Just a few weeks left to saddle up for Buffalo Bill Days

Column by John Akal
Posted 7/10/18

If I were to ask you what came to mind when I mentioned the history of Golden, Colorado what would you say? You would probably start mentioning one group of people or another or maybe an individual …

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Just a few weeks left to saddle up for Buffalo Bill Days

Posted

If I were to ask you what came to mind when I mentioned the history of Golden, Colorado what would you say? You would probably start mentioning one group of people or another or maybe an individual that achieved something. Most likely you would be talking about something that occurred after the place was named Golden.

But, there is a really long history of this place that started way before there were any people wandering around the area and it looked a lot different. If you went to bed one night and woke up in the exact same spot millions of years ago, you wouldn’t have a clue where you were. You’d be right smack in the middle of a steamy tropical-looking place with ferns and a lot more water. You’d have to worry about getting stepped on by huge beasts about as tall as your house. We had a lot of dinosaurs roaming around here once upon a time and some of them had really big teeth.

Now, fast forward a ways to 500 years ago. By then the whole landscape had changed. The mountains pushed their way up. The canyons were being carved by the rivers we all know and there were a handful of people roaming around the area. The Native populations in this area were never really huge. Most groups were nomadic and moved around quite a bit, choosing to live on the plains where it was a little bit more hospitable and easier for humans to survive.

But there was one population in this area that was massive. They numbered in the millions and hung out in huge groups. If you climbed up on one of our mountains you could see great brown masses of them grabbing a bite to eat on the flatlands. I’m talking about the buffalo. Once upon a time you could see giant herds of them just eating the grass where your house probably sits right now and as I mentioned, there weren’t very many people around to bother them. The native people would hunt enough of them with bows and arrows or spears to survive, but that didn’t put much of a dent in the buffalo population at all.

Then a bunch of new people showed up and they had a couple of things that pretty much terminated that peaceful scenario. Enough people to create a market for buffalo, some rather careless folks and the guns to shoot them faster than they could reproduce. We all know the stories about how they were slaughtered to the brink of extinction that became a prime example for conservationists to make a case for what happens when humans run amok.

So, it may seem strange that here in Golden, our biggest town celebration is Buffalo Bill Days, centered around the life of a man that got his nickname by being a buffalo hunter and scout that was a part of the process that destroyed the animals he was named after. Well, if you look at the whole picture and learn about him, you will find that he was actually only working as a buffalo hunter for about a year and a half to supply food for the builders of the Kansas Pacific Railway. It’s where he got his nickname, but was only a very small part of the man’s life story. Of course he was famous as a showman, but he was a Pony Express rider, a Civil War veteran, a Medal of Honor recipient and was also an advocate of Native American Rights, a supporter of Women’s Rights and became a staunch conservationist who was partly responsible for establishing hunting seasons. Read his life story, it’s fascinating.

So with that in mind, we will be celebrating Buffalo Bill Days here in Golden from Thursday, July 26 through Sunday, July 29 with most of the activities going on in Parfet Park on the corner of Washington Avenue and 10th street. There will be live music, including Doug Kershaw this year, food and beer vendors booths, arts and crafts, kids rides, a free train ride downtown plus a car show on Washington Avenue.

There is also a parade on Saturday at 10 a.m. followed by a full blown Cody’s Wild West reenactment show happening in the Lions Park ball fields on 10th Street at 11:30 a.m.. There are loads of other events and activities, too numerous to mention here. Do yourself a favor and take a moment to visit www.buffalobilldays.com and check it all out. The website has the full schedule with times and places. It’s a weekend of fun for the whole family and best of all, it’s totally free to attend.

John Akal is a well-known jazz artist/drummer and leader of the 20-piece Ultraphonic Jazz Orchestra. He also is president of John Akal Imaging, professional commercial photography and multi-media production. He can be reached at jaimaging@aol.com

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