Buffalo Wyoming – Cowboys, Cowgirls and Sheriff Walt Longmire!

Buffalo, Wyoming, and the nearby Bighorn Mountains stole our hearts during our RV travels this summer, and we ended up sticking around for a while.

Fifth wheel trailer RV camping at sunset

A Wyoming sunset.

On our first day in Buffalo, we were astonished to find the streets were lined with throngs of really excited people. As we made our way through the mob, we noticed the cops were directing traffic at every intersection.

Something really big was happening. But what?

Soon we realized a parade was about to come through town. What perfect timing!

Longmire Days Parade Buffalo Wyoming Home of Longmire

We arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming, just in time to see a parade!

We watched the parade go by and gave each other quizzical looks as we tried to figure out why there would be a parade in this small town in the middle of July. The 4th of July was over, so this must be something else!

Longmire Days Parade Occidental Hotel Buffalo Wyoming

A band plays on a flat bed trailer as it passes the Occidental Hotel. What on earth was this parade for???

Suddenly a turquoise truck came by with a guy standing in the bed of the truck. A huge roar went up from the crowd, and the man waved at everyone. It was as if he were some kind of beloved celebrity.

The woman standing next to me saw I wanted to take a photo and eagerly stepped aside. “Go on!” she said urgently. “Push on out there and get his photo!”

Walt Longmire in Longmire Days Parade Buffalo Wyoming

A roar goes up from the crowd as this cowboy goes by in the back of a Bronco!

I got my shot and then asked — still confused — “Is that the mayor?”

She threw her head back and laughed. “No! Of course not!” She said. “That’s Walt Longmire!”

Sheriff Walt Longmire in parade at Buffalo Wyoming

Of course this isn’t the mayor.
This is the famous Sheriff Walt Longmire!

I stared at her blankly.

“You don’t know who Walt Longmire is?” She was clearly shocked at my ignorance. “Longmire is a huge TV show that’s really popular around here. That guy is the lead actor! The show takes place in this town, although it’s called Durant on TV rather than Buffalo.”

It turned out that we had arrived just in time for a special weekend celebration called Longmire Days when Buffalo, Wyoming, welcomes the cast from the Longmire TV series and also welcomes thousands of out-of-town guests who come from as far as California to see their beloved stars in person.

There is a store in town devoted to memorabilia from the show, and the store owners later told us it is really fun — and a bit funny — to watch these starstruck fans come from near and far to see the heroes of their series in person.

Longmire Headquarters Buffalo Wyoming

The Longmire TV show, developed from a local author’s book, depicts life in Buffalo, Wyoming, but calls the town “Durant, New Mexico.”

I’ve been starstruck by celebrities before too, so I totally understood. But I have to say that it is really hilarious when you have never heard of a TV show to run headlong into fan hysteria and the celebrities who are at the heart of it.

To me, this famous and adored actor (that women were truly going nuts for) just looked like a regular old cowboy standing in the back of a truck!

Then again, after a decade on the road, largely in the western states, I have become a huge John Wayne fan. We watch his old movies all the time. If I were to see John Wayne in person who knows what crazy hysterics I would fall prey to!

Ironically, it turned out I wasn’t the only John Wayne fan in Buffalo, Wyoming.

John Wayne T-shirt Buffalo Wyoming

I wasn’t the only avid John Wayne fan in town!

Buffalo, Wyoming, is home to about 4,600 people, and the heart of the town is a small grassy park called “Crazy Woman Park.”

The term Crazy Woman is popular in this area. There are both a creek and a canyon named “Crazy Woman” along with various business and shops. There are several legends behind the name, and they vary a bit, but each one references a woman (either white or Indian) who witnessed or was involved in a terrible tragedy that made her crazy. She lived out her days in a canyon not far from Buffalo.

Crazy Woman Park in Buffalo is decorated with several big, colorful murals that were commissioned in 2012 to show that Buffalo isn’t just a One Horse Town.

Horse mural and cowboy Buffalo Wyoming

Buffalo isn’t a One Horse (or One Cowboy) Town.

The murals were painted by Aaron and Jenny Wuerker. The first panel on the left depicts old black and white photos of cowboys around the turn of the century.

