A woman runs across the street brandishing a shotgun and pistol. Shots are fired. A few chaotic minutes later, with armed assistance from Wild Bill, Doc Holiday and Butch Cassidy, a gang of robbers and murderers lay dead in the street.
The gunfight, a nightly drama put on for tourists, is a noisy, kitsch homage to the cowboy history of Cody, Wyoming. And this is the right place to stage it: outside the Irma Hotel that was built and owned by No. 1 cowboy William F Cody, who gave his name to the town. He is, of course, now better known as Buffalo Bill.
Cody helped found and build the town as a gateway to the region’s great outdoors, particularly Yellowstone National Park. Today, it’s a small tourist town with stores selling old west paraphernalia and guns. Its Old Trail Town has trapper’s lodges, an old post office and saloon, and the grave of “Liver-eating” Johnson – the legendary frontiersman played by Robert Redford on film.
I eat dinner and drink a Buffalo Bill beer across the road from the shootout at the Irma Hotel, built by Cody and named after his daughter. The cherrywood bar, where Bill and his cowboy friends once drank, is said to have been donated to Cody by Queen Victoria.
“Buffalo Bill had two suites and an office at the hotel,” says owner Mike Derby. “His office is now the ladies’ bathroom. It’s said to be the most haunted room in the hotel.”
Haunted by Buffalo Bill himself? “We don’t know. He’s not saying.”