Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Little Cowboy Bar

Musty, gnarly, and eclectic would be a good way to describe the Little Cowboy Bar and Museum, a landmark along Fromberg’s West River Road which is the tiny town’s main street. If you duck into the low slung bar where brands cover the green stucco storefront, you’ll be amazed at the Montana history hidden inside.

Courtesy Shannon Kaple, Center Avenue Imaging. Used by permission.
Longtime owner Shirley Smith has collected a mixture of oddities, autographs, artifacts, and memorabilia spanning more than a century. A. L. Anderson, writing about Shirley Smith in the Clark’s Fork Pioneer, noted that the bar is a local gathering place where the legendary outlaw spirit that you read about comes alive. Clippings and photographs define the renegade cowboys and cowgirls who dared to ride the toughest rodeo stock. Worn weapons, a beaver fetus pickled in alcohol, an insect collection, famed bronc rider Turk Greenough’s cowboy hat, native beadwork,  and acres and acres of other items all wonderfully displayed  remind the visitor that the West was a catch-all where people worked hard, played hard, and sometime broke the law.

Owner Shirley Smith. Photo courtesy Shannon Kaple, Center Avenue Imaging. Used by permission.
Smith has stories about everything from outlaws to artists and movie stars. She says that she’s done everything in the bar except birth a baby, and she’s come close to doing that too. She has set bones, pulled teeth, taken stitches out, and taken lots and lots of ticks of out of kids’ ears. The Little Cowboy Bar is, as one writer put it, “the real thing—a moving lament for the way it was, once upon a time in the West.”  Take a jog off the highway and experience the Little Cowboy for yourself. You won’t be sorry.

P.S. Add this place to your road trip bucket list, too.

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