Cow Camp in the Big Horn Mountains– An Ultimate Western Experience
By Teresa Jordan
When Jesselie and Scott Anderson and Bob and Katharine Garth, longtime supporters of the Western Folklife Center, saw the Ultimate Western Experience packages offered in the silent auction during the last National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, they knew they wanted to go on at least one of them. They started bidding and in the end won two out of the four offerings. This past week they enjoyed their first adventure, at Stan and Mary Flitner’s White Creek cow camp in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. They invited my husband, WFC Founding Director Hal Cannon, and me to join them, and the six of us were treated to three days of stunning scenery and Wyoming’s best outback hospitality.
The adventure started at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West with a personal tour from the illustrious Alan Simpson, the former Wyoming U. S. Senator and Buffalo Bill Center Board Chairman who is known for his colorful turns of phrase and wide-ranging areas of expertise and enthusiasm. Although the Senator, now 86, carries a walking stick, it is not for support so much as to propel him at his characteristic long-legged gallop. Don’t tarry, don’t tarry, he constantly reminded us as he squired us through the five separate museums that make up the center -- the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Plains Indians Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, and the Cody Firearms Museum. Left to right: Bob and Katharine Garff, Jesselie and Scott Anderson, Senator Alan Simpson.
From Cody we headed up into the Big Horn Mountains and arrived at Stan and Mary Flitner’s White Creek cow camp just in time for dinner.
Stan was stirring the coals under the Dutch oven, well on his way to making the best fried chicken any of us had ever eaten.
He also treated us to his Dutch oven sourdough bread followed the next morning with sour dough pancakes.
After breakfast, Stan and Mary showed us the lay of the land. From here, we could look down at Shell Creek and the Big Horn River to Cody and across to Red Lodge and the Bear Tooth Mountains.
Later, Mary read to us from her forthcoming memoir, a story of family ranching and the many generations of experience that have shaped Stan’s and her lives, and which they have in turn passed down to their children.
The title of Mary’s book is A Detailed Map of the Trail. Perhaps she should use this map on the cover!
Hal sang Texas Traveler, a song popular with African American cowboys in the 19 th century as they herded cows north from Texas.
Laura Bell came to Wyoming in 1977 from Kentucky and herded sheep before she started night calving for Flitners. What she thought was a six-week stint turned into six years, an experience we got a taste of as she read to us from her acclaimed memoir, Claiming Ground.
Everyone pitched in to make this an extraordinary experience. We discovered that Scott has a talent for pot scrubbing.
Girls just want to have fun! Right to left: Jesselie, Mary, Laura, Katharine, and Teresa.
Mary always has fun. Here, she shares a joke that only someone with a life of experience with cows can tell properly.
The last morning we woke to snow – as if it wasn’t already hard to leave this beautiful place!
New friends in an old West ... Mary, Bob, Stan and Katharine
Our heartfelt thanks to Stan and Mary Flitner, Laura Bell, and Senator Alan Simpson for giving us what was truly an Ultimate Western Experience. As Jesselie said over breakfast our last morning, “This adventure was so much richer than I could ever have envisioned that now I can’t imagine going through life without having experienced it.”
Thank you, Mary and Stan. And the dogs were welcoming, too!
Teresa Jordan is a member of the Western Folklife Center's National Advisory Council and a former member of the Board of Trustees. She is a well-known writer and artist and is married to Hal Cannon, founder of the Western Folklife Center and a member of the Utah band 3hattrio.