By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Dedicated fans of the television show “Longmire” celebrated the return of a popular event in Buffalo that honors the series and its characters.
People began descending on the town Wednesday evening in anticipation of four days of events that would put them in close proximity with their favorite Sheriff, Walt Longmire, played on the television series by Australian actor Robert Taylor.
“Oh, honey, I never missed an episode,” said Dawn Lensert, who was at Longmire Days this weekend with her friend Tami Hobbs. Lensert owns a store in Douglas, “307 Decor and More,” and brought her wares to the event’s craft fair.
Lensert and Hobbs had been shopping in downtown Buffalo when Lensert heard the distinctive voice of Robert Taylor.
“I found Tammy,” Lensert said. “And I’m like, ‘Tammy, the voice! I heard it, and it’s in the back of the store.’”
She said she and Dobbs caught up with Taylor, who couldn’t have been nicer.
“He put his arm around each of us, took a picture,” said Lensert. “It was just fun.”
Appeal of “Longmire”
In Craig Johnson’s popular “Longmire” books, the fictional town of “Durant” is based on the town of Buffalo. Back in 2012, community leaders launched a celebration of the “Longmire” television show, which has brought thousands of fans to the small town in northeast Wyoming each year to meet and interact with their favorite cast members.
In previous years, actors like A Martinez (Jacob Nighthorse), Bailey Chase (Deputy Branch Connally), Katee Sackhoff (Deputy Vic Moretti) and Adam Bartley (“The Ferg”) have made the trek to Buffalo for the event, along with most of the other recurring cast members. This year, budget and scheduling issues meant that only the title character, played by Taylor, was able to attend.
“I adore (Buffalo),” Taylor told Cowboy State Daily. “I just think it’s beautiful. And I love the people. Anybody that likes the show I tend to gravitate towards – they’re my kind of people.”
Taylor said despite the fact that the show ended its Netflix run in 2017, it still appeals to a wide audience.
“The show’s regularly in the top 20, and often in the top 10, streamers on the planet, which is remarkable,” he said. “It’s the only show at that level that’s not in production.”
Making the Trip
Despite the fact that the “Longmire” show hasn’t been in production for over five years, fans still travel hundreds – in some cases, thousands – of miles to Buffalo every year to celebrate the characters, the setting and the stories.
“We’ve had book clubs from Australia attend,” said Jennifer McCormick, director of the Longmire Foundation. “We’ve had fan groups from all over Europe. It’s been amazing what Longmire has done for our community, and for the Longmire fan community.”
Some fans, though, traveled a shorter distance. Larry McGranahan, who recently moved to Sheridan from Oregon, said he couldn’t pass up the chance to take the half-hour drive south for Longmire Days.
“(It was the) perfect opportunity to get a chance to see the town a little bit closer, see the town of ‘Durant’,” McGranahan said.
His daughter, Mariah, who said she read the first book, really likes the television show.
“It’s intriguing,” she said. “It’s a type of show that will keep you watching.”
Some fans took out all the stops to show their love for their favorite modern-day western — like Tammy Bachman from South Dakota, who has autographs from the entire cast tattooed on her legs.
“I’ve been coming since ‘17,” said Bachman. “I got (the tattoo of) Walt in ‘18, and I got (the tattoo of the title and autographs) in ‘19.”
Or Greg Falk from Poynette, Wisconsin, whose love for the show prompted him to restore a 1994 Ford Bronco – just like Sheriff Longmire’s ride in the books and television show.
“My niece gave me the DVDs to watch, and I fell in love with the show,” he said, adding that he’s now watched the show 36 times. “So I decided to make my own Bronco.”
Falk said he found the vehicle he wanted in Arizona, and had it shipped to Wisconsin.
“I had it painted in the Poynette at the body shop, and my buddy put all the stickers on it,” he said.
At that point, the interview was interrupted by Taylor, who had broken away from the long line of fans waiting for his autograph to banter with Falk. Falk grinned when the actor walked away.
“I was hoping we could meet him when we were coming out, but didn’t have any idea,” he said. “But my niece set it up. And yeah, this is a dream come true, I guess.”
Chet Carlson, a friend of Johnson’s who has been involved in the event from its inception, relayed a story about a woman from California whose love for the show, and the decency of its characters, may have literally saved her life.
“From what they’ve explained, when grandma’s husband passed, she was kind of in a funk, a little bit of a downward spiral, and discovered ‘Longmire,’” said Carlson. “I think just seeing that kind of basic human decency again, they said it’s just revitalized her. The daughter said they’ve never seen her smile the way she has on this trip.”
Author Craig Johnson told Cowboy State Daily that the last two years they’ve had to hold Longmire Days as a virtual event because of the pandemic.
“Not to complain about those virtual events, because, I mean, (the Longmire Foundation was) able to put out about $80,000 worth of charitable donations to a number of very, very worthy organizations,” he said. “Organizations like the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, like Canine Warriors, and a number of others. Even some local charities, like the Johnson County Search and Rescue.”
Johnson was very pleased with this year’s event, despite the two-year hiatus.
“Amazingly enough, it has not been a disaster,” he said. “After two years of doing it virtually, it was always a little bit questionable as to how we were going to do this, and how well it was going to operate.”
Johnson credited the volunteers who dedicated hours of their time to putting on the event.
“We’ve been extraordinarily fortunate that an awful lot of the people that have been involved with Longmire days over the years are still with us,” he said.
“COVID kind of ruined it a bit, but it’s still been an unbelievable weekend,” said Taylor. “It’s been great.”
“Every event has been sold out,” said Carlson. “It’s kind of nice when it’s this size, it’s a little more personal. (Taylor and Johnson) have a chance to actually visit with everybody who comes through.”
The Future of Longmire Days
Taylor and Johnson both say plans are in the works for next year, despite the lower numbers at this year’s event.
“I vote yes, keep doing it,” said Taylor. “We’ll get some more actors back, it’s just more fun with more people, more of my old friends. It’s like a reunion.”
“It’s been really kind of a wonderful Longmire Days this year, with just Robert and I – you know, just the two ‘Walts,’” said Johnson. “Next year, what we have is the hope that we’ll get the entire cast back here, and get the band back together again.”