Ah…..how wonderful to wake up in a comfy bed, with the sun shining and mountain views out of the window. Time to head out and find some breakfast and coffee. There are many cafes and restaurants to choose from and lovely patios to sit on to enjoy your meal and watch Deadwood wake up. I chose the Midnight Star Saloon and its’ Diamond Lils’ restaurant for breakfast. This saloon is owned by Kevin Costner and many articles of his from the movies he has made hang on its walls. As of the date of writing this, I don’t believe that Kevin Costner owns it any longer.
I spent the morning walking around, enjoying the sights and doing a little shopping. I had a look around Bullocks’ Hotel which was opened by Sheriff Seth Bullock in 1895. Seth first came to Deadwood in 1876 and was the first Sheriff. Its said he never needed to use his gun….he didn’t need to since his stare was enough to scare a man out of doing bad deeds. Seth originally came to open a hardware store, but he arrived on the day that Wild Bill Hickok was murdered, and the townsfolk needed someone to be sheriff, so they picked Seth. In 1887 Seth met two guys out on in the hills that he thought were horse thieves. One of those men was named Theodore Roosevelt…and yes he did go on to become President of the USA and Seth attended the inauguration. Seems that Teddy and Seth became great friends for their entire lives. In fact, Seth had a tower built called the Friendship Tower or Mount Roosevelt that was to comemorate and honor their friendship when Teddy died. The tower is 31 feet high, and you can climb it to get amazing views of the Black Hills. The tower was completed and dedicated on July 4th, 1919, several months before Seth died. Seth’s grave faces this tower. In 1895 Seth built the Bullock Hotel which is still in existence today, although it has been rebuilt after a devastating fire that burned down most of the town. It is said that Seth haunts this hotel, but is a friendly spirit. He still has a strong work ethic as he tends to haunt the staff when they are working too slow or are taking a break. That is a very different type of management style isn’t it?
There are several haunted hotels in Deadwood, including the Fairmont which was built in 1895 and was a brothel and the Franklin, built in 1903 where Teddy Roosevelt, John Wayne and Babe Roth have all stayed. Both of these sites have ghosts that show themselves and will watch over patrons and staff and often will appear as orbs to folks standing outside. Seems like no one wants to leave this town.
Another stop was a quick peak into Saloon number 10….the site where Wild Bill Hickok was assassinated. It is a night time hot spot for dancing and drinking, but in the day time people come to see all things Hickok. Wild Bill was a gambler and he died while playing cards on August 2, 1876. He was shot in the back by the cowardly wanderer Jack McCall, purportedly because Hickok had made fun of him on the previous day. Hickok died with what is now called the deadmans’ hand: 2 black aces, 2 black 8’s and the 9 of diamonds. You can see the chair that he sat in when he was shot as well as his deadmans hand. And in the summer, they re-enact the shooting….it is highly entertaining to watch.
After a little shopping and a light lunch, we decide to hit the road and head through the Black Hills to the Crazy Horse Memorial. The day is sunny and the road calls us….don’t worry Deadwood….we will be back in a few hours.
The drive is gorgeous…winding roads, spectacular scenery…we are feeling alive. We reach the site of the monument and I have to say….I have never seen anything like this in my life.
