North Platte, the county seat of Lincoln County is the home to about 24,000 and happens to be the home to Bailey Yard, one of Union Pacific’s large railroad yards. It also has some interesting museums and history but my attention was centered on an attraction just off of the interstate, Fort Cody. In 1963 the Henline family opened the first Fort Cody on the western end of North Platte on highway 30 and it stood until 1968 when it was moved to it’s present location along I-80. It was moved to coincide with the new interstate being put in and has been drawing travelers off the road ever since. It is now in second generation ownership and is known for it’s old western museum, Buffalo Bills wild west miniature show, large gift shop and fort and stockade, and of course a muffler man. As far as muffler men go this is one of the stars or famous one’s out there. Hundreds of visitors each year stand next to him in the stockade behind the fort for their picture, so he is no stranger to Facebook, flicker and google image searches.
I was fortunate to visit on a day when owner Chuck Henline was in and was able to visit with him a bit and talk about the his muffler man out back. As muffler men often do, this one holds a few secrets and has a very interesting history. One thing I noticed right away was that he’s actually not an indian at all! Although International Fiberglass made indian versions of muffler men, Fort Cody happened to come across the service man model and turned him into an indian to meet their needs. Chuck told the story how in 1970 a gas station across the street was either going out a business or getting rid of some extra’s and had their muffler man taken down and was laying on the lot. Chuck’s dad walked across the street and a price of $100 was agreed on for the sale. Chuck remember’s helping haul the giant across the street and they set him up in the stockade in the back and painted him to look like an Indian. He has braids and a cloth around his waist (which is always blowing to the side) and has been repaired and repainted many times since that day in 1970. Interestingly this is one of the muffler men that the guys at Roadside America came across on their travels in the late 80’s or early 90’s and it was featured in their article in the Smithsonian. I’m not sure if the gas station that the M man came from was a phillips 66 but he is one of the rare bow tie wearing versions if you look closely at the indian paint at the top of his shirt. Fort Cody is proud of their muffler man and rightly so and he will continue to greet visitors for many years to come. Thanks to Brian Butko and his blog about the books he has written http://www.brianbutko.wordpress.com for sharing the picture of the Fort Cody Indian taken shortly after arriving at the fort.