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VOLUMES 207 & 208 -------- SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019

September/October 2019

I reported last time about Ann being drawn for a 'once in a lifetime' moose tag and buying a couple of different factory loads as potential fodder for her Savage .308. 
The ammo was Hornady Precision Hunter with 178 grain ELD-X bullets and Browning with 168 grain BXC Controlled Expansion bullets.  A quick velocity check over the Oehler M35P chronograph provided velocities of about 2,575 and 2600 respectively.

A few days later, on September 7th, another point of impact and accuracy check was performed.
Left is the Hornady load with the Browning at right.

Obviously either load is 'minute of moose' accurate and these points of impact at 100 yards at those velocities will allow a center hold on hair at any distance Ann is willing to shoot.  She elected to go with the Hornady load with the slightly heavier bullet for her hunting.

Before moving on, I gotta report that Ann was crowned Flight B Club Champion with her Trailhead Nine Hole Ladies Golf League!  Way to go Girl!!  Keep up the improvement and you'll move on to kickin' butt in Flight A next year.

What with all the activities involving golf leagues, Elks Lodge stuff, seasonal chores at the ranch, etc. etc. etc., Little Heifer and I decided to have a bit of a 'getaway' for a few days.  So we fired up the Yukon and headed East on September 11th.  By way of Missoula, Billings, Cheyenne, and York, NE, we finally ended up in Liberty, MO on the 15th.

We met up with my 3 siblings and some of their family members who were able to gather on short notice.  After dinner at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant across the street from our hotel we spent the rest of a pleasant evening visiting and taking pictures on the porch at the restaurant.

Let me see if I can remember who was there:  Brother Ed and his wife Nancy; their sons, Jason and Scott; Jason's wife and daughter, Lynn and Riley; Scott's wife Adrianna and their kids, Mia and Quinn; Sister Carol and her husband Don; and Sister Cheri.  (We'll have a group picture in a minute to check my work.)

Back: Don, Ed, Quinn, Scott, Jason, and me
Front:  Cheri, Carol, Ann, Nancy, Adrianna, Lynn, Riley, and Mia

Cheri, Ed, Carol, and me

This was a very abbreviated visit and we didn't get to spend enough time with those we were able to see, nor were we able to see all those we wanted to.  A more extended trip is being planned for next spring, which will coincide with our 60th High School class reunion.

As we began our journey toward home on the 16th, we were looking forward to a couple of things we wanted to see and do on the return trip.

First of all, we planned a quick drive through and look see at the little farm community of Skidmore, MO.  Why Skidmore?  A little history:

Skidmore is located about 50 miles west of the area in which Ann and I grew up.  The nearest cities of any size are Maryville to the north and St. Joseph to the south.  Neither Ann nor I had ever been to Skidmore.

On July 10, 1981 Ken Rex McElroy was shot and killed while sitting in his idling pickup truck with his wife beside him, on the main street of Skidmore.  The shooting occurred in broad daylight and in plain sight of dozens of townspeople and area farmers who were gathered on the streets that day.  No one was ever arrested, charged, or prosecuted for the shooting.

Many of the players in this drama are deceased, but now, nearly 40 years later, none of the people on the scene in 1981 have ever named a shooter or shooters of the notorious Ken Rex McElroy!

In 1988, after years of research and hundreds of interviews with people connected to the events leading up to the shooting, a 'true crime' book entitled, '
IN BROAD DAYLIGHT', by author Harry MacLean was published.   MacLean's book describes years of bullying, threats, cattle and hog rustling, shootings, arson, child molestation, statutory rape, and intimidation against the citizens of Skidmore and Nodaway County Missouri.  There was little question who was committing and/or directing these crimes!

Though indicted 20 times and in spite of convincing evidence, McElroy was never convicted of any of these crimes!  Witnesses were repeatedly threatened and intimidated into changing their stories.  In one case, McElroy quickly divorced his current wife and married an underage victim/witness so she could not be forced to testify against him for statutory rape.  It became pretty clear that law enforcement and other county officials were, as numerous local residents put it, "Scared S--tless of McElroy!"  McElroy's hold on the entire community seemed to be ironclad!  So at that point, the score remained, 20 indictments zero convictions!

