Tim McCoy: The Real/Reel Life of a Wind River Cowboy


Tim McCoy (1891-1978) lived a good, long life and he is remembered in various ways. Some folks think of him as the hero of nearly a hundred Hollywood Western films, silent and talkie adventures made during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. 

Others remember him as a Wyoming cowboy, perhaps as the state’s adjutant general. 
I knew him as a father, and we talked often about the pathways he followed in pursuing his dreams. During the course of his eighty-six years Tim believed in several large dreams, and it was his good fortune to actually realize them all. Yet, when, during the mid-1970s, as we worked together on his autobiography, it was clear that his fondest memories focused on the years he spent in Wyoming, and especially his experiences in the Wind River country. As an early-20th century cowboy poet he once wrote of that place:

These are the Mountains of the West
Where the Sun God seeks his slumber
Where the West Wind goes a-whooing
And Evil Spirits lurk. . .

Even the “Evil Spirits” reference was a positive for Tim, who felt that the Wind River country was the universe in miniature–leastwise, the universe in which he was most comfortable–and that while heartache might be found there, all that was good also dwelt within its boundaries. Whenever he pronounced it’s name, “Wind River,” he seemed able to conjure spirits from the depths of canyons and down from the sides of mountains.
Above all else, Tim valued beyond measure his experiences among the Arapaho and Shoshone peoples of Wind River.

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