CFD Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyo., to raise money for expansion | TheFencePost.com
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CFD Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyo., to raise money for expansion

by Marty Metzger
for The Fence Post
One facet of the "Become A Legend" fundraising campaign for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum is a fascinating, feature-length film honoring America’s Western heritage called “Cowboys — A Documentary Portrait.”
1992 Films, LLC

THE CAMPAIGN

To participate in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum’s “Become A Legend” Campaign, donate any amount from $1 to $1 million. Visit the website at http://www.oldwestexpansion.org or call the museum at (307) 778-7290 for details.

THE MOVIE

One facet of the fundraising campaign is a fascinating, feature-length film honoring the American Western heritage.

Generously underwritten by a donation from Welding and Machine of Cheyenne, “Cowboys — A Documentary Portrait” will be presented as a one-time-only screening at the Cheyenne Civic Center on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 at 3 p.m. Tickets ($10-$30) can be purchased at the box office, (307) 637-6363 or online at http://www.cheyenneevents.org.

Museums stimulate imaginations. Mind-tickling displays transport visitors into exciting eras and environments. Just imagine the possibilities of it all.

Our world just greeted 2020, a New Year teeming with opportunities. We nevertheless face a plethora of problems. Sometimes it might appear the entire planet and all its creatures are hanging by a thin thread over a deep precipice. However…

Back when European immigrants to North America and their descendants were straining its few Eastern cities to the breaking point, someone shouted, “Just imagine!” when tales of the incredible Wild West reached them.

Newspapers and magazines — seeking to sell more copies — painted exciting literary portraits of wide open spaces that stretched to the distant Pacific. From the mountains to the prairies to the oceans white with foam. Why, some land was even free to hardy, sodbusting souls who easily petitioned the government for it.

A man could breathe clean air, drop a seed or two into the ground to produce an astounding bounty. Cattlemen could breed beef almost faster than the Chicago stockyards could process it.

And wild game? Bison herds were so thick that they appeared as a many miles-long, wooly brown carpet. Just imagine.

Word came of gold, priceless gold — lining California’s hills, running like water in streams, nuggets as big as a miner’s fist. Just imagine.

Positive frontier experiences bestowed both independence and community fellowship.

Meanwhile, struggling city-goers were mired down in overcrowded slums, grinding poverty, and literal mud, while affluent individuals recognized opportunities to broaden their wealth into super-wealth.

When all stampeded toward the promise of paradise, some truly did find financial ecstasy. Just imagine. But, along the long trail West, others straggled dangerously behind. Just imagine.

Glowing media reports of the day hadn’t included much about pioneering perils: wagons broke down; horses and oxen went lame, were attacked by wild animals, died from lack of forage, were stolen; like the grim reaper, smallpox and other terrifying maladies pursued wagon trains; weather extremes from relentless heat to raging blizzards tortured and killed.

Women in particular dealt with arduous, perplexing hardships. They had to contend with monthly cycles (without benefit of today’s endless hygienic product lines). If pregnant, give birth en route? Problem.

The ladies cooked meals over campfires that occasionally set their long dresses alight. Bugs and other vermin flew or crawled into foodstuffs. Mainstays like flour often contained uninvited, unpalatable protein sources such as weevils. Water sources were unreliable.

And, regardless children remained healthy or became ill/injured, it was mama doing the tending and nursing. Widows were bereft of far more than marriage partners.

Possession-packed wagons, which provided rides bumpy enough to rattle the teeth right out of one’s jaw, provided little room for passengers. So, most travelers walked for hours at a time, in all seasons, alongside or behind their swaying prairie schooners.

Draft animals frequently grew too weak, injured, or ill to pull the burdensome vehicles. Time to lighten the load. Rutted paths across rugged landscapes became strewn with discarded items: furniture; trunks full of heirlooms; excess housewares, farming implements and books. Even an occasional organ.

Unfriendly encounters with fellow-humans greatly impeded voyagers’ journeys. Peoples who’d lived in the region for centuries were forced out or killed. Unwilling to surrender ancestral homelands and lifestyles, survivors quite understandably did not go quietly.

Gold fever initiated conflicts between those who discovered the precious mineral and claim-jumpers, who demanded it. In the stagecoach era, robbers violently set upon passengers and drivers. Bandits of all sorts raided banks, shops and unarmed wayfarers.

Drought, fires, monster snowstorms, and flooding rains further tested settlers’ mettle. Even plagues of crop-gobbling locusts swept across endless acreages. How did anyone survive? Just imagine.

But the hardiest or luckiest made it. Lessons learned along the way strengthened their resolve as well as their bodies.

Without their vision, valor and persistence, we’d not be here — just imagine.

OLD WEST MUSEUM

What to pioneers were everyday work tools or decrepit wagons that once got them to Wyoming from Missouri, now stimulate our imaginations.

Located at Frontier Days Park in Cheyenne, Wyo., Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum contains a treasure-trove of objects.

Included are more than 120,000 artifacts; photo archives; the largest and most diverse Western carriage (160-plus) collection in the world; a permanent collection of Western art. With an artistic eye for detail and historic importance, Museum Curator Mike Kassel manages this massive and significant accumulation of Western memorabilia.

Kudos to contemporary Western accomplishments are also included. Through an interactive kiosk, for example, the CFD Hall of Fame tells the stories of 200 inductees. Presently occupying just 400 square feet, the future goal is expansion to add items such as a bench signed by Chris Ledoux, Lane Frost’s felt hat, Dazee Bristol’s organ and more.

A children’s activity room draws the kiddos into an interactive setting of camps, classes, technology and creative play. Upcoming expansion will allow for a fully immersive interactive gallery with a learning space for multi-generational activities, camps and workshops.

THE CAMPAIGN

CFD Old West Museum needs to stretch its chaps-clad legs. Renovations, of course, require money. So the “Become A Legend” Campaign is working towards that goal to raise $9.5 million, advised Campaign Manager Lonnie Reese.

Reese explained, “The growth of the Museum is an integral component to the CFD Trail Guide to the Future. We will continue to preserve the history and traditions of CFD while allowing the public year-round access. Expansion ensures continuation of our mission, and will further solidify our representation as a premier cultural attraction for Cheyenne, Wyo., the West, and beyond. The investment is significant but well worth making to sustain and advance the museum’s mission for generations to come.”

Three main categories for the expansion are to:

1. Maximize development of Frontier Park and expand Western themes

2. Employ technology appropriately

3. Increase participatory experiences

Plus, the Museum seeks to preserve all non-parade vehicles and advocate for restoration of the parade collection.

One fundraising facet is a fascinating, feature-length film honoring America’s Western heritage.

Presented by Welding and Machine of Cheyenne, “Cowboys — A Documentary Portrait” will be shown at the Cheyenne Civic Center on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, at 3 p.m. Tickets ($10-$30) can be purchased at the box office, (307) 637-6363, or online at http://www.cheyenneevents.org.

Viewers will ‘ride alongside’ modern, working cowboys on some of America’s largest and most remote cattle ranches. In the tradition of classic Western films, the backdrop overlays dramatic music onto stunning vistas. “Cowboys,” filmed on location at historic ranches in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada, is narrated by first-hand accounts from cowboys themselves.

With a donation of any amount from $1 to $1 million, you can help secure the future of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum for many generations to come. Become a legend. Just imagine!

More information about the museum, its future plans, the campaign, or the documentary movie, visit http://www.oldwestexpansion.org. The Museum is located at 4610 Carey Ave, Cheyenne, WY 82001, phone (307) 778-7290. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at ponytime47@gmail.com.


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