Shoshoni’s Main Street, however boarded up and left behind it seemed to be, had always been a stopping point on my way west. It offered up a lot of questions for an outsider, and I suppose that with each stop and stroll down the block, however brief, I felt like I understood the place a little more.
It started with the old, weathered mural of Geronimo, painted in 1979 by Bart Vroman, and continued on with old stories from colleagues about the towering shelves at Gamble’s and the legend of Yellowstone Drug and its world-famous malts and shakes.
A recent trip through Shoshoni meant another stop to photograph Geronimo under nice, early-evening light. A quick cell phone shot would do before the last 100-mile leg back to Casper.
“That’s really something, isn’t it?”
The sound of another human’s voice honestly took me by surprise me in a place I figured people had left decades ago. But then came a warm smile and an invite into the Silver Sage Saloon.
Hollis Janson runs the place, as she has for the past 14 years since her husband Keith bought it from its previous owner. Legends abound: the back room once housed a brothel; ghosts haunt the place; there must be hundreds of dollars in coins tucked between the back wall and the bar from dam workers and cowboys who would throw their spare change in the gap at the end of the night.
For a while – a few hours at least – it’s just Hollis, Keith and me in the bar. They open up about their story, from the day they met back in 1997 at the old Avalon. Hollis, with her cowboy boots and foot up on the chair, sipping scotch and water, attracted Keith’s attention and graciously accepted his offer to dance. The next year, they were married.
Stories about her time at the Evansville Police Department, his time in the Navy, his countless attempts to talk to Governor Mead about the potholes along Shoshoni’s Main Street that just won’t fix themselves, and how he’s got the secret for the meanest chokecherry wine in the state make the hours pass like minutes.
Shoshoni and the Silver Sage are home, but Hollis makes herself clear. After 14 years behind the bar she says, “You give me the money, I’ll throw you the keys and I’m walking out the door.”