The monthly “Second Saturday” scotch tasting in the Miner’s Delight Inn Bed and Breakfast in Atlantic City has steadily fermented into the rhythm of cultural life in the greater Lander region. You can walk into the Two-Bit Cowboy Saloon knowing next to nothing about scotch whisky, and walk out knowing the difference between a Bunnahabhain and a Dalwhinnie.
Tucked away amid the red, rolling foothills of the Bighorn Mountains in north central Wyoming, Hyattville is only six miles from Medicine Lodge Archaeological Site, home to numerous petroglyphs and pictograms. Over the years, Hyattville has had a doctor, newspaper, hotel, mercantile and grocery stores — even an opera house — that served a thriving ranching economy. Today, there’s a post office and two cafés, each with a bar. Groceries or gas are 17 miles or more away, in Basin, Worland and Ten Sleep. It was 1866 when Samuel W. Hyatt moved to a scattered settlement at the confluence of Paint Rock Creek and Medicine Lodge Creek. But what he and other early settlers of what is now Hyattville didn't know was that people had been living in that same area for the last 10,000 years.
On a visit to Buffalo in 1997, at the intersection of Main and Fort Streets, Dawn Wexo happened to glance to the right and saw the old Occidental Hotel. The next day, a realtor showed them through. Dawn had experience with historic building renovations and suspected the Occidental might be a gem under all the ‘50’s era false walls, ceilings, worn-out rugs and peeling paint. One sign of encouragement was the impressive back bar in the Occidental Saloon, with Tiffany-like stained glass. Wexo learned it was built by the Glasgow Glass Works in Scotland, and then shipped to Buffalo. The Wexos bought the building for $180,000 and spent $1.6 million on the restoration, resulting in a hefty mortgage. The work of restoring the hotel hasn’t been easy, what with daunting financial and health challenges. But eventually, the original Occidental emerged. Tin ceilings and wainscoting and wooden floors were in superb shape (though the dance floor in the bar did need to be jacked up about five inches).
The Vore Buffalo Jump near here is primal, rough and endowed with all the ambiance of open pit iron mine. On a November day at the site there is no sound except the whine of rubber on Interstate 90 a mere 100 yards away. A sign warns: Please do not tease the rattlesnakes.
When you're driving down the hill onto Main Street off Highway 287, Lander looks like any other small Wyoming mountain town: one main drag, a few restaurants, and little in the way of "culture." But today's rock climbers see something different when they roll in.