That Time Simon Landed In A Wyoming Jail

Horse thief? Cattle rustler? Common old drunk? We never did figure out his crime.

When we envisioned this grand adventure, one element that was important to us was seeing how people actually live in this vast and varied country. National and State Parks are Number One on the bucket list, but some of our most interesting conversations have stemmed from the routines of daily life in the towns we’ve been lucky enough to discover.

A full week in the city of Sheridan offered three things we were in need of: rest, the familiarity of city conveniences, and the chance to get out into Wyoming’s rural areas while also soaking up some local history, Buffalo Bill style.

Many places we visited had wonderful period photos

Peter D’s Wyoming RV Park was our base, and Peter and his wife Barbara were eager to share recommendations for places to see, make suggestions for drives to take, and offer fresh vegetables from their garden. Susan, who is still coming to terms with the loss of her parents, felt tremendous joy when fresh-picked pattypan squash showed up on the office counter every morning, free to take. Her parents and their beloved garden landed smack in her heart each day.

Our first order of business was to explore the town. Sheridan was once William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s stomping grounds (the man got around!), specifically, the Sheridan Inn, now a historic building.

Historic Sheridan Inn

The inn’s big, wrap-around porch could tell a few stories

It was built in 1892 and notable at the time for being the first building hereabouts to have electricity and bathtubs.

We didn’t see the bathtubs, but this guy in the lobby is pretty impressive

Now, it is primarily remembered as the place where Buffalo Bill Cody staged auditions for his Wild West Show. A painting in the lobby’s main staircase area captures that special time.

In its heyday, the inn was a social hub, and today its dining room is being refurbished to pay homage to those grand times. We were given a tour by the Executive Chef, who is eager for the restaurant’s reopening.

The bar area of the restaurant

Mint Bar in the downtown area is another historic landmark, built in 1907, home to a secret speakeasy during Prohibition, good neighbor to a brothel a few doors down, and now decorated with the taxidermized heads and bodies of Wyoming’s big game, fish, fowl, and a formerly 8ft 4in/80lb rattlesnake with 27 rattles.

Cattle ranch brands are burned into the walls, and there is a tremendous amount of Knotty Pine, Burl, and Mahogany, in keeping with its cowboy/cowgirl/rancher/dude vibe. We didn’t stop for a drink, since it was only 10 a.m., but Ruthie was allowed in, so we had a good look around and a nice chat with the bartender and a patron.

In the 1920s, the Mint Bar also served as post office of sorts, but we were about to discover an even more incredible post office as we drove the 120-mile “UCLA” road, which took us out to the tiny town of Ucross, the slightly bigger town of Clearmont, the not-even-big-enough-to-be tiny Leiter, and the perplexing Arvada, which seemed to consist of a saloon and a few houses.

Ucross was once four separate ranches, one of them owned by Marshall Field (founder of Chicago’s famous department store), and, predictably, the land was once Native American hunting grounds. You can see “money” here, in the beautiful library (used primarily for township board meetings, we’re told), a lovely little chapel that can fit all 26 of the town’s residents, and the Ucross Art Gallery, which hosts residency programs for artists from across the country, but isn’t, apparently, open in the middle of the day on a weekday, so we couldn’t pay a visit.

This beautiful building is the library

Clearmont is the result of the railroad and of cattle drives from Texas. Cattle were driven north for grazing lands that would fatten them up nicely, then were loaded onto cattle cars for “distribution.”

As we slowly drove past the Clearmont Historical Center, one of the staff members leaned out the door and waved us in. He and his associate told us all about the town’s history, including a modern-day connection to a wealthy British man who wanted to experience the cowboy lifestyle, so he purchased one of the area’s largest ranches.

Our good man offered to show us one of the towns earliest buildings, which was a small jail. This being the wild, wild west, one can only imagine how necessary a jail was, even for a brand-new town. It was then that Simon was invited into one of the two cells, to enjoy the vantage point achieved when good cowboys took charge of bad cowboys who caused trouble.

“I demand to know my crime!”

Ruthie, who loves Simon, joined him immediately so as to provide moral support during his incarceration.

Get coffee in Leiter and have a burger and beer in Arvada, we were told, so that was the plan going forward. As with most plans we make, this one took a turn for the unexpected.

Leiter is literally one building that serves as a post office, bar/café, and house for the town’s only three residents.

This, right here, is Leiter. All of Leiter.

When we stopped for Simon’s much-needed coffee fix, we opened the door to a family home, which also serves as the café. The owner kindly made a fresh pot of coffee, shared some comments about her life, and let us pet the dog.

We hadn’t expected to enter someone’s house, and were honestly not sure what the protocol is for such a situation. Were we inadvertently being incredibly rude, or was this the norm? The feeling we’d committed a serious faux pax stayed with us for quite some time.

It’s rare that our social forwardness fails us, but it did when we reached the Arvada Bar. It looked like a public place, but we couldn’t bear the thought that we’d step into someone else’s home expecting them to cook us up a burger, so we made a U-turn and headed back toward Sheridan. It was literally the end of the road anyway, so there’s that.

A bar? Someone’s house with a bar in it? We’ll never know.

We’ll save our visit to Buffalo and another foray into downtown Sheridan for another blog. Suffice to say that, as in Montana, over the course of the week we came to the conclusion that Wyoming’s good people have grit, determination, and the ability to cope with whatever comes their way, on their own. When your neighbors are miles and miles away, there are no stores or services, and there are a million ways life can turn on a dime, you’ve got to be self-sufficient in a way Simon and I know we are not.

We ended our week in Sheridan feeling the city itself is a place we could imagine having a home (summertime only!), but we also came away from it feeling the immense privilege and convenience we’ve enjoyed all our lives. And when you know it – really know it – you’d damned well better live your life with gratitude.

Author: A Year on the Road

International travel writers and book authors.

6 thoughts on “That Time Simon Landed In A Wyoming Jail”

  1. Very interesting, I can feel that faux pax feeling as you wrote it!
    Very interesting section. Big (huge country) yet small places!


    1. It was…awkward. She was very nice, though.
      We’ve been used to places that area REALLY “small town America,” but Montana and Wyoming take it to another level. So much self-sufficiency here. We admire it, even while we know we can’t match it.


  2. It’s not often you are in a 3 person town so walking into someone’s house for a coffee is quite understandable 😅


  3. This seems like a completely different country. I loved the historical buildings, but I am not so keen on some of the „decor“. I am not surprised that you were a little confused by the cafe turning out to be somebody’s home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Simon has come to terms with it, but I still squirm every time we mention that house and the coffee. The most awkward situation imaginable (okay, maybe second most awkward).
      We were just saying yesterday that we have to keep reminding ourselves we’re still in the U.S. So often it does feel like we’re in another country. Very odd feeling.


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