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. I took a phone call while on the side of the road, and after being harassed by one cop the day before I decided I should park in town then call back.
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, her name was Dawn and she too came to Wyoming for some man. She mentioned feeling stranded here, after they broke up and I felt the same way and understood. She lives in Sheriden, but once stayed in the historic Occidental Hotel and fell in love with it. She became friends with the owner, also named Dawn, and helps her out every weekend. 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. Porches were important because the whores would lean over displaying their merchandise no doubt to the men below. The owner, Dawn, had two loosely gray braids on both side of her face and she 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 prostitute who had a daughter who died of cholera in the the NW wing where the brother was, she was just a child. Some times people can feel her tapping her fingers on their backs, but on guest really got to meet her. He gave me the creeps as soon as he walked in." She made a face and imitated shivering. "I've never felt creeped out by any guests, only him. 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. The little girl ghost picked up something about him, maybe he was a wife beater or a pedophile. A prostitutes daughter wouldn't of had a good life, so she saw fit to attack the poor man."
With that story in mind I walked up creaky wooden stairs in the brick building, the phone call completely forgotten about. 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.
Dawn 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, 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, checked out on my ex's library card in Gillette. 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 holds for me. Then I think of Dawn from Sheriden and feel like I was meant to meet her and 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, there 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 meat sequoia trees and my red nippled 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.