Part of the appeal of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series is the caricature of an authentic, small, western town. That Buffalo is the model for the fictional town of Durant is not lost on the throngs of tourists who flock to our community during Longmire Days for the chance to rub shoulders with celebrity actors and absorb a taste of the cultural authenticity.
What they experience is a fictional version of Buffalo; streets blockaded for crowd control, long lines of autograph seekers waiting their chance for a TV star to scribble a name on a piece of paper, trail rides specially orchestrated for close encounter with the fictional heroes, and a craft fair hawking commemorative trinkets.
The authenticity of Johnson County is lost to the myth of Absaroka. No wonder locals call it “Quagmire Days.” Also lost to the abdication of authenticity to the higher value of commercial profit is the Big Horn Mountain Festival. With a much longer tradition than Longmire Days, the festival has become part of the culture that makes our community unique. It not only brings tourist dollars, it promotes the healthy nurturing of music, and breeds local talent to life-long creativity. (See Prairie Wildfire.) Though the Bighorn Bluegrass Camp for kids will not be canceled this summer, the chance for kids to hear and meet accomplished musicians at the festival will be.
I am grieved that the Bighorn Music Festival must play second fiddle to Longmire Days. Fiction trumps authenticity. Buffalo and Johnson County are less because of it.