Old cowboys in "More than a One Horse Town' mural Buffalo Wyoming by Aaron Wuerker

Original cowboys in Buffalo way back when.

The next panel shows two cowboys chasing some horses across the prairie and bringing them into the town of Buffalo. This is definitely not a One Horse Town!

Horses on a mural Buffalo Wyoming by Aaron Wuerker and Jenny Wuerker

Cowboys chase horses across the prairie…

Horse mural Aaron Wuerker and Jenny Wuerker Buffalo Wyoming

…and into town.

The love of horses and the cowboy way of life and cattle ranching runs deep in Buffalo, and every week in the summertime there is a rodeo at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

We stopped by one afternoon and had a great time watching both kids and adults dash all over the place with their horses.

Rodeo queen Johnson County Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

A Rodeo Queen flies past on her horse.

The little girls were just too cute for words. They were fearless as they galloped past, and nothing would stop them from going full speed ahead, even if their hats flew off!

Rodeo princess loses her hat Johnson Country Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

Hats off to this rodeo princess!

Rodeo Princess Hats Off Johnson County Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

Woops!

From the pretty Rodeo Queen to the most adorable and tiniest Rodeo Princess, we loved them all!

Little Rodeo princess Johnson Country Fairgrounds Buffalo Wyoming

There’s no such thing as being too young to ride a horse.
Eventually both the helmet and horse will fit!

But there were plenty of adult cowboys putting their horses through their paces too.

Johnson County Fairgrounds Rodeo Buffalo Wyoming

There was full grown adult rodeo action too.

But this cowboy stuff isn’t just for show.

While in town one day, I had the really good fortune to meet an old cowboy named Dick and spend some time talking to him and listening to his life story. He described growing up in the area, and he painted a vivid picture of what it was like to be a rancher in the 1950s and 60s.

“It is the best life for a young man,” he said wistfully. The outdoors, the wide open spaces and fresh air — he had loved it all.

He passed his love of the ranching life to his two sons, and with great pride he told the story of putting his boys in charge of moving a hundred head of cattle from one pasture to another when they were very young. He told them he would meet them at an appointed hour and place, and he expected them to be there — with the cows — when he arrived.

I had to smile imagining two boys on horseback urging the beasts across the fields with their promise to Dad and his expectations weighing on their shoulders.

Sure enough, he told me, when he pulled up in his truck at the spot where the kids were supposed to be, they were there along with all the cows. Not one single cow was missing.

Chatting with an old cowboy Buffalo Wyoming

Longtime Buffalo area resident, Dick, shared his life story with me and painted an enchanting image of life on the ranch in Buffalo fifty years back.

There was an oil boom in Wyoming right about that time, however, and the lure of a better income in the oil fields took him away from ranching. As the years went by, he rose in the company and eventually ended up as the General Manager with a desk job in town.

But once a cowboy always a cowboy.

Dick had come to town on this sunny summer day wearing his cowboy hat and carrying his leather ranching gloves in his back pocket.

As we talked about the vibrant nature of the town, its festivals, its artwork and the bronze sculptures we’d seen around town, his eyes misted over when he told me that a locally noted bronze sculptor had created a beautiful sculpture of him with his grandson holding a calf.

There’s a romance to the ranching life, but there’s reality too. During our stay in Buffalo, we were touched by a bit of both as we paid quite a few visits to the small shops and tourist boutiques in town.

Cowboy boots Buffalo Wyoming

Cowbgirl boots are available in every style!

Several shops had fantastic arrays of cowboy boots. The pink and bling cowboy boots we’d seen on the cowgirls at the rodeo were all available in town. Just pick your favorite!

There were also lots of cowboy hats for sale, and we had fun at the hat rack trying different ones on. There were also lots of rifles for sale, many of them vintage guns from a bygone era.

Cowboy hat and rifles Buffalo Wyoming

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In one particular shop called The Office, I was idly scoping out the pens and pads when I saw a notebook on the display rack titled “Beef Calving Record Book.”

Beef Calving book for sale in stationery store at The Office Buffalo Wyoming

How often do you find a Beef Calving Record Book in your local stationery store?!

I opened it up, and inside were columns marked Calf ID, Cow ID, Sire ID, Birth Date, Sex and various measurements and weights.