I think to do justice to this site it is best to share a little history as to who Crazy Horse was. Crazy Horse was a Lakota war leader of the Ogalala Band. He fought against the encroachment of white settlers on Native American lands and to preserve the traditional way of life. He fought many battles including the Black Hills wars, Fetterman Fight in 1866 in which he acted as a lone decoy and saved hundreds of lives and the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876 where he led his war party to victory and defeated Custer. Crazy Horse was born between 1840 and 1845…no one is sure…and his Dad was named Crazy Horse and his Mom, Rattling Blanket Woman…she died when he was just 4 years old. Sad isn’t it? He lived in a Lakota camp in what is now Wyoming and as he matured he became a great visionary. His first vision came to him as a warrior on a white horse, who seemed to float above the water and was struck by lightening and hailstones and was never harmed. The warrior spoke to Crazy Horse and told him to dress modestly and never to take the scalps of the enemy and if he did as instructed, he would lead his people and no harm would come to him in battle. Crazy Horse never wore war bonnets or chest pieces, choosing to wear only a white feather in his hair, and a lightening sign on his cheek and white dots over his body to represent the hailstones from his vision. He was never harmed in battle, but one time took and arrow to his arm immediately after he had scalped two of his enemies….he had forgotten for a moment what his vision had told him to not do. Crazy Horse was known to be very shy and modest and was very generous especially to elders, children and the poor. On May 5, 1877, Crazy Horse was forced to surrender to General Crook and was taken to Fort Robinson, near Nebraska. It was here that the great warrior was fatally wounded by the bayonet of a soldier. He died that day, in September 1877. The burial site of Crazy Horse is a secret, known only by his family members. What an amazing and brave man he was.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is on private land on Thunderhead Mountain in Custer County. It is 17 miles from Mount Rushmore. Henry Standing Bear exchanged his ownership of 900 acres of land for this barren mountain and it is he who commissioned the memorial to be made, wanting to show the world that the Native Americans had their own heros, not those whose faces are carved into Mount Rushmore. He commissioned the sculptor, Korczak Ziolkowski, to carve the monument…641 feet long, 563 feet high with the arm of Crazy Horse to be 263 feet long and his head 87 feet high….to say it is massive is an understatement. As a note, Mount Rushmore is only 60 feet high. The project which is non-profit started in 1948. Mr. Ziolkowski died in 1982 but his wife kept the project going by creating a visitors center whose admission fees help with the funding of the project. She focused on the head component as she felt this would be the biggest attraction for people to see. By 1998 the head and face were completed…the eyes are 17 feet wide. Mrs. Ziolkowski died and her daughter became the head sculptor and is assisted by numerous workers including 3 of her siblings and 3 grandsons. It should be noted that not all of the Native Americans like the idea of the creation of this memorial, as they feel Crazy Horse would not like to see the mountain carved out of its natural state, and that he would not approve of monies being made on his likeness. I have to say that it is one of the most impressive statutes I have ever seen, and I am hopeful that when complete it serves to honor this great Lakota Ogalala warrior.
We had a great visit at the memorial and then the dark clouds starting rolling in….and they came fast. As we headed for the bike the rain started, and by the time we were exiting the memorial site, it started pouring. And I mean torrential downpour.
Now if you have read previous blogs, we have driven in rain, lotus, bees and beside tornados. But I have to tell you….I have never been in a rain storm with winds and thunder and lightening like this one. I hunkered down with my face behind my partners back, praying that we would be safe and not slide on the slick roads and roll off over the side of the hills. He had riding glasses on to keep the rain out of his eyes, but they kept fogging up and truthfully, I find out later, he couldn’t see much of the road most of the time. We rode as we watched the water run down the hill past as as though it was a river, white caps and all. I am not kidding…it had to be at least a foot deep. Eventually we came to a little cottage/camping site and very slowly my partner maneuvered the bike off the river highway, onto gravel and onto the lawn of this cottage. We jumped off the bike and ran inside, seeking some shelter for at least until the storm passed. The guy working there was not hospitable at all. The most he would do would let us stand inside for a bit….didn’t offer a towel to dry us off as we were beyond soaking wet…didn’t offer a coffee to warm us up….nothing. As I looked out the window, I saw he had a white horse, tied to a tree on a very short rope, standing in mud in the driving rain…my heart broke for him. I wish I could have found him a better home.
We stayed for probably 15 minutes and although the rain hadn’t stopped we needed to head out because we were getting chilled right to the bone. We hopped on the bike and rode through the storm and running water all the way to Deadwood. The town of Deadwood itself was severely flooded in several places…it actually flooded the Iron Horse Inn and caused quite a bit of damage. I advise you to go to Youtube and look up flash floods in deadwood 2010 where you will see footage of what the roads look like in merely minutes. This will give you and idea of what we drove in on a highway in the Black Hills with hair pin turns all the way.
We parked the bike and headed to our rooms. I immediately ran a bath…deep and hot…and poured myself a big glass of Southern Comfort. After about 30 minutes, warm, dry and in fresh clothes, my partner and I decide to head out for dinner and to check out the band at Saloon Number 10.
We had a great night at the Saloon…we met a couple who had a horse ranch in Texas, a biker who was visiting from Germany and many local folks including a lady named Starr. She was a very unique lady and immediately took a shine to me. She invited us to go out with her the next night to a bar that her son was a bartender at. We said sure. It had been a fun, interesting and very stressful day and so we went to bed and looked forward to enjoying our last day in Deadwood.
The next day I awake to the sun shining and there is not a cloud in the sky….a good sign so far.
