As a part of the year-long Centennial celebration, the Center is excited to share the spirt of the American West through the new exhibition, Cody to the World! Celebrating 100 years at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.
Featured in our new exhibition is the below photo of Mel and Irene Stonehouse taken in 1940. In addition to their smiles and the snowy weather, there is a little-known funny story that followed shortly after this snapshot was taken of the newly married couple.
In a recent discussion, Kate Smith and Yancy Bonner—daughter and granddaughter of Mel and Irene—tell the charming story of the two true Wyomingites pictured in this photograph.
Smith first explained that her father, Mel—a top rodeo competitor and 20th century American cowboy—came to Cody, Wyoming in 1938. Throughout this time, he rodeoed well known competitor, Tom Knight. Interestingly, Irene was good friends with Knight at the time, which is how she initially became acquainted with Mel.
One night at the rodeo, according to Smith, Mel chose to ride a bull for a change. Unfortunately, this switch resulted in a broken leg, but luckily, Knight offered for Mel to stay with him in Cody, so he didn’t have to travel back to Cheyenne.
“He never left Cody again,” said Smith.
Irene, a talented horsewoman, accompanied Knight and Mel to corral horses one day, and as Smith describes it, “that’s history.”
Mel and Irene were soon married, and the photo shows the young couple preparing to leave Cody to head to Denver for their honeymoon.
“Back then, you had to just take off and hope for the best,” Smith noted.
Shortly after leaving town, the heater in the car suddenly stopped working—in the middle of winter. Following the broken heater, the defroster also gave out, so Mel and Irene were unfortunately forced to roll down the windows, so they could see. The two traveled all the way to Cheyenne—nearly a seven hour drive—with the windows down in the frosty weather until they were able to get the heater fixed while visiting a family member.
“It was a good test of your first day of marriage,” Bonner joked.
Cody to the World! opened to the public in the Center of the West’s Special Exhibitions Gallery on June 3, 2017 and is on display through February 4, 2018. For a full list of summer happenings at the Center, click here!