MEDICINE BOW — It's the Wednesday before 'Bow Days, a weekend celebration when the town of Medicine Bow's population of fewer than 300 may jump five-fold.
"One thousand, five hundred people - you expect that much, but you never know," said Vernon Scott, standing in the banquet area of his hotel, The Virginian, on the main drag along the Old Lincoln Highway, U.S. 30.
Smiling below a panama hat and brandishing a coiled extension cord, Vernon looked like a handyman cowboy. You can call him Scottie.
"We're booked up," he said. "One hundred percent."
The number matches the age of the hotel, which opened in 1911. The centennial celebration is part of Medicine Bow Days this year.
"This place means the world to me," Scott said. "It's something I enjoy, and I hope other people stop in to enjoy (it), too."
The hotel was to host a sold-out dinner Friday night with actor James Drury, who played the Virginian on TV, an all-class reunion dinner and street dance Saturday, as well as numerous other activities.
It only made sense to combine the hotel's centennial with the town's festivities, Scott said.
"It's an important part of the community," he said. "Almost everybody has a connection to it."
Although August Grimm, Medicine Bow's first mayor, and George Plummer, of Rawlins, headed up hotel construction during the first decade of the 20th century, they needed more money.
Town founders stepped in, and a trust formed before the doors opened.
According to newspapers from the period, the hotel opened Sept. 30, 1911, built on the site of the former Elkhorn Hotel. And - those of you in Carbon County may be shocked to learn - the weather was "inclement."
Scott's grandparents bought out the majority of hotel shares in the 1930s. They ran the Virginian Hotel for a spell, and leased it out now and again until Scott's mother, June Kilkenny, took charge. Scott became owner in 1983.
Vickie Scott, Vernon's wife of nearly four decades, knew a lot about the Virginian Hotel before the two became innkeepers.
"Growing up, as kids here, we wouldn't have ever stayed in a room - but anything special, any kind of wedding or community celebration - it came up here," she said. "If you had any kind of school function, it came up here."
And years later, her wedding reception, too.
Like many youth in Medicine Bow, Vickie's early jobs were at the restaurant and general store on the ground level of the three stories, but her earliest memories of the building involve the reception area where the restaurant is today.
"This is long before we started school. My husband and I were in a dance class together," she said. "He was the only boy - mama made him - and we danced in the old lobby."
With the help of her niece, Tara Reeves, they arranged tablecloths and napkins for the banquet Friday night as Vickie talked about the perception of the hotel outside of town, as well.
"When you're a young girl on a ball trip, people ask you where you're from and you say Medicine Bow, and they say, 'Oh, where The Virginian is,'" Vickie said. "I think everyone who grew up here felt like it was part of their heritage. You really do inherit a pride in it."
During the last 28 years, she said she's seen guests come and go, and she cherishes them, but the people in the community are the mainstays. There's some overlap, though, which she calls "old friends."
"People come in and say, 'My grandmother worked here,' or, 'My grandfather worked here,'" she said. "It makes you feel like the world's pretty small."
When the narrator of Owen Wister's novel "The Virginian" assesses Medicine Bow early on in the story, he reflects, "Town, as they called it, pleased me the less, the longer I saw it." As for "hotels in Medicine Bow, there appeared to be none."
Not so when David Roberts arrived in town in 1977.
"The first thing I did was stop at The Virginian. They had an art gallery up at the top, and I talked to the people about the town," Roberts said, adding, "They were so friendly and welcoming. I felt at home."
He knew about the hotel before he visited - quite a few people do.
"The novel and the TV show have really given the town an identity in the state, nationally and internationally," said Roberts, who founded and ran The Medicine Bow Post until 1988, when he donated it to the University of Wyoming. "I asked a person, someone outside of Wyoming, what towns they knew of in the state, and they said it's the ones from the TV shows - Laramie, Cheyenne and Medicine Bow."
Although much of town looks frozen in that period, much like its film doppelganger, some residents see change.
"I can't tell you how much Scottie has done for this town in recent years," longtime resident Jeannette Fisher said. "He's bought a lot of the places - where The Virginian Motel and Scott's Cedar Street Addition are now - and cleaned them up."
In the midst of finishing up another example, four-year resident Adam Brodwater painted antelope onto a verdant meadow with cowboys and cattle. The building is just east of the Virginian Hotel, and the wall used to be concrete gray.
"It's like the centerpiece of Medicine Bow," Broadwater said of the hotel. "A lot of people that live here work there, too."
That includes his wife, Susie Broadwater, who minutes earlier was dancing with her 2-year-old, Summer Apple, in the hotel dining room before a shift change.
"You know, it's a family-owned place with so much history," Susie said. "Scottie and Vickie have kept it nice, helped with strangers and the community. ... I really think they've made this hotel the heart and soul of the town."