I wish I had more time to watch movies, but when you are a hiking, biking, fishing, wildlife watching,
skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, cowboy music listening, Western furniture loving fool like me, it’s
tough to find the time.
I’m also not picky. I love all of the greats like Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers
and, of course, Randolph Scott. Sing it like you mean it. RANDOLPH SCOTT.
So when the Academy Awards nominations come out every January I lament that I know about so few
of the flicks up for best picture. If I have the time I try to watch some of the nominees, but I’m lucky
if I see two or three of them.
Over the years I have developed a little two-part tradition. At some point I will sit down in front of the
television and watch True Grit. While I think that the remake from a few years ago starring Jeff
Bridges is a fine film, I am one of those purists who think that there is only one Rooster Cogburn.
That’s right, John Wayne will always be my favorite actor, and I can recite lines from McClintock, The
Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Cowboys, The Searchers and even The Sons of Katie Elder.
The Duke is also my favorite Cody Stampede Parade grand marshal ever, although Longmire was
pretty cute last year.
I mentioned that my tradition has two parts.
The day after I watch my favorite actor in one of my favorite movies, I like to head to the Cody
Firearms Experience out near the rodeo grounds and shoot THE ACTUAL GUN THAT JOHN WAYNE
USED IN TRUE GRIT.
Yup. I get the biggest kick out of walking into the building and calling my friends there “Pilgrim.” If
they give me some lip I say “That’s bold talk for a one-eyed fat man.” I know that was actually Robert
Duvall saying that to John Wayne instead of the other way around, but I just love that line so much.
Once our playful banter is over I head to the indoor range and get down to business. We take our gun
safety seriously, after all, and the Firearms Experience is the best I’ve ever seen to learn proper
techniques. When you combine the Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West with the
Firearms Experience you are looking at a Ph.D.-level history lesson.
Some of the guns you can check out include a reproductive firearm such as a cap and ball, Colt
revolver, modern day 1911 Colt .45, the guns of the mountain man, the weapons of the Civil War and
the Henry and the Winchester lever-action rifles. Each visitor works with a trained instructor, who not
only puts the firearms in a historical perspective, but also guides you through safety procedures and
practices for all firearms. Next, you move to a state-of- the-art firing range where, under the close
supervision of their personal instructor, you fire a gun. For many of our out-of- town guests, it is a
once-in- a-lifetime opportunity.
I especially like watching the reactions of people as they realize that these firearms are not toys and that
the good guys don’t really shoot pistols out of the hands of the bad guys chasing them on horseback at a
That only happens in the movies.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and burnin’ daylight – in Cody/Yellowstone Country.