap shooting:

I am hoping I get to go back to Cody some more, because it was lovely, and Uncle Bill is fabulous. And also, I need more practice shooting so I don’t embarrass the family quite so badly.

For now, though, I have to go back to being a Democrat.

Though I did return to New Hampshire with a souvenir:

And some very fond memories:

So, hey… thank you, Uncle Bill!

What’s your favorite thing you’ve done this summer, o dearest ‘Ratis?

14 thoughts on “Where The Buffalo Roam

  1. Reine

    First off . . . love the jackalope.

    Next off . . . thank you a million times for calling it Native art and not craft. Thank you. So few people will dare. But you are different.

    Brilliant summer you've had. Love Wyoming. I'm headed to Auntie-Mom's in Palm Desert as soon as the temperatures drop a bit. Then to my own little ranch in MoCal.

    I've been doing it mostly vicariously this year. Not as bad as it might sound. I've read some really good books and have written a billion words +/- a couple, so I'm pretty happy about that. Not that it's any fucking good or anything. But it's mine. And I wrote it down. Feels good.

    Major project of the summer has been to keep up the legal fight against the shithead wheelchair guy who scammed me, Medicare, and my insurance companies out of many thousands of dollars for a chair he never ordered. The best part . . . I just now created a sound file from a voicemail he left on my phone – he threatening that I would never get a new wheelchair. And I emailed the sound file to the people investigating the case. Yea.

    That's the best part of my summer. Or was it the package of old Lacoste shirts Auntie-Mom sent? I hate the new ones with the giant alligators, so she found these old ones. All broken in – and with the right buttons and cross stitches – and everything. Two black ones and a blue. So things could be fucking worse.

  2. Sarah W

    I want an Uncle Bill! Maybe he could teach me to hit the broad side of a barn from the *outside* . . .

    We're doing the local (one-hour travel time limit) museum circuit this year: art museums, river museums, family museums, military museums, history museums, etc. The kids liked the art museum (which features huge refrigerators and magents for their own artwork) and the river museum best (otters).

  3. Cornelia Read

    Sarah, thank you!

    And dearest Reine… I LOVE that you have that voicemail!!!! And I'm envious about those shirts–thing I dislike most about the new ones is that the shirttails are the same length in front and back. I loved how the old ones had a long tail on them. Looked cool. AND YEA ABOUT THE BILLION WORDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (and of course it's art, not craft. It's too beautiful to be anything else…)

  4. Reine

    Oh please – those new shirttails totally suck. I think vines has the old style, but I don't know if fat girls like me should have a whale on her left tit. Y'know? Isn't that kind of like asking for snickers? And I don't mean the candy bar. But of course I would eat one were anyone to force it on me.

  5. Cornelia Read

    Sarah W, I can apparently hit the broad side of a barn… but only if it holds very, very still. Moving barns would evade me hugely. And I love the idea of giant refrigerators for artwork!!!

    Reine, EXACTLY. A whale on my boob? Please, my boob would fit a life-size whale. That's just asking for… well, beyond snickers. Guffaws.

  6. Susan Russo Anderson

    Thanks so much for this post and the pics, especially of the art work. The guy's face in profile gazing at his cattle was amazing, almost as awesome as Uncle Bill. And I loved, too, your words.

    One little tip on beating jet lag, which, as you point out, feels like you left your brain way back there. I remember it from my airline days when transconning a couple times a week was no biggy. It only works when you get to your destination during the day: as soon as you arrive, sit outside for about 15 minutes, head uplifted toward the sun, eyes closed. You think your eyelids are being painted cadmium scarlet, but the rays help to fool your circadian rhythm and your brain kind of catches up with your body. It worked for me every time, but then I was much younger, and everything worked for me.

  7. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Gosh, you look really comfortable with a rifle. Hmm.

    Your photos were a flashback to my recent West Texas trip: the jackalope and especially the Plains art and feather headdresses – there's an incredible Panhandle museum and the art was just astonishing; I could have spent a month there. Besides that, all my travel is coming up in September, if I survive this deadline….

  8. Louise Ure

    Ms. C, my summer pales by comparison.

    I wish I had a Wild Uncle Bill from Cody.

    And I adore the photo of the pearls with the crossbow.

  9. Sylvia

    "Food was good," he said. "Always is on a submarine. But the view's terrible." – – – HA HA HA I LOVE Uncle Bill.

    Now I'm hungry for biscuits and gravy. Damn you!

    Love the travelogues from you, Miss C. I can't wait for the gator shoot installment.

  10. Reine

    Ah dearest C . . . I think you might be holding the barrel a bit low, so when you go to shoot you have to raise it. At that point your target is decelerating while you are accelerating. Better to go lateral than vertical. I should shut my trap now – but heh . . . try lifting your left elbow a tad. Hard to tell from the angle of the video, but looks like it might benefit being raised a bit.

  11. Karen in Ohio

    Cornelia, I was also just out in Wyoming, and also near Cody.I wonder if we were there at the same time? And we were shooting, too, although no clay pigeons, thank goodness.

    Billy doesn't, by any chance, dress like a surfer dude?

    The Buffalo Bill Museum is fabulous. I've been there five times now, and always see something else that takes my breath away. But we always go to the Irma and the Silver Dollar.

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