In 1888 a rowdy, Colorado City resident named Prairie Dog O’Byrne (so named because of the prairie dog he had running in a wheel on the back of his rig) purchased two bull elk and hitched them to his carriage. The elk were named ‘Thunder’ and ‘Buttons’. O’Byrne and Laura Bell, another infamous West Side character from the red light district, would race the elk drawn carriage up and down Colorado Avenue, even into the heart of Colorado Springs causing an upset to the gentry. O’Byrne spent most of his time carousing in the 21 saloons lining Colorado Avenue in what is now ‘Old Colorado City’.
In 1978, local historian Dave Hughes told this story to a local entrepreneur who purchased the building. The entrepreneur decided to name his new ‘saloon and eatery’ after the two elk. Thunder and Buttons became a popular hangout until a fire closed it’s doors ten years later.
In 2004, Thunder and Buttons was re-established as Thunder and Buttons II. The new owners highlighted the history and color of the old bar and grill.
120 years later, the memory of those famous elk remain alive and well, keeping the ‘saloon and eatery’ a place even O’Byrne would call home!