Rod Miller: A Connecticut Yankee At Frontier Days

Columnist Rod Miller writes, "I just returned from the strangest journey. You’ll recall that more than a century ago, Mr. Twain rapped me sharply on the noggin and sent me back in time to Camelot. Maybe you’ve read about it."

Rod Miller

August 06, 20234 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

I just returned from the strangest journey.

You’ll recall that more than a century ago, Mr. Twain rapped me sharply on the noggin and sent me back in time to Camelot. Maybe you’ve read about it.

By happenstance and another sharp blow to the head, I found myself at a summer agricultural fair in a quaint village on the dry, high plains of I don’t know where. It was not an altogether unpleasant experience.

This place was not Camelot, but Cheyenne.

I woke up under an oak tree along a street crowded with people who appeared to be going to a fair or carnival. Everyone was adorned in the strangest garb. Both men and women wore blue leggings, brightly colored shirts and boots with pointed toes. Some had swatches of bright cloth around their necks.

Most wore broad-brimmed hats, like actors would wear on the stage. I believe English was spoken, but with an inflection that made understanding difficult. They addressed on another as “yawl” and greeted one another with “howdy” which seems to the local honorific.

In the street were the most magnificent carriages, drawn by drays in polished harness. Children wearing peasant garb rode in the wagons. The teamsters drank from small canisters of ale or something that they kept hidden beneath the wagon seats.

Still groggy from the blow to my head, I wandered up toward the head of this gay procession. Groups of musicians with instruments that shone in the sun played martial tunes as they marched past tall buildings. Crowds cheered as the minstrels passed, waved and shouted “howdy”.

A group of barons rode magnificent horses in the finest livery and acknowledged the adulation of the crowd of peasants with touches to the brims of their actor’s hats. 

I walked beside the stirrup of a portly baron and shouted above the din that I had come from another time, and needed an audience with the King so I could suggest better ways of doing things. He looked down at me and snarled, “We ain’t got no steenking king, pilgrim. Go eat a pancake.”

While I was still trying to understand “no king” and “pancake”, I found myself in a sea of peasants rushing down the street to eat “pancakes”. I was powerless to resist the tide, and found myself at a town square where I witnessed the most unusual ritual.

Lines of hungry townsfolk stood with tableware out-thrust in their hands while cooks tossed discs of bread into the air. The peasantry jostled each other to catch a “pancake," with the winner smiling and walking away. 

It was a most confusing scene and I thought, if anyone needs a king, it's these people.

I then followed the crowd of celebrants to the tournament field to watch the knights joust. Another surprise awaited me.

Surrounded by thousands of cheering onlookers, these Knights of Cheyenne didn’t engage in single combat against each other, but against bullocks and horses! The beasts jumped and twisted in the most violent manner, and the crowd roared its approval when a loud horn scared the rider off the beast.

The bullocks were particularly angry, and chased buffoons into barrels which delighted the crowd. Again I thought, these folk really need a king.

Having taken no nutrition since my long nap, I followed the aroma of hot cooking grease to a row of gaily adorned little kitchens and alehouses. I purchased a cake made of funnels and stared at it in confusion.

I asked a bearded ruffian dressed in black leather and chains how I should eat this confection. His wife was wretching a short distance away and I said that I didn’t want to end up like his beloved.

He took offense and struck a blow to my head with the burned leg of some large bird. I woke up back in my bed and immediately put pen to paper to deliver to you, dear reader, this cautionary tale.

I believe I’ll begin my saga by saying “Howdy, yawl.”

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Rod Miller

Political Columnist