Farewell toast to Buffalo Bill historian

Posted 8/29/17

Tamales and tortillas were interesting food items to New Yorkers when first introduced to them during a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1886 at Madison Square Gardens.

But along with the food, William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, also introduced …

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Farewell toast to Buffalo Bill historian

Posted

Tamales and tortillas were interesting food items to New Yorkers when first introduced to them during a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in 1886 at Madison Square Gardens.

But along with the food, William F. Cody, aka Buffalo Bill, also introduced show-goers to mezcal — an agave product similar to tequila.

“And New Yorkers liked the mezcal the best,” said Steve Friesen, mentioning his current concept for another book may end up as “eating and drinking with Buffalo Bill.”

Although working at the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave presented Friesen, 64, with many opportunities to write, he will soon be able to do more of it — he is retiring as director of the museum at the end of September.

Friesen is a “master researcher and a great writer — a really good combination for the museum,” said his wife Monta Lee Dakin, also a career historian.

The Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave is a Denver Mountain Parks located on Lookout Mountain in Golden. Friesen advocated its value relentlessly, Dakin said.

“He’d do whatever it took to keep the museum up and running,” said David Samora, who has worked at the museum with Friesen for 11 years. “The museum will miss his passion and knowledge of Buffalo Bill.”

Each year, the museum puts up a new exhibit, Samora said, and about five years ago, Native Americans were featured. One day, an American Indian descendant came in and told Friesen he had never seen a picture of his father. But the museum had one on display, Samora said, so Friesen made copies of the photograph and gave them to the man to keep.

“He loves to tell people about Buffalo Bill,” Samora said.

Friesen can’t recall how many conversations he’s had about Buffalo Bill, but they have been with “so many wonderful people,” he said, both locals and from countries all over the world.

Tim Sandsmark met Friesen when the two were in the early 20s and both working at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park.

“We go way back to the mid-1970s,” Sandsmark said, who is now the education supervisor for Jefferson County Open Space. “We’re not only professional colleagues, but we’re friends from way back.”

Sandsmark and Friesen also sit on the board of directors for the Lariat Loop National Scenic Byway, which includes the historic Lariat Trail, a five-mile road from Golden up Lookout Mountain to Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave.

“Our slogan is ‘40 miles of Western adventure,” Sandsmark, adding Friesen’s involvement with the organization is something he will most likely continue into retirement. “He just has an interest in promoting history and heritage tourism.”

Friesen said he always knew he wanted a career with museums.

He earned a Master’s degree in American Folk Culture in 1977 from the State University of New York. He has worked at the 1719 Hans Herr House in Pennsylvania, the Littleton History Museum, the Greeley Museums and the Molly Brown House. He began his career at the Buffalo Bill museum in 1995.

Friesen first met his wife when they were both in grad school, but she was involved with someone who she later married. However, Dakin and Friesen met again 20 years later at a museum conference in Philadelphia.

“We were both divorced, and we hit it off,” Friesen said.

The two married in 1996 and decided to keep their last names, which has been a lot of fun, Dakin said, because they both are in the museums field. Dakin will retire from her position as director of the Mountain-Plains Museums Association in October.

In their retirement, Friesen and Dakin have plans to travel, in addition to doing some museum consulting.

“We like helping out museums,” Friesen said.

Having a spouse also in the museums career has produced enriched travel experiences and conversations, Dakin said.

“It’s nice to live with somebody who shares the same passions for history and material culture. Our conversations are filled with those passions,” Dakin said. “It has made for some very interesting discussions.”

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