The log buildings circling the grassy slopes tell a story older than the city named for Caspar Collins and the 11th Ohio Cavalry that protected the fort beginning in 1863.
If you close your eyes and listen, you might hear a bugle trumpeting morning reveille or taps at the end of the day.
Inside the Fort Caspar Museum now, visitors can view a complete history of the Troopers Drum & Bugle Corps, named and dressed by its founder Jim Jones in the likeness of those soldiers from long ago.
“We are just tickled pink with this thing. It is a wonderful display,” said corps director Fred Morris, standing among the exhibit’s glass-cased displays, artwork and mannequins wearing Troopers uniforms. There is also a 17-minute video documenting seven Troopers competitive shows, including their trademark starburst formation and goosebumps-inducing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The Troopers are founding members of Drum Corps International, which governs the activity. DCI now includes 23 World Class corps and 23 Open Class corps. And now in the area of museum exhibits, the Troopers once again stand alone.
“I am truly not aware of any other public exhibits of this magnitude,” Morris said. “I think we’ve set another bar here, another first. I’ve been at this 51 years now all over the country and I’ve certainly not seen anything in a public display museum place like this.”
“The Troopers are an institution here, and we wanted to mark their 60th anniversary,” said museum director Rick Young. “That’s why the exhibit opens now and will stay open until November 2018, so we cover both the 59th and 60th technical anniversaries of the corps.”
Much of the digging through memorabilia was done by Michelle Bahe, curator of collections at the museum.
“I have no idea how much time I spent, other than hundreds and hundreds of hours,” she said.
She spent days and days in storage rooms at Troopers headquarters on East E Street and more time sifting through donations from Troopers alumni and fans locally and around the country.
“Most of this will be in our permanent collection, aside from some things that are on loan from individuals,” Young said. “The history will be saved and will periodically come back out once the exhibit closes in November 2018.”
Among items are a photograph of the Troopers playing for Dick Cheney and Al and Ann Simpson in 1990, a blue satin Troopers jacket with “Grace Jones,” wife of founder Jim Jones, embroidered on the inside, and a banner reading “His Legacy ... Our Destiny,” which was displayed at the Troopers’ final performance in 1994, the year that Jones died.
Linking the past 60 years with the present is another aspect that both Young and Morris are excited to see come to fruition.
Unlike the recent past, when the Troopers, who now come from throughout the country and are primarily college students, traveled through the entire 11-week summer competitive season, this summer the Troopers will be in Casper for four full days of public performances from July 11 to 14.
“I’m anxious for our kids to see the legacy that they are part of now,” Morris said.
The Troopers will perform on the grassy slopes of Fort Caspar on July 12.
They’ll wear the hats with the crossed sabres and the numeral “11” indicating the 11th Ohio Cavalry. They’ll play “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and other parade and show tunes.
And if you close your eyes and listen, the bugles you hear will be real.
The exhibit is open during regular museum hours. In April, it is open Tuesday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $1.50 for adults; $1 for youth (ages 13-18 years); and free for children (12 years and younger) and for museum members.
In May, the museum will switch to summer hours and fees which are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and $3 for adults; $2 for youth (ages 13-18 years); and free for children (12 years and younger) and for museum members.