The bustle and charm of Old-West-revived enveloped Sheridan Avenue. I alighted to my destination’s main street in late July, 1964. The summer air was warm – absent Oklahoma’s thick humidity – indicating the mile-high elevation. Tourism thrived, as it would this time of year.
Resting my suitcase at the curb I stretched. The bus moved on, making visible Sheridan Avenue’s attractions across the way. A renowned hotel stood at a corner.
Buffalo Bill Cody – co-founder of the town bearing his name – built the hotel in 1902. He christened the it Irma – after his youngest daughter – praising it as, “just the sweetest hotel that ever was”*. I shifted my weight to my better leg and wondered at the flow of tourists entering and exiting Hotel Irma. To most, their destination lay fifty miles away. For now they were visitors. Of Cody, Wyoming – Eastern Gateway to Yellowstone Park.
Taking up the suitcase I set off for my new quarters four blocks away. Stranger to independent living I settled into a tidy rental room in a private home. No kitchen access.
Would you like coffee, Sir? I’ll take your order when you’re ready.
My first morning in Cody found me in a diner two blocks East of the Irma.
I nodded to the young waitress.
Sure, thanks. And I’ll just have a couple eggs over-easy, with bacon and some toast.
The waitress went silent. Her gaze unnerved me. Uh, Sir. If you don’t mind, could you repeat your order? As I spoke she seemed to dissect each word as it left my mouth.
Mm, I’m sorry, Sir. She was clearly distracted. And enthused. Please wait just a moment. I’ll be right back!
In seconds she returned, another waitress near her age in tow.
Sir? If you don’t mind, could I ask you to repeat your order – just once more. For my friend, please?
Both girls leaned forward. Then I caught on. Neither one knew the Oklahoma drawl – much less spoke it. Even in a tourist town – so far from home – my voice was an oddity. An early morning marvel for a café wait staff.
The matter of accent resurfaced.
After two mornings – on my first Wyoming Sunday – I slipped into Cody’s Assembly of God church for worship. In seconds an unmistakable accent seized my attention. I discovered its origin – one of Oklahoma’s seventy-seven counties.
©2015 Jerry Lout