It Happened Here: Buffalo, Wyo.

The birthplace of “the Western” is also where a magazine that celebrates the Cowboy began.
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The birthplace of “the Western” is also where a magazine that celebrates the Cowboy began.
Credit: Paul Hermans

Credit: Paul Hermans

Buffalo, Wyo., on the eastern foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, is a town steeped in history. Originating by way of an army post that protected the old Bozeman Trail, it was later the place from which a sheriff organized a posse of 200 to lay down the law against the great cattle barons and members of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, who were accusing small ranchers of rustling, and lynching them for their supposed trespasses. The two groups clashed at the TA Ranch on the banks of the Crazy Woman Creek, in what is now known as the Johnson County War.

Then, 20 years ago, dispatched from the same location as that formidable posse, was this very magazine, designed to recognize and promote the cowboy way and Western values. 

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Buffalo is also the birthplace of “the Western” in literature. In the 1880s, Owen Wister visited Buffalo’s historic Occidental Hotel and used it and its famous guests to create the setting and characters for his 1902 classic novel, The Virginian. 

The Virginian, a story of a frontier cowboy honorably battling thieves and outlaws and winning the heart of an attractive and young schoolteacher, set the precedent for good-guy heroes in future Westerns. The story of the Virginian also includes the world’s first literary shootout, thought to have occurred in real-life in front of the Occidental. 

In his introduction, Wister addresses his friend, Teddy Roosevelt—another of the Occidental’s many famous guests. Wister also addresses the reader, explaining that his story must be told in the past tense, because “Time has flowed faster than [his] ink.” 

In 1902, he speaks of a cowboy that Wall Street would have viewed as behind the times. But despite Wister’s proclamation that the West and its cowboys would never be the same, in 1994, in Buffalo, we created a magazine in honor of that very same, old-fashioned cowboy, proving that though times may change, cowboy traditions and values stay the same.

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The Occidental Hotel still stands today and serves its patrons much the same as it did when Calamity Jane or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid strolled through its doors (307-684-0451, occidentalwyoming.com).