PINEDALE — Lila Golden said she was amazed at how many bullet holes were found in the walls of Pinedale’s Cowboy Bar when they stripped the siding off and replaced it in 2011.
The Cowboy Bar’s tough reputation was part of the deal when Golden’s father, C.W. Davis, bought it in 1969. Located on the corner of Maybell and Pine Street, it was known as a place where someone looking for trouble rarely left disappointed.
It was built in 1931 by an outlaw who rode with Butch Cassidy’s Hole in the Wall Gang and later was owned by a member of the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame who, according to local legend, won the bar in a card game.
Some of its former patrons in the 1970s were so well-known by local law enforcement that deputies from neighboring counties were often alerted on the nights when this crew went out drinking.
“I’m not naming names, but there were some wild, tough characters here back in the day,” Golden said. “When they got into trouble in Jackson, they would call the Sublette County Sheriff to come and help, and when they got in trouble here they would call the Teton County sheriff.”
When Davis bought the bar, city officials told him they would provide a liquor license, but they wouldn’t renew it if he didn’t clean the place up.
“My dad taught me to control the crowd by paying attention to what’s going on at all times,” she said. “And what’s playing on the juke box has a lot to do with people’s moods.”
The Rudolph Tipsy Punch
Now the Cowboy Bar’s reputation makes for good storytelling, and this time of year Golden spends her time working behind the bar making holiday cocktails. Golden has worked here since she was 6 years old and has owned the place for the last 20 years.
As she pours and stirs, she tells a story about the last shooting that happened here in 1977. A man was shot in the buttocks on the boardwalk out front by a jealous husband. It wasn’t fatal, but the exit wound nearly neutered him.
“I knew him,” she said. “His name was Chuck Wagg. What saved his manhood was the bikini underwear he was wearing.”
Served in a slender, curvy cocktail glass, the Rudolph Tipsy Punch seems a bit too pink and feminine to be sitting in front of a man on a bar in a place named for men who rope and ride for a living. But it’s early in the day, the place is empty and it’s surprisingly delicious.
This drink is made with vodka, orange juice, cranberry juice, cherry juice and ginger beer. The ginger gives it a spicy finish.
The Founder’s Story
Walt Punteney built the Cowboy Bar in 1931. He came to Wyoming from Kansas in his late teens and broke horses for a living. He appeared in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and rode with Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.
According to Sublette County historians Clint Gilchrist and Dawn Ballou, Punteney and two others were arrested in connection with the Butte County bank robbery in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, in 1897.
The charges against all three men were eventually dropped and historians have speculated that Cassidy paid “high-priced lawyers” to represent them. One of them is believed to have been Harry Longabaugh, aka The Sundance Kid.
Back To Drinkin’
The Mistletoe Margarita provides a seasonal twist on this most well-known Mexican cocktail. It’s made with raspberry-infused vodka, tequila, triple sec, cranberry and lime juice and garnished with a slice of lime. It comes with a generous amount of salt on the rim which, gives it a winter motif.
This drink is an eye-pleasing and a more gender-neutral purple color thanks to the cranberry. It could be considered gentlemanly in some locales, but order it in this bar and your man card may be called into question.
Giving Liberals The Finger
Friendly service is a requirement at the Cowboy Bar, and that comes directly from the boss. But there’s no attempt to disguise the management’s political leanings.
Golden teaches her employees that a bartender’s job is to listen to what customers have to say and not to expect to be tipped. Gratuities must be earned with good service.
“Customers don’t come in here to hear about our problems,” she said. “Our job is to listen.”
A sign hanging next to the front door states that all liberals must be accompanied by an adult. Another more local political message targets the residents of a neighboring county with, “Don’t Jackson Hole Our Town.”
Putting The Cowboy In The Cowboy Bar
Golden’s father came to Pinedale in 1962 from Las Vegas, Nevada. He was a card player who participated in high-stakes poker games that sometimes went on for days, she said.
“He was a gambler, and he ran a lot of bars in his life,” Golden said. “I could retire on some of the hands he’s won and lost.”
Davis also had an eye for art and a bunch of friends who are cattle ranchers. He had several shadow boxes made out of barn wood with glass fronts and purple velvet backing. The boxes contain numerous tools of the ranching trade like branding irons, tack, boots, hats, shovels, gold pans, knives, pistols and traps.
Inside one of the display cases is a set of handmade spurs given to Davis by a friend named Rex Miller. Golden said they must be valuable based on how many people have offered to buy them over the years.
Inside a second case is a round steel object with 2-inch long spiks protruding from its center. Golden said it’s called a “weaner,” and it was used to wean calves from their mothers. The device was placed around a calf’s nose and when it tried to nurse, the spikes would poke the cow’s udder and she would kick the calf off.
There’s not kicking off those who want a drink and conversation at Pinedale’s Cowboy Bar, where cowboy is more than a name, it’s a lifestyle.
John Thompson can be reached at: John@CowboyStateDaily.com