Then came the shotgun shooting of the elderly owner of the local grocery store.  Bo Bowenkamp was shot in the neck with a shotgun, and though grievously wounded, survived the shooting.  For this one, McElroy was arrested, tried, and convicted of second degree assault.  Why second degree assault instead of attempted murder, no one seemed able to answer.  Amazingly, after the verdict, he was immediately released on bond pending appeal, and promptly resumed appearing at the local tavern in Skidmore.

Again, there was outrage in the community at what was seen as a continuing failure of the local justice system.  Shortly thereafter, McElroy was dead.

In addition to MacLean's book, there have been a number of portrayals and documentaries of the 1981 events in Skidmore by various sources.  The latest being a special series on the Sundance Channel on cable TV called 'NO ONE SAW A THING'.  This series was ongoing at the time of our Missouri trip, and was the catalyst that stirred our desire to see Skidmore.

Building that housed the local tavern at the time of the shooting.  McElroy's pickup truck was parked nose in to the curb just up the street to the right of the tavern.

This is the dock on the back of the grocery store where Bowenkamp was shot.  (Not sure what was in the near building that is being demolished.)

This shows the relative positions of the tavern and the row of buildings housing the grocery store.

The gas station about 75 yards uphill from the tavern.

Ann standing by the sign showing the status of an apparent civic project.

After leaving Skidmore, we traveled west to Interstate 29, then north to the Missouri River Crossing at Nebraska City.  This I-29 stretch follows the Missouri River along the borders of northern Missouri and southern Iowa.  While we all saw news coverage of the serious flooding in that area over the past couple of years, the pictures didn't do justice to the devastation seen up close and personal.  Thousands of acres of farmlands saw no crops this year and likely won't next year either.

An overnight in Lincoln, NE on the 16th, and the next night in Laramie, WY, found us on the phone with Polly Millican, owner/operator of Two Bars Seven Guest Ranch near Tie Siding, WY.  We vacationed at =7 a couple of times when we lived in Nebraska, Rick worked there one summer when he was 15, and we also visited occasionally while living in Denver.  Over the years we became friends with the family.  (Shortly after the trip, Ann ran on to a story she had written about our first visit to the ranch in 1978.  The story is now on the website with a link on Ann's Corner.  Fun Reading!  I'll also put a link HERE.)

We hadn't stopped at the ranch for several years, so made a date to drive down and have a short visit with Polly the next morning.

This is the old ranch house and buildings as seen from the top of the last ridge coming in to the ranch.  The small house seen to the right was the home of Polly's Mother, Peggy when we first visited.

A telephoto view of the ranch house from the same vantage point as above.

For more information about Two Bars Seven visit their website: www.2bars7.com

The drive from =7 to our next overnight in Thermopolis, WY was uneventful, and with the exception of the Wind River Canyon portion of the drive, just as ugly as we remembered it.

Two views of Wind River Canyon as we approached Thermopolis, WY

Our focal point of interest for our homeward trip was the Buffalo Bill Center and Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming.  We motored into Cody midday on September 19th with reservations for two nights at the Americinn Hotel.  Since we were too early for our room to be available, we took advantage of the time to have a needed oil change performed on the Yukon and pick up some things we needed at the local Walmart.

After checking in, we went shopping in some of the numerous western stores in town.  Yeah, they have several western stores in a town that boasts 'nightly' rodeos during the tourist season!  We did pick up a couple of shirts and some jeans.

Ann with the white buffalo in front of one of those several Western stores.

We also visited the still operating Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill in 1902 and named for his daughter.  There happened to be an art show going on inside.  Art shows don't take me long to see all of I want!  Although there was an interesting piece in the hallway, a bronze called 'A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed'.

