Tag Archives: Cowboys

Valentines | Old Time Cowboys

by Melanie and Jim

Nebraska is a long state, about 430 miles from east to west. We stayed overnight in Sioux City, Iowa, and got an early start on U.S. 20. It would be several hours before we reached our goal for the day, somewhere in western Nebraska. In the past we only crossed the state on Interstate 80. The elevation changes on I-80, across the southern half of the state, are tiny. It follows the North Platte River most of the way. U.S. 20, Bridges to Buttes Byway, took us across the northern counties, different rivers, the Sandhills country, and showed us some beautiful sights.

We had lunch in Valentine, Nebraska. The Niobrara River is a great rafting, canoeing, and kayaking destination. The post office participates annually in the Valentine’s Day postmarking of tens of thousands of cards and letters to loved ones. And this according to Wikipedia:

As late as 1967, Valentine was split between two time zones. As described in one news report, “The mountain and central time zones meet at the center of Main Street, so an hour separates the two curb lines.” According to the report, when clocks were required to be set back one hour for daylight saving time, Valentine’s post office (which was in the central zone) split the difference and turned back its clock by only half an hour.

By mid-afternoon we reached the town of Gordon and were ready for another break. A sign advertised the Old Time Cowboys Museum. We stopped to ask some guys who were fixing a pothole where it was. We didn’t expect much as we turned the next corner.

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Dew Boys

That’s Dubois, Wyoming, pronounced as “Dew Boys,” emphasis on the dew.

Born in the 1960s, I was a little too young to enjoy the era of television westerns. The 1950s and 60s were thick with them, but the only one I watched was Bonanza. Oh, those handsome Cartwrights, riding and fighting and oh so unlucky in love. And The Big Valley, with the equally handsome Barkleys, and the strong, tough Victoria Barkley, as played by Barbara Stanwyck. It was a pretty limiting look at the old west. My family never traveled much father west than the Mississippi River, so my view of the modern west was non-existent, too.

As I write this, Jim and I are in Dubois, Wyoming. Dew Boys. It’s a convenient stop on our route back to Iowa, after several days in and around Yellowstone National Park. (Yellowstone is breath-taking, and so postcard-perfect that parts almost look fake.) Dubois shows a slice of the west that is both unique and typical of this hard-living part of the country.

Surrounded by national forest, national parks, and national wilderness, the town represents some of the small portion of Wyoming that is owned privately rather than by the government. It serves and survives on the summer tourist trade as they move into and out of the parks. Several establishments provide lodging, while others dish up food, alcohol, or art.

Our hotel motel is long and low, settled on the highway for decades, across the street from the Wells Fargo bank. Guarding the driveway is a giant black bear, at least twelve feet from snout to tail. The owner’s son told us the bear has always been there, at least since his grandparents owned the place. It’s a remnant of other days, along with the jackalope, the giant steer skull, and a huge trout hanging at the other end of town.

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