Growing up in North Platte, Nebraska in the 50s and 60s, images of Buffalo Bill Cody were a familiar sight for me as the city claimed to be “Home of Buffalo Bill,” which it was, for a time. William F. Cody, had a long association with the town. In 1870, he was initiated into Freemasonry in Platte Valley Lodge No.32, in North Platte. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was founded in the area in 1883 and, from the profits, he purchased a 4000 acre ranch in the area a few years later.
In the 1960s, Fort Cody Trading Post was on US Highway 30 on the north side of town, along the route I took most of the time to Madison Junior High in the 7th grade. Highway 30 was the early and mid 20th century incarnation of the Great Platte River Road, roughly followed in the past by the Trapper’s Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the California Trail, the Pony Express, and the military road from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Laramie across Nebraska.
Today’s Fort Cody is on the south side of town, south of the South Platte River and near Interstate 80, the modern incarnation of the Great Platte River Road. In the 80s and early 90s, the trading post was one of our family’s favorite stops when visiting North Platte.
Fort Cody Trading Post (RoadsideAmerica.com)
On a cross-country trip, Fort Cody is a reassuring sight, with its log stockade walls and towers, looming 2-dimensional Buffalo Bill sign, and promise of “Western Gifts.”
The 30-foot tall sign resembling Buffalo Bill isn’t an arbitrarily exploited Old West figure; Buffalo Bill Cody (called Buffalo Bill after killing 4,280 buffalo in one 18 month period) lived in North Platte for many years.
The Fort Cody Trading Post has remained true to its original vision — a replica frontier redoubt of the 1860-to-1875 era that claims to be “Nebraska’s Largest Souvenir and Western Gift Store.” While many gift shops in the West attempt to look like frontier stockades, this is probably the largest, maybe even larger than life. Soldier dummies man the stockade battlements and towers; one has an arrow sticking out of his butt.
(read more about Fort Cody at RoadsideAmerica.com)