Buffalo Bill Cody served as an Army scout stationed at nearby Fort McPherson (at the time he was here, Fort Cottonwood). He liked what he saw, and developed a 4,000 acre ranch that encompassed most of what is now North Platte north of the Union Pacific railroad tracks.
He was living here in 1882 when North Platte city fathers asked him to organize an Independence Day celebration. He did, and did such a good job at it, that he decided to take the show on the road and the rest, as they say, is history. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show is still known worldwide as the ultimate representation of America's western heritage.
Buffalo Bill fell on hard times, and the ranch eventually changed hands. The new owners took very good care of the historic property they had acquired, and in the late 1960's, the city of North Platte, in partnership with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission raised enough money to purchase the house, barn and about 25 acres.
Buffalo Bill's mansion and large horse barn were restored, and the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
While the busy season is the standard Memorial Day through Labor Day, each holiday season, Buffalo Bill's home is transformed into a beautiful display of Christmas present and past.
Four volunteer organizations partner with the staff of the Historical Park in decorating ten rooms of the mansion.
The three interior photos above are of Buffalo Bill's study right inside the front door.
The work begins right after Halloween, and the staff spends three days a week, about five hours a day in decorating every nook and cranny.
The above photo is the parlor.
This is Louisa Cody's (Buffalo Bill's wife) bedroom, right at the top of the stairs.
Buffalo Bill's bedroom, just down the hall.
The back half of the upstairs, in rooms that were added after the original mansion was built are dedicated to display cases filled with Buffalo Bill and Wild West Show memorabilia. They are also beautifully decorated for the holidays.
At the bottom of the back stairs, in the enclosed back porch is a beautiful red cedar tree. It is the only real tree in the house, and it fills the area with the aroma of fresh cut cedar.
Outside, the draft horses are maneuvered into place, awaiting the first guests for the hayrack ride.
Back inside, visitors are enjoying the dining room, where Buffalo Bill presideded over many a formal and non-so-formal dinner. This is the room decorated by my partners in crime in the local tourism industry, the Lincoln County Tourism Advisory Council.
Right off the dining room is Irma's bedroom. Irma was Cody's daughter, for whom the Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming is named.
Right at the top of the stairs, is the tree that got the most compliments. While not "historically" accurate, it is a beautiful vintage white revolving tree decorated in turquoise blue, complimented with a white wreath on the wall.
This landing is right outside of Cody's bedroom. The stairs lead up to the cupola, where the family and staff would watch for visitors coming out from town. The door leads out to a balcony.
The kitchen is always one of my favorite rooms. Here, gingerbread cookies are ready for the oven.
Peeking into the dining room from the landing of the front stairs.
It's now full dark and you can enjoy the many thousands of life the staff uses to decorate the grounds. The final lights were put in place the afternoon of the first day of the event.
Every nook and cranny of the house is decorated. On the right is a shed and spring house, where the hot cider and roasted chestnuts are served to the visitors.
Outside, the lights illuminate the great lines of the house.
I understand that the outdoor staff of the ranch subscribe to the Mike Rowe theory of "safety third". Not only was he almost electocuted in the process of hanging the lights, but fell off a ladder ten feet to the ground. The job comes first.
All of his dedication paid off though.
Back inside, even Santa made an appearance. This room, at the far back of the house is a later addition, and is known as the "Cowboy dining room." I guess maybe the cowboys were a little too rough to be allowed to eat in the formal dining room.
It takes lots of lists to organize any event, and Christmas at the Codys is no exception. From keeping track of the hayrack rides to the entertainment in the parlor, the staff at the ranch are on top of everything.
And yes, Buffalo Bill made an appearance to greet guests and give each a small token.
The real Buffalo Bill loved nothing more than to entertain people, and I am sure that he would be happy that his tradition of hospitality is still being maintained in the home that he loved so much.
And there you have it. My last Christmas present to you, and my last post of 2009. Wishing all of you the best the world has to offer in 2010.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.