Mt. Rushmore was on our way from the Badlands to Deadwood, SD. Seeing the monument in person was cool, but for me it paled in comparison to the natural wonder of the Badlands.
Plus, you have to pay to get up close, so Ethan and I just took some pictures from a pretty decent (FREE) vista on our way past the monument:
About 45 minutes later we pulled into Deadwood. Now, for me, this kind of place puts my imagination into overdrive; an historic western gold rush town that once bustled with spirited (greedy) entrepreneurial pioneers looking to make a new life, as well as cowboys, notorious bandits and their posses. Let me take this moment to proudly admit that I am a fan of the former TV series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.
Between my idealistic impressions from this show and the western films I’ve seen, I was expecting Deadwood to look much the same as it did in its 1800s heyday, its history and lore carefully preserved.
Here’s how Deadwood.org describes the place: The entire city of Deadwood is a national historic landmark. Authentic re-creation of turn-of-the-century street lamps light the way through accurately, carefully restored architecture. The famous and infamous have left their marks here. Follow their footsteps as you explore the beauty and history of this one-of-a-kind Wild West town.
That seemed true from the outskirts of town, where we followed signs to the grave of Wild Bill Hickock, the former U.S. Deputy Marshall whom history remembers as one of the Old West’s most prolific pistoleers. Before his murder in a Deadwood saloon in August of 1876, shot from behind by the coward Jack McCall, Wild Bill was apparently a gentleman who despised his legendary reputation as a man-killer.
In appearance at least, Hickok matched his myth. He was a broad-shouldered, deep-chested, narrow-waisted fellow, over 6 feet tall, with broad features, high cheekbones and forehead, firm chin and aquiline nose. His sensuous-looking mouth was surmounted by a straw-colored moustache, and his auburn hair was worn shoulder length, Plains style. But it was his blue-gray eyes that dominated his features. Normally friendly and expressive, his eyes, old-timers recalled, became hypnotically cold and bored into one when he was angry. Around his waist was a belt that held two ivory-handled Colt Navy revolvers, butts forward, in open-top holsters. Worn in this fashion, his six-shooters could be drawn underhand and spun forward for the Plains or reverse draw, or for a cross-body draw. Either way, the weapons were readily and easily available.
We found Wild Bill’s grave site in the peaceful Mt. Moriah Cemetery, relocated there after rampant growth in Deadwood cramped his original resting place.
Note the near-empty bottle of Jim Beam, surely left here in in homage.
Next to Bill is the grave of Calamity Jane – what a great alias, huh?! Her bio on Cowgirls.com says she was a hard-drinking, gun-slinging, tobacco-chewing loner, considered a saint by Deadwood residents for nursing the ill during the town’s smallpox epidemic. Her dying wish, “Bury me beside Wild Bill, the only man I ever loved.”
This cemetery was so peaceful, a welcome change of pace after being on the road all day. As we strolled through it we came upon a group of 8 small deer.
From here we made our way downtown, and hungry and tired, we headed toward the main drag in search of a late lunch.
Ok, so yes there was one grand-looking hotel, along with a few other historic-looking buildings, but most of the other establishments in Deadwood were smoke-filled casinos! The place looked more like a Disney theme park than a carefully-preserved and restored historic landmark.
But nonetheless, it was pretty cool to stand in the same street where sheriffs ruled and bad guys dueled, and the Old West lived large.
Next stop: Keyhole State Park, Black Hills, Wyoming