Was this for real?

I asked the store clerk, and she said that oh, yes, those little notebooks were very much for real and the store often ran out of them in the spring when the calves were being born!

How totally cool is that?!

In this crazy era of history when we can’t let our cell phones out of arm’s reach and laws are being passed in Hawaii to remind pedestrians to look up from their phones as they cross the street, ranchers in the small towns of Wyoming are still recording the vital stats of their newborn calves with pen and paper in specialty “rain proof” notebooks!

Beef Calving book in Buffalo Wyoming at The Office stationery store

These little “weather proof” notebooks are hot sellers during calving season!

It is this very simplicity — not that calving is in the least bit simple — but it is this very straight-forwardness and closeness to nature and life itself that makes the cowboy lifestyle so romantic and appealling.

Lots of folks come to Wyoming to spend some time on a dude ranch, riding windswept trails past picturesque snowcapped mountains so they can savor a whiff of a the cowboy life.

We were photographing the mountains one afternoon when a group of horseback riders appeared out of nowhere.

As we got chatting with them, we discovered the ranch owner was a native of the area, but his wife was German. Decades ago she had made a career in the tourism industry in Austria selling western American vacations to Austrians who wanted to get a taste of our Wild West.

She ended up getting a taste of the Wild West herself one year when she took a short term job on a ranch, and she fell in love not only with Wyoming but with a Wyoming rancher too. In no time she was married, had started a family, and was hosting German and Austrian visitors herself!

Horseback riders in Bighorn National Forest Bighorn Mountains

German speaking tourists from Austria and Germany enjoy a tour with local guide Claudia.

We heard a lively exchange of English mixed with German as she talked with her guests on their horses, and the huge grins on their faces said it all. They were loving their week in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains!

Back in 1879, just five years after the Custer Expedition into the nearby Black Hills, a fellow named Charles Buell pitched a tent alongside Clear Creek where the town of Buffalo stands today. Some miners coming out of the Black Hills who were loaded down with gold asked if they could bunk in his tent for a few nights and store their gold with him too.

Buell instantly realized that opportunity was knocking, and he decided that these miners would be his first customers at his brand new hotel, restaurant and bank! Within the year he had built a wooden hotel building.

Ten years later he was charging $2.50 a night to regular visitors from all over, and in the ensuing decades he hosted celebrities like Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevent, General Crook and Calamity Jane.

Occidental Hotel Interior Buffalo Wyoming

When you dream, dream big!
The Occidental Hotel started as a tent by the creek!

By the early 1900’s the current brick building filled a full city block, and now, over a century later, people still stay in the rooms upstairs and enjoy live bluegrass music jams every week in the classic old western bar downstairs.

The hotel still stands right next to Clear Creek where Charles Buell pitched his tent nearly 140 years ago, and there’s a little dispenser on the bridge where you can get a handful of fish food to throw over to the fish swimming below.

Occidental Hotel Buffalo Wyoming home of Longmire

Kids throw fish food down to the fish below the bridge by the elegant Occidental Hotel.

Folks of all ages love to cast a fishing line off the bridge in downtown Buffalo, and one day as we walked by a young boy reeled in a really big fish. Wow!!

Proud kid with trophy fish Buffalo Wyoming

Nice catch!!!

Part of the Longmire Days celebration was an antique car show, and after the parade ended everyone wandered over to a nearby park where the cars were lined up on the grass and glistening in the sun.

1948 Chevrolet truck Buffalo Wyoming

A late 1940s era Chevrolet pickup truck — Sweet!

Since this is ranching country, a large number of the old vehicles were vintage pickup trucks.

We chatted with the owners, and in more cases than not we discovered that the truck we were admiring had been owned by Dad or Grandpa and had had a productive life on the family ranch before being lovingly restored and brought out to show off.

Antique truck at a car show in Buffalo Wyoming

An antique Ford pickup. Many of the trucks at the show had done decades of duty on nearby ranches.

Of course every ranch has dogs as well as trucks, and we spotted a particularly pretty dog in attendance.

Beautiful dog portrait

Sunset in the Bighorns.

We had loved our RV trip through eastern Wyoming where we visited the towns of Chugwater, Douglas, Newcastle and Sundance, but the town of Buffalo and the nearby Bighorn Mountains enchanted us.