We need to do laundry. I guess I didn’t mention that on a bike trip you don’t have alot of room to pack so the clothing allowance is minimal and you go through your assortment pretty fast. So all along the way we have been doing laundry every 3rd or 4th day. On this day its a must because we are down to our last clean belongings….so….we ask around and find out where a laundromat is located. We take a trolley (so cool that they have these running through the town) and head to the laundromat. We load up the machines and sip a coffee and stare at the beautiful hills.
As you can see from the picture, gambling abounds in Deadwood….so we could have put some coins in the slots but chose to only put our money in the washer and dryer for the win.
Once the laundry was done, we took the trolley back to the rooms, put the laundry away and headed back out onto the streets to seek lunch and adventure.
We had lunch on a great little outdoor patio, with live entertainment. It was alot of fun. Then, a gun fight started. Out on the streets, from the left and the right came the gun slingers. Words were exchanged, pistols drawn and bang..bang… one of the guys falls to the ground. The others head to the saloon of course….and then….the crowds applaud. These staged gunfights take place everyday during the summer and are quite amusing to watch. Makes you think of days gone by that this was a regular occurance in this town. Wow.
We had heard of a really great place to visit just a couple of miles out of town. It is called the Buffalo Monument. So we grabbed the bike and went for a quick ride. I am so glad that we did.
Tatonka is the Lakota word for buffalo. This site is a tribute to the buffalo hunt and the traditional ways of the Lakota people.
The site has a visitor center filled with artifacts and pieces of Lakota history. Our guide, a Lakota Elder, was so wonderful in explaining all of the displays to us and the history of her people. She told us of her culture and traditional ways of living, which included the buffalo hunt. The animals were herded from behind by several warriors on horseback who drove them towards a cliff, where they would fall to their deaths. It sounds horrible, and was, but the Lakota honored these animals (and still do), and utilized every part of the buffalo for food, fuel, clothing and materials. You are not prepared for the monument itself. It is spectacular and larger than life in size.
It is the 3rd largest bronze statue in the world. In 1990, actor Kevin Costner, after having filmed Dances with Wolves in the area, commissioned Peggy Detmers to sculp the Lakota Bison Jump. There are 3 larger than life Indians on horseback and 14 buffalo. It took her 7 years to complete. Kevin Costner planned to build a $100 million casino on this property, calling it Dunbar ( his characters name in Dances with Wolves) with the statues on the casino property as an attraction for throngs of patrons. So… Peggy worked at a discounted rate thinking that the casino would bring in many people who would then commission work from her. The Lakota peoples fought Mr. Costner on the opening of his casino, and he lost, so instead he made the area a tourist attraction with the sculptures in place and a traditional Lakota encampment and visitors center. As a note, Peggy sued Kevin to get her sculpture back but she lost, and eventually had to give up being a sculptor to work as a multivitamin sales rep. I am, truth be told, saddened to hear that she lost out on earnings for her spectacular work….maybe the spirits do not want us to prosper from their history. Just a thought.
Well it was time to head back to the room, get changed for dinner and then meet Starr for a drink. Not sure where we ate dinner, but we did meet Starr at Saloon #10. While my partner was getting a drink Starr took my hand and told me she wanted to show me something that not everyone knows about or gets to see…..I am excited. She leads me through a door and then down some stairs and then….we are in a tunnel.. It has dirt floors and the walls are 23 inches thick. They are made up of 3 layers of history…each time there was a major fire or flood the tunnels were rebuilt….layer upon layer. The tunnel goes for quite some distance…we are actually under the main street sidewalk of Deadwood. The tunnels were used for men to sneak into a building and walk the tunnel over to the next building where they could discretely climb the stairs to the brothels on the 2nd floor without being seen. This tunnel took us back to the bar we started from, but through another entrance. It was something to see. Starr was so comprehensive in telling me the history and was quite happy to be able to share an experience with me that not many people are able to get. I was thankful.
After a few drinks and an exchange of emails, we left the bar and headed to the hotel.
Tomorrow we leave this town. I have had so many memorable experiences over these past 3 days. My life has changed now because of this town. I appreciate things I never thought of before and it has stirred in me an everlasting thirst for travel and immersing myself in the culture and history of the places that I visit.
Deadwood, you remain forever in my heart. Especially the Black Hills….one day I will return.
I have to say that you are going to want to stay tuned to my blog for a very ghostly experience I had while writing this blog today. I shared it with my daughter right away because it actually scared me a little. Stay tuned for the story soon….and ps…Pilamaya ye (thank you) Crazy Horse for the sign of approval.
Next, a few more stops in Deadwood and then we head East….homeward bound…but there are many more tales on this adventure to share…don’t you want to hear them?
Live your Life Jan