Sunday, September 25, 2011

Return to Deadwood

After visiting Spearfish Canyon on Sunday we circled around on a loop that passed through Deadwood. We had driven through on our way to Spearfish from Keystone on Saturday, but the town was bustling and parking was impossible especially with a camper so we just passed through planning to skip it. I’m so glad we changed our minds on our Sunday drive. Parking was still a challenge because all the meters required change and I’d left my purse at the camper. Of course, it was full of quarters. We drove around town and finally parked in the Main St. lot. We walked to the Chamber of Commerce where a helpful lady gave us some great advice on activities in town and a super spot for dinner. We walked back into the center of town to catch the Wild Bill Hickock murder in Saloon # 10, a free show. “He’s killed three times a day, at one, three, and five,” she told us. We got there just in time and had a front row table. The young man playing Wild Bill got volunteers from the audience to play his three poker partners and the bartender. They all dressed up as the characters and played cards quietly while Bill gave us his history.

It was a great little thirty minute show with Wild Bill telling us all about his adventures. Wow! He packed a lot into his short life. He was a sheriff in Abilene but gave that up after he accidently shot and killed his deputy during a gun battle with a bunch of bad guys. Friends with Buffalo Bill Cody, he joined Cody’s Wild West Show for awhile, but didn’t like being on display. Finally, he headed out to Deadwood, a gold mining town, leaving his new bride back east telling her he’d make their fortune. He had a claim with a friend but decided the real money was to be made at the poker table. He always sat facing the door with his back to the wall, but on that fateful day one of the other players was sitting in his chair and wouldn’t get up. Wild Bill argued with him twice, but couldn’t prevail on him to change places. Sitting with his back to the door, he never saw Jack McCall come up behind him and draw his gun. McCall shot him in the back of the head. He died instantly. It was a pretty dramatic reenactment with all the poker players running out the back chasing McCall. The bartender came over and felt his pulse and said, “Wild Bill is dead.” The only one missing was Calamity Jane, a friend of Bill’s who was sweet on him and helped chase down McCall. “It’s the purtiest corpse I ever did see,” she wailed seeing Wild Bill after they laid him out. Later when she was dying she asked to be buried next to him on “Boot Hill,” the Mt. Moriah Cemetery. Larry and I drove up to the cemetery and walked to their graves and then wandered around praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary for all the souls buried there. In one place they had a sign for the children who died over a two year period from epidemics. We also hiked up to the highest grave in the cemetery where Seth Bullock lies. Whew! It was quite a treck. Bullock became marshal of Deadwood after Wild Bill’s murder and was determined to clean things up.

We also visited the Franklin Hotel, one of the oldest in Deadwood. Many famous people have stayed there including John Wayne and Theodore Roosevelt. The main lobby sports a casino now but they’ve maintained many of the historic features including beautiful chandeliers and some rooms upstairs with antiques. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to stay there. It’s seedier than grand once you leave the lobby, but it was an interesting place to walk around.

By the time we finished sightseeing, it was dinnertime and we went off to check out the recommendation from the lady at the visitor’s center. The Lodge at Deadwood is relatively new and is on a hill right outside town. There’s a sports grill on one side and a restaurant on the other. We opted for quiet and no TVs. The menu had some great choices and we had a hard time deciding between steak or fish, but fish won out. Wow! It was one of the best dinners I’ve ever had at a restaurant. I had the walleye (from  Minnesota or Wisconsin) smothered in herbs and minced veggies. Larry had a potato encrusted salmon. Both dishes were delicious and the bread was so good I took home the last three pieces in the bread basket – too good to throw out! My dad always said you could judge a restaurant by its bread and this was certainly first rate.

While we were eating the bride and groom we saw that morning at Roughlock Falls came in. We stopped at their table before we left and wished them all the best. Then we drove back to our campsite in Spearfish feeling like we’d gotten the flavor of a real “wild west” town. What a fun day!

Here I am standing between Wild Bill and his killer.

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