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Big Hal and the Cowboys

March 18th, 2011 by Park County Travel Council | Be the first to comment!

I saw an amazing sight the other day.

I saw a bear on a beaver dam… levitating.

Okay, so it wasn’t defying gravity on its own – a humongous construction crane was lifting the bronze bear from his perch near the entrance to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, where he had been pleasantly passing the past seven years, and was being transplanted to the new terminal at Yellowstone Regional Airport. 

Lee Haines, Public Relations Director at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, had called to let me know that this monumental (pun definitely intended) move would be taking place, and thought I might find it interesting for my blog.  Of course!!  How often do you get to see gigantic sculptures dangling in the wind?

So I bopped on over to the BBHC on a gorgeous almost-spring morning to watch a crew of museum employees and a crane operator take two statues, which had been fixtures at the Historical Center for several years, and move them to YRA.  It was so cool!  The crew very easily was able to lift the iconic “Code of the West” bronze and strap it tightly to the flatbed for its short trip up to the airport.  Big Hal, however, was a different story.  No matter how much pull the crane operator put on that ol’ bear, he was pretty happily frozen in place near the entrance to the museum.  Finally, after much effort (and a few sharp objects pounded into the ground), Hal was raised from his perch and joined the statue of the cowboys and their horses on the trailer.  They were then transported to the new terminal and carefully placed on pedestals outside the building.

A little background is probably due here.  According to Lee, when the new terminal at YRA was being planned, the powers-that-be felt that some well-placed art would be a great way to welcome visitors to our fair city.  So they approached the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, who completely agreed.  Not only would it dress up the airport and present a positive first impression of the region, it might also prompt arriving passengers to visit the BBHC while they were here.

The sculptures are just the icing on the cake, though – shortly after the terminal was completed, the BBHC had provided several really cool photos taken by Jack Richard of early aviation in Cody (they’re on the windows in the TSA area).  There’s also a replica of Thomas Moran’s “Golden Gate”  in the baggage claim area, and as folks de-plane and enter the terminal, there’s a silhouette of the Cody “Scout”.

But let’s go back to those sculptures – the stubborn bear, “Big Hal”, was created by artist Michael Coleman in 2003, and acquired by the BBHC in 2004.  The piece depicts a grizzly sitting on a beaver dam (and around one side you can actually see a beaver tail sticking out of the dam – just click on the picture to enlarge it and you’ll see what I mean!). 

The other sculpture is one of my favorites.  It stood to the south of the Historical Center complex, near the RV parking lot.  It’s called “The Code of the West”, and is a sculpture created by artist Herb Mignery back in 1998.  It depicts two cowboys on horses shaking hands, communicating the feeling of hospitality and integrity that is associated with folks here in the west.  

So when you come to Cody, even if you’re not flying in to our awesome new terminal (and check out the airfare, we’ve got some really great rates!), be sure to swing by Yellowstone Regional Airport and say hi to Hal and his buddies, the cowboys.

Until next time, I’ll be lovin’ life in Buffalo Bill’s country!


Corrie N. Cody

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