This depiction of a cowboy rescuing a partner from the path of a longhorn stampede was priced at a mere $26,550.00.  (I ordered two of them - Ha Ha)
We did rest a spell on the veranda of the hotel where the scenery was more interesting than an art show.
Interesting chairs on the veranda of the Irma Hotel.

We awoke Friday morning the 20th, to clouds, strong winds, and rain blowing in sideways!  Good day to get inside and tour the new, improved Buffalo Bill Center.  September 20th also happened to be my 77th birthday which we celebrated later in the evening.

What is now the Buffalo Bill Center Of The West began life in 1917 shortly after Col. William F. Cody's death, as the Buffalo Bill Memorial Association.  Ten years later, on July 4, 1927, the Buffalo Bill Museum was dedicated and curated by Cody's niece, Mary Jester Allen.  In 1935, 40 acres of land was donated by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and the entire complex is now located on that site.

Over the next several years, additions of a Plains Indian Museum and Western Art Gallery, continued to expand the complex.  Then, in 1980, a new feature was added that, as you might suspect, caught my attention; The Winchester Firearms collection!

Just had a discussion with Ann about when we visited the museum the first and only time before this trip.  Neither of us can remember for sure, but it was not too long after the Winchester collection was added.

Continued, almost constant, re-models and changes to the complex continued over the years, with detailed planning for renovation/rebuilding of the firearms portion beginning in about 2014.  After four years of planning, the firearms museum closed to begin the actual construction.  The remodel was completed in about a year and the Cody Firearms Museum re-opened on July 9, 2019 with 40,000 square feet of display space, over 7,000 firearms, and thousands of related items.

In addition to actual firearms from primitive hand cannons to the latest modern, technological iterations, the museum features many interactive displays where visitors can experience activities as varied as simulated firing of machine guns to feeling the trigger pull of a single action revolver.

These pictures depict some firearms from old to new.
We were barely able to scratch the surface of what can be seen and learned in the complex.  We did manage to at least walk through most of the areas, including the Western Art Gallery, Plains Indian Museum, Natural History Museum, Buffalo Bill Display area, and the 'learning center', in addition to the Firearms Museum.

Here are some random photos of some of the sights to see in the Museum.

Now that we know the magnitude and breadth of the Center, we are already thinking toward another visit when we can plan to spend two or three days in the place.

As evening approached, it came time for Ann to treat me to a bit of birthday celebration.  She decided we should dine at Cassie's Steakhouse, aka Cassie's Supper Club.  This historical jewel, established in 1922, is a former brothel turned popular eating, drinking, and dancing venue.  American Cowboy Magazine recently announced its selection of the "Five Best Steaks in the West."  Cassie's Porterhouse was ranked number two!  The vintage decor is, well, very vintage!

We began our meal with an appetizer of Rocky Mountain Oysters, followed by Salads, Petite Fillets and Baked Potatoes.  As we were finishing supper the house band began playing.  "West The Band" plays year round at this venue with bass player Steve Singer also owning the place.

We noted that the band was playing 'our kind of music'.  We were hearing vintage country songs instead of the stuff they call country today!  So, instead of leaving right away, we moved down closer to the dance floor and danced a few numbers!  Ann said, "I like this better than sitting in the Elks Lodge watching you play in the band!"

Awaiting the serving of those Rocky Mountain Oysters.

"West The Band" - No wonder we liked the music, some of these guys appeared to be about our age.

We had a good time but were more than ready to get off our feet back at the hotel!

During our stay at the Americinn, I wandered about the lobby admiring and photographing the many examples of taxidermy on display.  Quite an impressive menagerie!

After leaving Cody on the 21st, our next stop was Bozeman, MT, where we planned a short visit to the Museum of the Rockies.  We wanted to see the replica of the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton that was discovered near Fort Peck Reservoir in Eastern Montana and excavated in 1988.  This is probably the most complete set of T Rex bones in existence and was originally housed in the Museum of the Rockies.  The original is now located in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.  Thus the replica on display on Montana State University campus in Bozeman.

