By Len Wilcox
The people of Buffalo, Wyoming, have a lot of reasons to be proud of their town: It has an important place in the history of the West. But also, in July the town holds a festival that I’d really like to attend. It’s Longmire Days, held each year to celebrate the TV show that was created in their town.
Buffalo is a small town in the north central part of the state. It’s the seat of Johnson County, which has a long history of standing up for itself. The Indians there helped whip Custer at the Little Bighorn in 1876. But also, the local homesteaders were nothing to mess with – the big-time ranchers learned that when they tried to clear them out from their homesteads on land that used to be free open range.
In 1892 the cattlemen were so desperate they hired a bunch of tough Texas gunslingers, rented a special train for them, and sent them north to clean out the range. Those gunmen were so thrashed by the tough farmers and cowboys of Johnson County, that the ranchers had to pull strings all the way to Washington to get them rescued by the U.S. Cavalry.
But the festival isn’t about those events: It’s all about Absaroka County, a mythical place created by author and Buffalo homeboy Craig Johnson. It’s about a modern day sheriff – Walt Longmire – who could have been a sheriff in the 1800s as easily as today. His Absaroka County comes alive with all the characters you might expect with such great raw material. The story always revolves around these people, and it’s an action story from the start, one that satisfies any lover of great Westerns.
But there is a lot more to it. Love and loss, dreams destroyed and reborn, radical hippies, treasure hunters and modern militia – these things are all there, just as they are a part of the real West. Just as important are the Native American tribes and communities. The TV drama shows us the heart of the real people with real strengths and issues.
It’s a brilliantly written series and it’s great to see the town celebrating the books and television show. The festival is in mid-July – check the Buffalo, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce website at buffalowyo.com for this year’s schedule.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View.
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