Limited; or, The Wild West Made Mild

by cowboylands

The usual happened on my way to the old Fort Hall and the Bannock County Historical Museum. “Usual” being that I had a certain goal in mind–look at strange-ass western stuff–and instead realized how much stranger the world is than we know. All this whilst looking at a replica fort and tipi, and faux Western town. Awesome. 

The BCH Museum itself is airplane-hangar big. I can’t say it was my favorite historical museum–too organized. But it had the requisite cowboy cuffs and scribble-scrabble papers, among a stagecoach, a buggy with artfully arranged hat, a section on the military men and women of the town, and a dentist’s office. The docents were talkative, my stomach was full, and the day was bright.*

Then I stepped into Fort Hall next door to the museum and on the other side of a corral of buffalo and antelope (grazing amiably). Its dark, cramped quarters and cluttered trading post, as well as the dusty and insect-chewed hides of animals hung carefully in authentic ways as bedspreads and rugs, made me realize how nice it was to be able to walk outside the confines of the fort without fear of marauders or rightly pissed-off Shoshone-Bannock warriors. 

Beside the fort was a carefully tended gravel drive. Empty buildings, faux Western-town style, ranged along the gravel. One place wasn’t empty. It held a floor of dead flies. WTF? A mystery.  

They might have been for a festival, or a reenactment. They could have held informational displays. Who knows? The forlorn vibe was palpable, until I figured out I was imbuing the feeling to the structures. A wind picked up, and I tried not to tune it to a spaghetti western chord. It’s just a group of buildings, I told myself. Little, empty buildings. But I couldn’t shake a sadness. Of all things, at the uselessness of these buildings. 

Not much in Pocatello is useless. A college town, Pocatello takes pride in its development from pioneer settlement to county seat. The displays show domestic arrangements. Nice suits and shoes. Tools. Transportation. The few Native displays show the arts or (in a sly commentary on comparative religion) a short description of the Sun Dance. 

The world of the museum and the fort, and how it fits into the town, are better than fiction. Better than my fiction…

Pocatello, et tu? Another small town that once again shows me the limitations of my movie-fueled imagination. 

 

*If you ever suddenly find yourself driving through a dust storm in the middle of Idaho, and have to pull into a town named Pocatello, I recommend Buddy’s on East Lewis Street. Fuhgeddabout about the Armageddon-ish orange light and the plastic bags and aluminum cans scudding along with the wind–get a basket of garlic bread, a heap of pasta, a glass of wine, and enjoy. 

 

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