Icons and Outlaws: Wyoming Fit for a Queen

Icons and Outlaws

Frontier history is woven into the fabric of Sheridan’s identity. Reminders of a hardscrabble, bygone era are found etched into the wall of historic buildings, whispered about along century-old mountain trails, and recounted at interpretive sites from the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument to Fort Phil Kearny State Historic Site. Sheridan County has played host, sometimes unwillingly, often unwittingly, to cadres of nefarious and notorious outlaws like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Big Nose George, and even the outlaw Jesse James. Icons, too, have staked claims at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, with the most celebrated of all being none other than William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Yet it is a little-known fact that Sheridan has also hosted some of history’s most refined, dignified, and celebrated individuals, including none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

As Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin was lowered into the royal vault at Windsor Castle on September 19, 2022, hundreds of world leaders and a line of mourners that stretched for miles along London’s River Thames paid their respect to the Queen, whose reign ended after more than 70 years. The queen’s passing ignited flames of nostalgia across the globe and has afforded us the opportunity to reflect on the year 1984, when Her Royal Highness visited beautiful Sheridan County.

Queen Elizabeth exiting a plane at the Sheridan County Airport
Queen Elizabeth arriving at the Sheridan County Airport; attributed to the AP Press

The Queen spent four days vacationing in Wyoming as the guest of Lady Porchester at sprawling Canyon Ranch. Canyon Ranch was established by Englishman Oliver H. Wallop, the youngest of four sons of a Victorian English earl. O.H. Wallop’s granddaughter, Jean, married Henry Herbert, 7th Earl of Carnarvon in 1956. Lord Carnarvon was a childhood friend of Queen Elizabeth II and was in 1969 appointed her horse racing manager. Canyon Ranch is now managed by the family’s fourth generation, Paul and Sandra Wallop, and they continue to welcome guests from around the world to one of the most stunning destinations in all of Wyoming. Canyon has played host to film and commercial shoots, special events, and even a Rolls-Royce Motor Cars showcase. Views of the towering Bighorn Mountains from a Canyon Ranch porch are sublime, as is the opportunity to gaze at a starry night sky while pondering cowboy poetry around a crackling fire.

Queen Elizabeth strolling down Sheridan's Main Street
Queen Elizabeth strolling down Sheridan’s Main Street; attributed to Bob Zellar, Billings Gazette

By all accounts, the Queen had a wonderful time in our cozy community – she toured The Brinton Museum, visited with the master leather crafters at King’s Saddlery, and stopped in at Ritz Sporting Goods, “where store owner Sam Mavrakis, who had tied fishing flies for her husband, Prince Philip, 15 years (earlier) gave the queen a handmade graphite fishing rod and a box of flies to give to the prince,” according to United Press International. She was gifted a hand-tooled leather wastebasket and purchased a pair of leather gloves for herself and gifts for the rest of the royal family at King’s. King’s Saddlery is still here and as legendary as ever; Ritz is gone but fly fishing aficionados from the world over visit the Fly Shop of the Bighorns to tack on tackle before setting out in search of streams.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth at Ritz Sporting Goods; attributed to the AP Press

We know that Queen Elizabeth enjoyed a quiet picnic at Canyon Ranch while marveling at the beauty of the Bighorn Mountains, and it got us to wondering – what else did the Queen enjoy while she was in Sheridan County? Did she spend any time on horseback? Then surely, she would have heard of Eatons’ Ranch, the oldest dude ranch in the USA. The Eaton’s have been a part of the fabric of this community for more than 140 years and continue to welcome guests to explore 7,000 acres of beautiful open country with rolling hills, grassy meadows, and hidden valleys. She knew, of course she knew, that polo was played only a few miles away from Canyon Ranch at both the Big Horn Equestrian Center and the Flying H Polo Ranch. Did she take in a game as so many of us still love to do today? Tailgating a polo match is something of a Sheridan County summertime rite of passage, after all. It’s one of the few places on earth where you might spy modern mavericks like horse whisperer Buck Brannaman or country icon Ian Munsick rubbing elbows with expatriate equestrian athletes from England, France, Argentina, and Brazil – unless you’re in frequent attendance at Beyonce concerts, of course.

Queen Elizabeth at the Brinton Museum
Queen Elizabeth viewing western art at the Brinton Museum; attributed to the AP Press

So much of what made Sheridan County special in 1984 endures to this day. While the city has grown, residents have worked tirelessly to preserve the small town vibrancy, western charm, and outdoor verve that have characterized the community for more than 100 years. We like to imagine that the Queen would be charmed by the shops, boutiques, and galleries that are now Sheridan staples. The likes of Jackalope Ranch, Bought Beautifully, and Modern Merchant are where modern Wyoming royalty are known to drape themselves in the finest haberdashery. Western flair can always be found at High Mountain Mercantile, Crazy Woman Trading, and Wyld ‘n Pretty, while the outdoor itch scratched by Ritz way back in the day may be similarly served by a visit to the Fly Shop of the Bighorns, Wyld Adventure, and the Sports Stop.

