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Mitchell for a movie, and a caricature of small-town Wyoming

January 28, 2010

Last weekend, I dragged the spouse out to a romantic comedy, Did You Hear about the Morgans?. I wanted to see this movie for two reasons: I was curious to see how the movie portrayed small-town Wyoming, which is so close to the culture into which I have moved, and I wanted an excuse to visit the 1939 Nile Theater in Mitchell. We also checked out a local dining venue, The Feed Barn Restaurant.

The movie and cultural caricatures

First, the movie. It got terrible reviews. Yes, it was predictable, but it did make me laugh out loud. And, yes, the movie portrays both New Yorkers and Wyoming residents as caricatures, but the caricatures are distilled from the truth.

In the movie, gun ownership is common in small-town Ray, Wyoming, and there are only fourteen Democrats in town (and “we know who they are”). The facts jibe. According to a 2001 survey, Wyoming has the highest self-reported gun ownership rate in the country (59.7%), beating out even Ms. Palin’s Alaska (57.8%). Wyoming is one of the reddest of red states.

The movie featured lots of cowboys. Reality check? Yep. Come to Scottsbluff, and you will see plenty of cowboy hats (sombreros de vaqueros in Spanish — that phrase just tickles me!), cowboy boots, big belt buckles, and pickup trucks. Ranching is a way of life here.

The movie featured small-town characters who held down several professions (like the waitress who’s also a doctor’s office receptionist and assistant fire chief). Reality check? Yep. In a smaller community, there simply aren’t enough people to achieve the same level of specialization as in big cities. In an upcoming blog post, I’ll comment on some of Scottsbluff’s amazing multitasking businesses.

The theater

The Nile's neon lights up the night in Mitchell.

The Nile's colorfully-lit curtain adds drama.

The Nile Theater on Mitchell’s main downtown drag isn’t quite as grand as Scottsbluff’s Midwest Theater, but it does have its perks. At the Nile, you have a choice of sitting downstairs for $5.50 (where the sound is better) or sitting in the balcony for $6.50 (where it’s warmer in the winter). (I wonder if this pricing strategy also discourages broke teens from going up in the balcony and “necking”?) The lobby is a little strange; it’s decorated in a “homey living room” theme. The theater seats are modern, with plenty of legroom and fold-down armrests with cupholders. Before the movie starts, the stage lights flash multiple colors as the curtain goes up, adding to the feeling of a night out at the movies being An Event.

The restaurant

We called ahead and made reservations at The Feed Barn Restaurant. It was a Saturday night, after all, and we didn’t want to be late for our movie. Turned out to be completely unnecessary. There were only two other tables of diners when we arrived at six o’clock. The service at the restaurant was efficient and friendly. The menu specialties are surf and turf, including a Cajun boil on weekends and rocky mountain oysters. Instead of trying a reuben (I am a big fan of the sandwich, and always searching for the best in town), I had to order “roadkill”,  just to be able to say “I ate roadkill”. The Feedbarn version of roadkill is a beef patty topped with a slice of jack cheese, mushrooms, and a generous heap of sautéed onion. I ordered salad and fries as my sides. The salad was decent for a winter salad. The fries were nothing special. My plate was accented by a bundle of green beans wrapped in a slice of bacon. Husband ordered ravioli, which turned out to be too small a portion size for him (so he helped me eat my fries and beans). I ordered a hot chocolate, and it arrived positively dripping with whipped cream (mmm . . . fat calories!). They also stock the yuppie Fat Tire beer in bottles. While not my favorite place, I’ve got to go back to try the reuben. And maybe husband will decide to spring for the $26 Cajun boil.

The city

Aside from its city logo, which resembles a recycling symbol, Mitchell has quite a few things going for it: nice movie theater, a decent restaurant, and even a winery, but you wouldn’t know it from the city’s website. For recreation, they list only a golf course, swimming pool, and city parks. You have to visit the Scotts Bluff County tourism site to find out what’s going on in town. In my opinion, Mitchell’s worth a visit!

Copyright 2010 by Katie Bradshaw

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne Fehn permalink
    January 28, 2010 1:11 pm

    Ok, now I also want to visit Mitchel!Ruebens are worth the calories, but only if they do not contain even a trace of horseradish.

  2. Shane Coop permalink
    May 11, 2010 1:56 pm

    We do 90% of our movie-watching at The Nile. We love that place. One of the things we love about it is that we can go to the movies, get popcorn, soda and candy, all for under $20.00. Amazing!!!


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