Cheyenne Frontier Days life phases

Cheyenne Frontier Days changes, but stays the same.

There is now an extra parade since Cheyenne Frontier Days expanded to add the additional weekend. Still huge crowds and still kids selling ice cold soft drinks along the route. Two CFD mainstays, the Hitching Post Inn was out of business for many years before it was torched and the Mayflower burned, came back and then went out for good. It’s now a sushi place of all things.

cfd rose garden bob

Bob Larue and yours truly filming Rose Garden at the CFD parade in front of Marv’s Pawnshop.

The Daddy of ’em All comes to town on Thursday night with bull riding. Friday is the first CFD night show, and another huge crowd, as usual, will descend on the Magic City. All businesses either make or break their year based on CFD trade.The night show entertainment is taking over as the big draw these days. CFD numbers are up, not because of the rodeo, but because of the party atmosphere promoted during CFD. The standing room seats are the primo tickets and a prty zone for young people.

Back in the good old days, the popular shows were family acts like Doc and Festus from “Gunsmoke” and the chuck wagon races. They don’t do those anymore either due to liability issues.

Being a Cheyenne native, some people are surprised to learn that my family and I were city people and didn’t get much into the rodeo part of Frontier Days.

Despite that, I figure I’ve been through four, going on five phases in my CFD lifespan, not counting my very early years I chased pieces of candy in the street at the parade. That’s not allowed now. Who picked up those plastic ducks from the water raceway at the carnival?

Parade Pop Sales – When I was in the fifth and sixth grades, one of my golfing pals,  Pat Higgins, my sister Lori and cousin Matthew from Salt Lake City sold ice cold pop along the parade routes.

cfd alan lori

My sister and I getting ready to ride the hay wagon in the CFD parade.

Two months ahead of time was spent hoarding all the cheap off-brand sodas like Shurfine and Cragmont to sell at each of the three parades that wound through downtown Cheyenne.Although my dad worked for Coca Cola, we opted for a higher profit margin. Besides, thirsty parade goers weren’t interested in brands, they just wanted something wet and cold. This was well before bottled water. I think it was before flip tops and we had to open them using a can opener.

The first year, we ran out of pop and wasted at least a half an hour running over to Brannen’s Market on Carey Ave. which is now a Wyoming state government office.

During subsequent years, three red wagons were dispatched and cars with additional supply strategically parked along the parade route. My cousin saved the bag of loose change from his first take as a reminder of his first entrepreneurial project. I wonder if he still has it?

These days, kids have to get a permit and be accompanied by an adult. Plus there is no selling in the street in front of potential customers, only on the sidewalk behind them.

Sheesh – talk about over regulation.

Learning Human Nature at an Early Age – The Hitching Post Inn was the most popular CFD party spot. When I was in junior high school my first job was working as a bus boy there during the summers of 1966 to 1968. It gave me an early education about human nature – I hadn’t run into as many jerks and a**holes as I did during those days and nights at the Hitch.

hitchingpost

The Hitching Post was one of the CFD hot spots. It was my best job.

My favorite shifts during CFD were 7pm to 3am and 11pm to 7am. There was always plenty of action for a 14 year old kid – running booze and glasses to the smoke filled Coach Rooms for the Son’s of the Pioneers Show, shooting the breeze with fun-seeking cowboys and their girlfriends at the counter in the coffee shop.I was in Phoenix Books and Music the other day and noticed a record by Jody Miller. She used to play in the Hitching Post lounge. I delivered room service to her. The only other famous person I met was Victor Jory, who sat at the coffee shop counter in a tan safari jacket smoking cigarettes.

Just before sunrise one morning another busboy named Mark Samansky – God rest his soul – and I went into the Coach Rooms and played the drum solo from Iron Butterfly’s “Inna Gadda Da Vida”. I don’t think the boss – Kenny Ahlm – ever figured out who was making all the racket. I kept in touch with Mark until he graduated high school. He was a few years older than me and we lost contact. He, not surprisingly, went into radio broadcasting as a well known DJ. He died a few years ago.

High School Parade Rides – I’d ridden in the parade before as an elementary school aged kid. My mom was in a singing group called the Dearies through her women’s club. All the members had kids – Murrays, St. Clairs, Nichols, Lummises –  and we all hung together during the summer. Many of us still keep in touch through facebook.

cheyenne frye

In high school, I rode in the CFD parade with Ed Frye in the ambulance.

I can’t remember who had the pull, but all of us kids from the neighborhood rode on the hay wagons during the CFD parade. That was sort of an initiation for kids to get involved with CFD – turns out it was for me since I’m still involved.The mom of one of my high school classmates, Janice Benton, was a volunteer on the CFD Parade Committee and for three summers through high school we rode in the horse drawn field ambulance wagon.

Two girls dressed up as Civil War nurses and two guys moaned in pain with bandaged limbs hanging out of the windows. For my shift, it was Jan, Eddie Frye and Tad Leeper.

We had messy jugs of red colored water and let it run out of the corners of our mouths – pretty graphic for CFD – but the crowd loved it.

