The other day, I had a hankering for chocolate. And I’m not talking about a Hershey’s kind of hankering. I wanted the real deal; chocolate that is just as authentic as Yellowstone Country.
So I got into my car and headed 32 miles south to the town of Meeteetse, a small town on the Greybull River that is so classic I always half expect John Wayne to swagger down its wooden boardwalks. With a name like Meeteetse, there’d better be a good story behind the name, right? In fact, there are two (but in my opinion, only one of them is good). One version is that it is an American Indian phrase for “meeting place.” That sounds right. Another explanation is that the word translated into English means “measured distance near and far,” but to this day no one has been able to shed light on how that relates to the town. As I used to say in my eye-rolling 14-year-old teenager days…”boooring.”
But back to chocolate. The town of Meeteetse is known for many things – its nearby ghost towns, home-base for notorious outlaws like Butch Cassidy and an array of colorful characters with big dreams and fierce determination to make them come true. And these days, Meeteetse is also known for a small, unassuming shop on State Street, the town’s main drag, called the Meeteetse Chocolatier.
The Meeteetse Chocolatier epitomizes everything the American West stands for – ingenuity, determination, uncommon drive – in a most delicious way. More than a decade ago, a hardworking cowboy named Tim Kellogg wanted to buy a new bronc saddle, so his Mom encouraged him to raise money selling truffles and brownies at a booth during an art festival. He did, and his success was more than he’d expected or even hoped. Today, Yellowstone Country’s “cowboy chocolatier” has become a legend in his own right. There was a huge story about Tim and his shop in The New York Times this summer. And, in this cowgirl’s opinion, he’s every bit as handsome as Cody’s own cowboy musician. I guess I like the cowboy types.
But back to chocolate. Again. On that chocolate-craving day I walked into the Meeteetse Chocolatier with one of Tim’s hand-made Peanut Butter Truffles on my mind. But sitting in a display case was one of Tim’s seasonal treats — a Pumpkin Pie Gateau, a Venezuelan Dark Chocolate Gateau with organic pumpkin and pie spices. It was topped with a dark chocolate ganache and fresh berries. So I obviously couldn’t help myself. I walked out of the store with one Pumpkin Pie Gateau, six hand-made truffles, a freshly baked brownie and two dark chocolate haystacks – coconut covered with chocolate.
Chocolate craving satisfied, I decided to take a walk through town and reflect upon the distinctive charm of Meeteetse. The town was settled in the 1880s, and since many of the original buildings are still there the town just oozes with character. The Meeteetse Museum is in a building that was once the bank where Butch Cassidy’s friends kept their money (with a promise from the prolific robber of banks that he would keep his thieving mitts off their cash).
By the early 1900s there were seven saloons, one store, two banks, two hotels and a church or two. You can still see the hitching rails and watering troughs outside the old buildings.
As I made my short drive back to my home in Cody (munching another truffle or two on the way), I reflected on the remarkable foresight of the town’s many leaders who have chosen to keep the town authentic, simple and true. And I said a quiet thank you for preserving the legends of the Old West and inspiring future legends like Tim Kellogg to make their own mark here.
Until next time I’m loving life and munchin’ on pumpkin pie gateau here in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.