Crepuscular rays of sunset Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

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Little did we know that first weekend that Longmire Days and the antique car show would be just the first of several delightful celebrations we’d enjoy on our RV trip to Buffalo, Wyoming!!

Sunset over an RV Bighorn National Forest Wyoming

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Buffalo Wyoming River Runs Through It mural seen on an RV trip to town

Allow a few days when you take your RV to Buffalo, Wyoming!

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14 thoughts on “Buffalo Wyoming – Cowboys, Cowgirls and Sheriff Walt Longmire!

  1. Wow! That first sunset pic is absolutely AWESOME. Great cowboy story as well. Your journey is exciting. Keep enjoying your life Emily and Mark.
    Rick

  2. Thanks for the great article on Buffalo. It is a fun town to visit. I enjoyed visiting with you at the Buffalo Basque Festival. Keep up the fun articles. I appreciate and delight in following your travels. Thank you for visiting with me at the Basque Festival.

    • How great to hear from you, Sam. We really loved Buffalo and had such fun chatting with you at the Basque Festival. We’ll be sharing our pics from that day in an upcoming post. Your photos of western landscapes and portraits are just terrific!!

  3. Hi M and EM,
    Reading your such well-written story about Buffalo has made my day. It brings me back to when Bob and I were actively traveling and finding ourselves in the middle of celebrations we had no previous clue about like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Your passion about and ability to share what you do are unparalleled and a tremendous boon to my current stay-in-one-place life. Your photos continue to be the best and I can’t wait to see your next installment. Til next time, Kathie

    • Wow, Kathie, you have made MY day with your heartfelt comment here. Thank you!! Truly, the best things in life are free and they’re even better if they land in your lap unannounced. I’m sorry you aren’t able to travel like you did in the old days, but it really makes me feel good that our pics and stories bring some of that excitement into your life now. It is always a delight to hear from you, and we remember our visit with you aboard our beloved boat Groovy and at the tall ships parade in San Diego with great fondness.

  4. What an amazing time you had in Buffalo Wy! It’s amazing what experiences happen when you are on the road. I love the vivid story you painted after spending time with Dick.

    And the horses…and the rodeo queens!

    Great post!
    Brenda

  5. Wondered how you folks were avoiding the fires, throughout the West and Canada, Em…

    Great story, and superb pictures, Em & M! Mark, your people pictures were outstanding, but the picture of your rig, out in the Wyoming desert, deserves to be framed, and kept for your posterity, to be enjoyed in your older years.

    Looks like another place to add to our “must see’ list, Em! Lots of history, and a very pleasant surprise to be in Longmire Country, while Walt and the cast were there. Wonderful series, by the way, available on DVD; and new season coming up – maybe…

    My friend from Wyoming, tells me that Jim Bridger Days are a wonderful event to see, but it’s in July, so Wyoming looks like a trip onto itself, maybe paired with Utah. And by the way, you might as well get the DVD (now old) about Jeremiah Johnson – played by Robert Redford, who roamed the Wyoming Territory that area a couple of years ago – many years, actually. The DVD combines three characters’ stories from the old West, and is an outstanding movie. Yep, coming from folks who admire John Wayne, and others in the historical West. And then there’s the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody. But you and Mark have probably been there already.

    Take care, and safe travels to you both…..Bette & Glen Horsmann, Sun City, Aryzona

    • We kept an eye on the fires, and when we saw western Montana and Idaho were becoming engulfed, we opted to stay east of there. It hasn’t kept us out of the smoke, however. We had some very smoky days in Wyoming, South Dakota and now in Colorado too. Fortunately, there’s a lot to see in every state, whether it’s Wyoming or Utah or anywhere else, and all of the western states are worthy of a summer or two, so definitely plan on visiting! Thanks for the compliments on our photos and for the tips about the movies and series. Sounds like some good entertainment with beautiful scenery in the background!!

  6. Sorry I didn’t get to read this article and view those pictures until today. You guys really know how and where to find real America! I loved that Bronco, but I have to say that sunset photo was just a tad better than the photos of those young cowboys on horses! Great find Mark and Emily and what a story.

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