We also had this “bed pan” schtick, but I don’t need to go into any of the details about that!

Old Enough to Drink in Public – As far as I’m concerned, Frontier Days started to go downhill when the Mayflower Bar on 17th Street went rock and roll. It was nutty back in the late 70s and early 80s. I was living in Gillette at the time and one year, we packed way too many people in a room at the Atlas Motel.

Brammar Neg 4036, Mayflower Cafe dance hall interior, Cheyenne Frontier Days, nd

The second Mayflower went out of business the year I made my Kerouac movie. This is the original Mayflower interior.

The police would block off 17th Street between Capitol and Central Avenues and walk down the sidewalk wielding night sticks banging beer cans out of the hands of pseudo-cowboys wearing huge gold and silver fake trophy buckles.

The obligatory circuit was flowing along with the mass humanity from the Mayflower then to the Elks Club then back to the Mayflower where I would bump into Cheyenne friends I hadn’t seen for years. The Pioneer Hotel was taken over by bikers.

The Cheyenne Club opened on Capitol and was the big cowboy hangout for a few years until it went out. It’s been through several iterations and now empty when the Drunken Skunk went out.

All the CFD gathering points are now out of town at the Cadillac in east Cheyenne. and the Outlaw in south Cheyenne. When the parade ends, downtown turns into a ghost town with tourists and locals heading to the rodeo and the carnival Midway in Frontier Park.

cfd jill bill

CFD parade watch 50th birthday July 19, 2003 with Judy Gilmore, Susan Keenan, Jill Jensen, Steve Gilmore, Jeff Tish, Bill Keenan.

The Plains Hotel has had an identity crisis over the past few years. One of things I’d wanted yo do is watch the parade from a corner suite there. In 2003, Bob Jensen, Al Wiederspahn – God rest his soul – and Mick McMurry rennivated the Plains into a show piece. It wasn’t ready to open, but for my 50th birthday, I rented the room and invited 100 of my closest friends over for Bloody Mary’s and the parade.

Downtown Cheyenne has been unstable since JC Penney moved out to the mall 40 years ago. The Plains changed hands again. The restaurant is separate from the hotel.

Under the previous management, the Wigwam 2 – an homage to the original Wigwam Bar sort of worked.. It was kind of small but fun. I don’t know what will be in there this year, but it’s a great place to eatch the parade. I imagine the bar hopping circuit will be the much smaller: Albany – Crown  – Elks.

Movies – I’m now in my fifth CFD life. I’d generally get media credentials when I was in the newspaper business. I remember doing a pretty good story about Indian Relay Races. CFD doesn’t have those any more.I’ve made a couple short movies in Cheyenne using CFD as a back drop – “On the Trail: Jack Kerouac in Cheyenne” which is about the night Sal Paradise spent in Cheyenne during CFD on his way to Denver; “Rose Garden” which happens at the parade and in Frontier Park. I’m working on a documentary about the wild horse race, but I’m having a little trouble coming up with a story.

I also did work for the CFD Old West Museum and make the CFD Volunteer Crisis Fund annual tribute video.

CFD 2016 begins on Friday. I’ll be over at the media trailer picking up credentials and talking to people I see once a year there.

Incidentally, my CFD handle is “Bud” which is one of my best kept secrets.

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I’m not much of a reader – 11 books I have read that have influenced my life

 

our new friends dick jane

My first exposure to fiction.

Not being much of a reader, I had a hard time coming up with the list of books that had an influence on me.

I should list the books on my shelf that I have intended to read.

Had I been able to read non-fiction rather than that nonsensical Dick and Jane stuff, I would have become a better reader. I was always in the lowest reading groups in elementary school. It was a bit demeaning since the top readers were in the ‘eagle’ group while I was in the ‘sparrows’. As noted in this list, the books I have read are for some purpose, other than enjoyment, or getting lost in fictional worlds. I have a hard enough time in the real world, let alone fantasy.

emperor divine

This was a book read by Boulder.

“When the Emperor Was Divine” by Julie Otsuka – This book was the Boulder “community book” selected a few years back. The book is about a Japanese – American family that gets split up with the father, who is thought to be a spy, is sent to one World War II relocation camp for the potential criminals and the mom, son and daughter get sent to another. I read it a couple times and ended up writing a screenplay from it, which reminds me that I need to get it out and tweak it. I’m still unsure of how to end it.

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Insight for the creative introverg

 

 

“You’re a Creative Genius, Now What?” by Carl King – I think I learned of this book from a movie maker named Michael Wiese who is also a book publisher and published this book. He made a movie called “The Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas” that screened at the Boulder Asian Film Festival many years ago. I want to make a documentary about his approach, particularly suited to introverts, such as myself. I should follow up on that.

Tips from my favorite screenwriting critic

screent trade

Tales by my favorite screenwriter.

