In 89', I was trucking long haul, and I took a load to S. Dakota. I had my girfriend with me, and we had to lay over for the weekend, so we dropped the trailer and bobtailed it to Deadwood. We spent the day there and it was great. We went up to boot hill, where Calamity Jane is buried right next to Wild Bill Hickock. I heard a tour guide say that Jane was always tagging along behind Bill. She was in love with him, and that if Bill knew Jane was buried next to him, he's roll over in his grave! I reached over the fence and took a pinecone that was laying on top of Bills grave. I kept that cone for many years. Of course soon after, my house burned down, my girfriend left me, and I crashed my truck, but it wasn't the pine cone! (actually, the house never burned down)
That little town has so much wild history. I actually sat in the same spot in the saloon where Bill was shot in the back of the head while playing poker. Gambling is now legal there and it's alot more of a tourist trap then it was in the 80s. I used to live in Colorado, and visit the town of Cripple Creek, another wild west mining boom town.
It's really a great way to spend the day. They kept the town looking just like it was way back when. I guess they did have a fire in the 1800s and much of it burned down but it was rebuilt, nearly the same. You can really envison all those stages being robbed nearly every week. They were loaded with the weeks gold these people had dug out of those hills. Driving a stage was a very dangerous job there! I doubt it payed real good, and you were sure to be dodging bullets defending that gold. Big turnover on that one.
The town sits down in this gully,the stage had to climb up this steep, muddy, tore up road, to get out of there, and there's alot of tress and rocks along the way. Just perfect hiding for the bandits. Every day they have a re-inactment of the guy shooting Wild Bill in the head in the saloon, then he runs, they catch and hang em high! Oops-I forgot, he also had a "trial", before getting the noose. In the real story, Wild Bill's killer had a trial and was actually set free! He was found not guilty, even though there was all the other poker players that saw him shoot Bill. Many witness's, but he somehow was found innocent. There was many that said that the jury was bought and paid for and that the gunman had alot of powerful "friends" backing him. In other words, Wild Bill's killing was a contract hit. He was going to be the next sheriff there, and that made the bad guys nervous. So he was eliminated. Hey, does that not sound like the killing of Robert Kennedy? He also made many bad guys nervous.
So, they turn this bum loose, he leaves town and just can't keep his mouth shut. He moves out West and is bragging about killing Wild Bill in a saloon, and some old friends of Bill hear this guy. He's arrested and this time he was hung. Now, I'm not sure about the double jeprody laws back then. Could a person be tried twice for the same crime? Somehow he was, and this time he was made very dead. Or I could have his ending a little wrong. Maybe Bills friends just took it on their own and lynched him. I'll look that up. Either way, this coward, who murdered one of Americas greatest heroes was finally dead.
If you go there, you'll be amazed at how much it looks like the old days. The wooden sidewalks and storefronts and it's really a step back in time. The place even smells old. But, now, I have not been there since they legalized gambling. I was there in the 80s. By now it might look like Vegas for all I know. I really hope not. I hope they kept all those small one story shops and red light district. It's a good part of history.
And, as a bonus, not far away is the most amazing granite statues in the country. Mt. Rushmore is right up the road and well worth seeing. If you go, the best way to see these places is by spending the daytime in Deadwood and watching the play. I think they hang that guy at least twice a day. Then go to Rushmore when the sun is going down. At night, they have a tour guide there that first explains how the rock wall was carved out to form the presidents heads. Then after, he says " Ladies and Gentelmen, I give you Mt. Rushmore" and bam, he switches on these huge flood lights. The lights are great. They are not blinding white but a shade or two softer and they allow you to see ever detail of these incredible creations. What a job this was! I was amazed at the size and extent of this sculpture. It really does take your breath away. I would compare it to seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. My jaw just dropped!
Anyway, before I start sounding like a travel agent, I'll close by saying that if your in the US,and have never seen this town or Mt. Rushmore or the Grand Canyon, then your cheating yourself of something amazing. I've travelled over much of this world, and can say that these places are fantastic and well worth seeing. Forget Disneyland and all those places, take the kids here!
Jack McCall was Wild Bills assassin. He was retried and it was completely legal. Here's the story:
McCall was subsequently rearrested after bragging about his deed, and a new trial was held. The authorities did not consider this to be double jeopardy because at the time Deadwood was not recognized by the U.S. as a legitimately incorporated town, as it was in Indian Country and the jury was irregular. The new trial was held in Yankton, capital of the territory. Hickok's brother, Lorenzo Butler Hickok, traveled from Illinois to attend the retrial and spoke to McCall after the trial, noting that he showed no remorse. This time McCall was found guilty. Reporter Leander Richardson interviewed Hickok shortly before his death and helped bury him. Richardson wrote of the encounter for the April 1877 issue of Scribner's Monthly, in which he mentions McCall's second trial.
"As I write the closing lines of this brief sketch, word reaches me that the slayer of Wild Bill has been re-arrested by the United State authorities, and after trial has been sentenced to death for willful murder. He is now at Yankton, D.T. awaiting execution. At the trial it was proved that the murderer was hired to do his work by gamblers who feared the time when better citizens should appoint Bill the champion of law and order - a post which he formerly sustained in Kansas border life, with credit to his manhood and his courage."
McCall was hanged on 1 March 1877 and buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery. The cemetery was moved in 1881, and his body was exhumed and found to have the noose still around his neck. The killing of Wild Bill and the capture of Jack McCall is reenacted every evening (in summer) in Deadwood.
Thanks Chips, I do love American history. This country is really still young, yet, has had alot of major events happen in it's short life so far. Like the Civil War, and one of my favorite stories, the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I like their story alot because they came right through the area I now live in. They came down the mighty Columbia River by canoe (no easy feat, for sure!). In those days, of course there were no dams holding back the raging waters. So, for that crew to make it all the way down through Washington and Oregon all the way to the town now called Astoria, Oregon, was a huge accomplishment! They had the Indian girl Sakajawea helping them to find their way through the territory. Without her help, they would have gotten lost and froze in the winter and/or killed by the tribes living here. Their journey took 2 years and after spending the winter at the coast, they were the first white men to find the way through from East to West, they headed all the way back to St. Louis. And, I think after all that hardship, they lost only one man in their party. These guys were tough and they stopped and camped right on the banks of the river which is about 3 miles from my place. They even scrawled their names on a huge rock that sits down there by Camas Washington. It's called Beacon Rock. They were the first graffiti artists in the Northwest! Today, they would be arrested for defacing public property. My, how times change. Another place, that is a must see in this country is the Grand Canyon. The first time you see it, your mouth will open automatically and your jaw will drop and you will say WOW! It's like nothing you have seen before. The size of this crack in the Earth is so big, it leaves a person speechless. I've seen it 3 times and each time was amazing and hard to describe. This is something that photos can never capture properly. Next, I'll tell you about camping in Yosemite Park as a young man, and running from the bears! Stay tuned for Robs wacky travels around the country and beyond.
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