Queen Elizabeth at King's Saddlery
Queen Elizabeth shopping at King Ropes and Saddlery; attributed to the AP Press

The Queen was known to enjoy a modest breakfast – a bowl of Special K and fruit, or scrambled eggs and salmon when feeling especially indulgent. For someone touring today, we might suggest a nice light start at PO News & Flagstaff Café; the Italian Crumpet (wait, hear me out) includes an English muffin topped with herbed cream cheese, provolone, and fresh tomato, toasted to perfection. For a more indulgent affair there is the one and only Shabby Shack’s Bruschetta Scramble, made with bacon, onion, fresh basil, jalapenos, mozzarella, lemon zest, balsamic glaze, and a mini bread loaf – though it is not quite as mini as one might imagine.

Quite famously, her majesty was fond of Earl Grey tea. A piping hot cup is never far afield, with coffeehouses and cafes like Java Moon, Bison Union, Hyggee Hearth and Midtown Café located in the heart of downtown. Much has changed since 1984, with our humble town now home to several world-class emporiums of culinary keepsakes, including Verdello Olive Oils & Fine Foods, and Cottonwood Kitchen + Home, making it easier than ever to find, or make, a perfect cup of tea (or whatever it might be that you fancy).

Any time one wishes to raise their glass to toast the Queen they might consider doing so with her preferred cocktail – two-parts Dubonnet to one-part gin, stirred and strained, with one lemon wedge and two ice cubes. The Queen was partial to taking her cocktail before lunch, so I might suggest a trip to the LeDoux Steakout & Saloon in Big Horn, where you can have your cocktail prepared with Gunslinger Botanical Gin, made right here in Wyoming. And make sure to plan a trip to the Koltiska Distillery; Koltiska roots run 100+ years deep here in Sheridan, and the distillery is one of the oldest in the state. The Queen’s cocktail, prepared with classic KO 90 instead of gin, is a thing of regal beauty.

Queen Elizabeth shopping at King Ropes and Saddlery; attributed to the AP Press
Queen Elizabeth shopping at King Ropes and Saddlery; attributed to the AP Press

Cattleman and benefactor of the arts Bradford Brinton purchased the Quarter Circle A Ranch from William Moncreiffe in 1923 and made significant additions to the sprawling property along Little Goose Creek. Brinton left the ranch to his sister Helen who in turn left it in trust with the Northern Trust Company of Chicago, who administered it as the Bradford Brinton Memorial & Museum until 2013 (it would have been known by this name during the Queen’s visit to the property). An enduring local institution, The Brinton Museum has undergone marked changes since; the state-of-the-art Forrest E. Mars, Jr. Building opened on June 15, 2015. The 24,000-square-foot $15.8-million, eco-conscious museum houses one of the most significant and extensive 19th and 20th century Western and American Indian Art collections in the U.S. featuring Frederic Remington, Charles Marion Russell, Thomas Moran, Edward Borein, Winold Reiss, and the largest Hans Kleiber collection in the world. It includes four galleries, a museum store, and the Brinton Bistro, which offers indoor and outdoor dining with 180-degree views of the Bighorn Mountains. One might think that the Queen would be partial to the Bistro’s fish and chips, but it has been reported that she preferred to avoid starch at lunch. Might I suggest then the pinzimonio, a shaved vegetable medley tossed in a red wine roasted garlic vinaigrette to pair perfectly with those quintessential Bighorn Mountain views.

Wyoming is beef country, so it stands to reason that the Queen sampled our signature fare while she visited. According to a charming post on the Facebook group Memories of Sheridan, “Jeanine Spainhower Martini recalls serving the Queen’s table when she had dinner at the Maverick Supper Club. Among her recollections are bomb sniffing dogs prior to her arrival as well as FBI approval of the staff at the restaurant. Jeanine’s uncle was the chef, and he was so nervous he undercooked her filet. Jeanine’s Aunt was the waitress for the Queen. At the end of the dinner, the Queen shook Jeanine’s hand and said “lovely.” Jeanine also recalls it was the first time she ever saw bottled water!” While the Maverick is long gone, there are no shortage of great options when it comes to steak today – Rib & Chop House, Frackelton’s, and Just LeDoux it Steakout & Saloon have a variety of amazing cuts on their menus. And, if you’ll pardon the pun, the views of the Bighorn Mountains are absolutely the bomb from MacGregor’s Steakhouse.

If The Crown is to be taken at its word, we know that the Queen enjoyed a good glass of champagne (often sipped from an ornate goblet, of course), but there are no records of what the Queen did or did not drink while she visited Sheridan. What we do have is an iconic image of her walking past the legendary Mint Bar, and the wistful among us are not hard pressed to imagine Queen Elizabeth II rubbing elbows with local icons and outlaws under the neon glow of Wyoming’s most famous sign.

A few final suggestions (as you wind down your royal tour of Sheridan’s culinary delights): The Warehouse Gastropub is what we imagine the inner sanctum of Windsor Castle might look like, with its dazzling lounge and sublime cocktails. Black Tooth Brewing Company is an admirable stand-in for a classic English pub (with, dare we say it, far superior brews). And I would be remiss if I did not mention the bar at the historic Sheridan Inn; Buffalo Bill Cody was gifted the bar by Queen Victoria while he toured England with his Wild West Show (prospective members were in fact auditioned from the front porch of the Sheridan Inn), and the bar still stands today. There may be no better place in the American West to sit and muse on the curious connection between the Crown and our beautiful little corner of Wyoming.


View one of our itineraries to make the most of your royal adventure in Wyoming’s cultural capital.

Itinerary: One Day in History

Itinerary: One Day as a Cowboy

Next Three Days: Discover Sheridan

Shawn Parker | Sheridan County Travel & Tourism | June 25, 2024

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