Monday, May 17, 2010
Ghost Girl at the Occidental Hotel
I woke around 6am and slowly got dressed then put my tent away. I drank the gas station coffee from the night before as I shined my copper colored cowboy boots, then used the same light color on my dark hiking boots since I can't find my polishes and shining brush. It seemed to condition the dried leather though. I put on a nice pair of jeans with my cowgirl belt buckle, a horse t-shirt, and the cowboy boots. Today I needed to talk to landowners in person about going onto their land to count birds the next morning. I even put on makeup and might have brushed my hair.
I went into Buffalo and found the library…that wouldn’t open for hours. So I drove around town looking for my 12 bird points. Most were around a high school, but several were on private land.
In the adventure that is my life, nothing goes as planned. I parked in front of a downtown hotel, eager to go to an old fashion soda fountain down the street. A woman was in front of the hotel, lacquering some very old chairs that may have held the bottoms of famous outlaws in a century old poker game.
We started talking and complained about men together. She invited me into the hotel, and I really didn’t understand its historical importance until tonight.
Part of the Occidental use to be a brothel, evidence of a porch once overlooking the street can be seen. The owner who had two loose braids on both side of her face was nice and encouraged me to look at the historic quilt collection upstairs. I inquired about what ghosts lived there and she grinned, I knew a good story was coming.
“There was a woman's daughter who died of cholera in the the NW wing where the brothel was, she was just a child. Some times people can feel her tapping her fingers on their backs, but one guest really got to meet her. His hunting party was snowed in, down in Denver so he was the first and only one to arrive. The whole northwest wing was empty except for him because the other rooms were held for those stuck in Denver. He was the guide, a mountain man, so when he called up screaming around 3am I knew why. He said that something was trying to pull his covers off the bed and they were throwing things around the room. I went upstairs, found his covers on the floor and the stuff on the dresser on the floor too.
With that story in mind I walked up creaky wooden stairs in the brick building. I looked at the quilts, my favorite made from men's work shirts. Old boots with the tiniest ankles belonged to the former owner, her clothes also on display. I looked down the dark hallway of the northwest wing and felt a little dizzy, it might have been fear. I went down the other wing and loved the outlaw room with a river view and brick exposed wall.
The owner encouraged me to explore the northwest wing, so I did and felt dizzy again, I couldn't find the light switch. Doors of unoccupied rooms were left open to show off the historic beds I'm sure, and light from the windows of those rooms was the only light. Dawn said the hall light should be on, but it wasn't. I left but I could tell which room the little girl died in, I felt pulled to it and wanted to turn the door knob.
Many outlaws have stayed there, the Hole-In-The-Wall Gang, Tom Horn, and many others like Teddy Roosevelt, Calamity Jane, and Buffalo Bill. I want to write historical fiction, so I have several books about pioneer women from the area. I just started reading one about Martha James (Bull), and she was married in this hotel in May 1883. I read that tonight! Like a new word learned then heard everywhere, the Occidental Hotel keeps reveling itself to me. I wonder what importance this hotel will have in my future, I feel like I was meant to come to the Occidental for some unknown reason. Buffalo, Wyoming might be my home.
I talked to five landowners and have all my points to count birds tomorrow morning with my silver tongue. People are so friendly here. I decided to camp in the same spot at Petrified Tree on BLM land, since its free and close. I went on a hike around the petrified meta sequoia trees, their rings and shape clearly seen in solid rock. I was taken back to a time long before the Occidental Hotel when mammoth roamed these hills covered in meta sequoia trees and the red hills were given their color from coal deposits that burned so hot around them that the sandstone turned to a red "Scoria" or "Clinker" rock. Will get up at 3:45am tomorrow to take down my tent.