Curt Gowdy loved bluebirds, so it was appropriate bluebirds were playing about the edges of a rather large crowd of people gathered in his namesake Wyoming state park to celebrate the opening of Little House on the Park.
The bluebirds may have been wondering what the big deal was as storm clouds gathered in the distance. But it was simple, and no storm cloud was going to chase people away this time.
They had come for a celebration of kindness because, in the words of 1998 song “Hands,” by Jewel, “In the end, only kindness matters.”
Jerre Gowdy, Curt Gowdy’s widow, was meanwhile the center of everyone’s attention, with people surrounding her throughout the event from beginning to end.
She was as radiant as a young bride in a stunning white dress, with the smile to match, and people hugged and took selfies with her throughout the event.
In a rare moment, she took the microphone to thank “each and every one of you for coming and sharing this moment of joy.”
She paused for a moment and added, “I’m so proud to be the wife of Curt Gowdy,” earning cheers and applause from an adoring crowd.
Mrs. Gowdy also was clearly proud of her daughter, Cheryl Gowdy, who first had the vision for Little House on the Park, which brought so many people together to talk about teaching the next generation love and kindness.
Darrin Westby, formerly Director of State Parks, talked about how Cheryl had persevered through five years of ups and downs to make sure Little House became a reality.
Cheryl, for her part, said there was no way she would have, or could have, given up on the dream.
“It only takes one heart to change the world,” she told the crowd before the ribbon for Little House on the Park was cut, tearing up as she spoke.
It’s A Place The Children Immediately Loved
Outside the visitor’s center, Jerre Gowdy raised her hands high to the sky and waved a Wyoming flag back and forth. It was a signal that called the children to gather behind her for a march of kindness toward Little House. The parade was one of many activities on Saturday afternoon at a private party to thank the many stakeholders who made the dream of Little House a reality.
Rain clouds gathered overhead the entire time, but nothing and no one was going to stop this parade.
“Daddy, please,” Cheryl Gowdy said to the sky at one point. And dang if the raindrops didn’t stop short, so that the program of songs and short speeches could continue.
Finally, the moment all the children had been waiting for arrived. The yellow ribbon was cut to cheers and applause, and then the children were let loose. They could go inside the Little House and see what wonders were in store.
It didn’t take them any time at all to figure out what to do in the Little House.
Rhett Dawkins gathered up the large spinning top toys and tried them out on the fireplace hearth, which was built with care using fossilized stones that will be an educational element of programs at Little House.
Meanwhile, Collins Escobedo picked up a marker to color with Sage Dixon at the drawing table.
Cheryl Gowdy squealed with pleasure at what her eyes beheld: All these children playing in the Little House.
“Here are the first children to make a drawing in Little House,” she exclaimed. “Someone come and take a picture!”
Parents were beaming nearby as the scene unfolded.
Kindness is what every parent tries to teach their children, Collins’ mother Cindy said.
“I just love it,” Dixon’s mom Kathleen O’Donnell agreed.
A Dream Come To Life
Little House was built on the whispers of a dream.
Cheryl Gowdy told Cowboy State Daily she’d heard a whisper on the wind as she was walking Kate’s Trail one day. She just knew it was her father speaking to her heart.
“Little House on the Park,” that whisper said. “Love and kindness for children.”
At the same time, she saw in her mind’s eye a picture perfect cabin, like the “Little House on the Prairie.” That’s the vision that Little House was modeled after. And it’s now a reality as of June 11, when the new feature to Curt Gowdy State Park officially opened to the public.
The plan is for it to be open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cheryl Gowdy wants to see kindness walks as well as educational programs. She hopes to bring puppies out to the center from time to time as well.
“If we can just teach children that kindness is love and that love is kindness,” she told Cowboy State Daily.
That’s the fairy tale she wants to write, not for the past, but for the future.
Little House Will Last
The morning of the big celebration on Saturday, Jerre Gowdy lay in bed on the edge of a dream.
She thought of Little House under a big blue sky and of the beetle-killed pinewood that had been used to build a strong structure that architect Richard Dixon told Cowboy State will last essentially forever.
I hope that it will welcome all the people for a long time, Jerre Gowdy told Cowboy State Daily, and that it will bring them great joy.
Little House may look old, but it is all new and modern, and Dixon told Cowboy State Daily he’s taken several extra steps to make sure the facility will essentially last forever.
For the corners, Dixon found a guy in Colorado who builds real locking corners to give it the log-cabin look.
But the house is actually a solid frame house with insulation to R-26. The wood panels were planed from pine beetle-killed trees, then stained in a way that makes them look old, even though they’re new.
Copper was used as the accent metal, Dixon said. He tried numerous recipes to age the metal before finally settling on one that used Miracle Gro, red wine vinegar, and kosher salt, so that it would remain green like the window trim.
Copper was chosen because of the nearby gold mines, which usually have copper veins.
Everything has been sealed against the elements. In fact, everything was double framed, and the roof has an ice and water shield so that even if a shingle falls off, the structure will still be watertight.
Dixon isn’t done with his plans for the structure either. He’s dreaming of a sculpture of a child reading a book, which was a favorite activity of his nephew Benjamin, who died from cancer while still a child.
He also hopes to plant a few wildflowers for kindness — something else Benjamin was known for.
“I wanted to do the builder legacy thing,” Dixon said. “I want this to last forever.”
Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.