“Adventures in the Screen Trade” by William Goldman – I started out in the movie business taking a Lighthouse Writers screenwriting workshop. I didn’t know much about the craft and watched movies while reading the screenplays. For not getting much direction, my first screenplay critique was pretty harsh, which is part of the business. It was a rewrite of a stage play “The Webster Street Blues” which is another project still in development. I produced it as a stage play at the Mercury Cafe in Denver. It was a fundraiser in the wake of the big tsunami that swamped Japan. A couple of my favorite movies, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Marathon Man” were written by William Goldman. If I read any fiction, I read screenplays rather than books.

story_mckee

The screenwriting bible

“Story” by Robert McKee – I took a screenwriting class and had a hard time with the work flow. The workshop I was in seemed more like therapy for frustrated writers, some of whom didn’t ever finish one script over a couple years. After learning the basics of the craft, the first short I wrote won third prize in a contest. “Stardust” was the first movie I made when I was just learning as a volunteer at the public access TV station. I ended up traveling to New York and taking the “Story” screenwriting class taught by Robert McKee. It sounds odd, but this particular weekend event changed my outlook on life. I have read this book a couple times and still refer to it.

on_the_road_book_cover

Inspired on of my short movies.

“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac – At the Denver Film Festival a few years back, I saw a short about the gas station in Longmont, Colorado where Sal Paradise (Kerouac) stayed after coming from Cheyenne on his way to meet Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) in Denver. I started the “Digital Scroll” project which has only one episode, that being a short docu-drama about Sal Paradise spending a night in Cheyenne during “Wild West Days (Cheyenne Frontier Days) on his way to Denver, via Longmont. Kerouac typed the original “On the Road” manuscript on a long piece of paper that consists of many sheets taped together. I was in Central City, Colorado yesterday and the next episode will be “On the Stage: Jack Kerouac in Central City. He and some friends spent some time hanging out with some of the opera players, I’m thinking at the Teller House after Fidelio played.

o'keeffe stieglitz

There isn’t a lot of information about Georgia O’Keeffe’s visit to Colorado.

“O’Keeffe and Stieglitz” by Bonita Eisler – While in Santa Fe, there was a book, maybe at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum that had all the works of Georgia O’Keeffe. The book included all the paintings she made while in Ward, Colorado. That was the first “famous people in strange places” moment that incited a movie based on the sketchy information available about her stay. I picked up this book as reference for a short film about her vacation in Boulder County in the summer of 1917. It originally screened at the church in Ward. Next stop is a screening in Santa Fe.

heart-of-darkness-paul-gauguin

This was a book I read in a Books to Movies class in college.

“Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad – I took a literature and film class at Hastings College taught by Sara Jane Gardner. It was the first exposure that I had to the nexus between movies and books. “Apocalypse Now’ is based on “Heart of Darkness.” Both have a first person narrative from the point of view of Marlow in the book and Willard in the movie. In the movie, Willard travels up the Mekong river in search of a Green Beret named Kurtz.

Robin Hood Was Right

This was the first book written about funding social change.

“Robin Hood Was Right” by Chuck Collins and Pam Rogers – When I first moved to Colorado, I somehow became involved with the Chinook Fund, which is a community – based foundation that funds mostly activist organizations.I was on the board of directors with John Hickenlooper, who was a biermeister at the Wynkoop Brewery. He was one of the first guys I met while in Colorado. He’s now on to other pursuits. His most memorable antic was passing out orange and blue placards at a Broncos game protesting the Mile High Stadium name change when the Stadium Authority was selling naming rights. This is one of the handbooks about how to fund social change. It’s a book about the classic example, rather than giving a guy a fish, it’s better to teach him how to catch fish.

spanish dictionary

I wore a couple of these out during my sojourns to Mexico.

“Spanish Dictionary” by University of Chicago – I did business for eight years or so in the late 1990s to early 2000s in the small town of Sombrerete in the state of Zacatecas in north central Mexico. Contrary to popular belief, English is not a very common language in most parts of Mexico, particularly in rural places like Sombrerete. This is the only book that I have worn out to the point that I had to get a new one. There are many Spanish – English dictionaries out there. I don’t know why I settled on this one.

Baseball-Saved-Us

A good children’s book introducing the topic of racism.

“Baseball Saved Us” by Ken Mochizuki – There used to be a group called “Reading to End Racism.” Community members would go into the school classroom and read a book to the students and have a discussion about it with them after. The book I generally read was this one about a baseball team that formed at a Japanese – American war relocation camp as a diversion during captivity. Oscar winner Chris Tashima (“Visas and Virtues”) made a short movie also about baseball in camp called “Day of Independence.”

mockingbird

One of the few books I read in high school, which did have a big impact on me.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee – I had to include one book that I read in high school. This book was one of the first novels that confronted racism and I read it cover to cover. I was in high school from 1969 to 1971 and it was very topical. I related to the Scout character. I thought the movie with Gregory Peck stuck pretty close to the book. The other book I sort of remember is “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville.

There you have it.

Based on my list, they are books which are purposeful and most were read as an adult. Turns out, I’m more of a doer than reader.

Like Will Rogers said, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”