We stopped at a rest area on the north edge of Bozeman, plugged the address into the Yukon's navigation system, and off we went.  Alas, we had not considered the Norfolk State/Montana State football game that day.  We could not even get close to the museum on campus!  So much for that!

Our last overnight of the trip was in nearby Belgrade, MT.  I'll describe here, two instances of frustration with hotel/motel accommodations on this trip.  The first occurred in Liberty, MO.  Shortly after getting our stuff into our room, Ann elected to take a shower.  After undressing and going in the bathroom, she discovered that the shower had not been serviced by housekeeping.  Then we found the housekeeping staff had left for the day.  So,we had to move all our stuff to another room.  Fortunately, on the same floor and right next door.

Now back to Belgrade.  The room we were assigned turned out to be somewhat less than clean; no, it was filthy!  This precipitated a bit of an angry visit to the front desk, suggesting that we refused to stay in or pay for that room and were heading on down the road.  This resulted in an audience with the manager and being asked to check out another room before leaving.  This one was a jacuzzi suite with king bed and fireplace, and it was even clean!  So again we moved from one room to another.  This time to a different floor.

The only good news about the situations; both rooms were comped so we saved about $300 in room charges.

We arrived back home on Sunday the 22nd with a number of activities on the agenda, including another birthday celebration here at home.  On the 24th Rick and Cookie came to the house for supper and ice cream cake.

This was one humorous card.  Too bad you can't read it from there.

See!  It's easy to blow out 77 candles!

If you think that's all of my birthday celebration, you'd be wrong.  Since Jennifer was unable to attend the gathering on Sunday, she showed up with a big pan of fried rice the following Friday for more festivities.

Jennifer's special fried rice with Spam!  (She picked up this recipe from a roommate of Korean heritage while at WSU, and it is delecious!)

Our favorite Granddaughter!

Next on the agenda was preparation for Ann's moose hunt.  In drawing for the moose tag, Ann had chosen the Mount Spokane South moose area here in GMU 124.  Since most properties are privately owned in this area, hunting access can be pretty limited.  Our little ranch is within the allowed hunting area, but moose sightings here are infrequent and have always been cows and calves rather than bulls.

Having said all that, the most practical area with hunting access is Inland Empire Paper properties just a few miles north of our house.  Access to this land is by permit only, with a family annual pass costing $85.  As one might expect, this access attracts a lot of hunting activity from the Spokane area, as well as ATV'ers, Dirt Bikers, etc.

To make a long story short, several trips to IEP property through the end of October, both driving open roads, and walking gated roads, has brought into sight exactly zero moose.  In fact, other than a few birds and ground squirrels, no wildlife at all has been observed by us.  We have seen a few moose tracks, the gate keeper reported one large bull moose being brought out the first week, but live animals; Nada!

Another 'fly-in-the-ointment' has been wet weather.  IEP has shut down access periodically due to soft roads.  The moose season runs through the end of November, so maybe it will freeze up enough to again allow access before then.  We'll see.

Our hunting transitioned into both moose and early whitetail season from October 12th through 25th, but we elected to pass on the deer we saw during that period.  Late whitetail season opens again on November 9th and goes through the 19th.  We'll see what happens then on deer.  We have been holding out for mature bucks, but we 'over 65'ers' can take antlerless deer if we want.

Then we had another birthday!  Ann caught up with me in age on October 30th.  She and I celebrated with cards, two dozen yellow roses, and dinner at Casa de Oro Mexican restaurant.  (Ann loves their mexican pizza.)  Later that evening Rick and Cookie joined us.  Then Jennifer came along bearing a nice mixed flowers bouquet.  Ice cream and cake was enjoyed by all.

Nothin' like a good Margarita on your birthday!

Pretty roses for a pretty lady.

Jennifer's bouquet for Grandma.

How about a nice purple sweater?

Hey, she can blow out 77 candles too!

There you have it for the last birthday this month.

This month's hillbilly wisdom comes from a quote by Jack London:

"Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well."

Well, it's time to shut down here, so. . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!

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