Wild Bill Hickock and the Deadmans Hand by Mike Marino Doing Deadwood is an abso lute Wild West
delight! It's up to it's gun belt in Wild Bill Hickok lore and le gend, and packs a fully loaded six shooter of sights and attractions guaranteed to appeal to the whole family. Water parks, go carts and casino's sharing the to urist dollar going with history and Western art. Although the boom town heyday o f mining is long gone, there's certainly plenty of tourist gold in them thar Bla ck Hills. Deadwood got it's start during the Gold Rush of 1875, and it's name from all the "deadwood" that accumulated in the gulch just outside of what would eventually become the pile of debris' namesake. Gold brought miners, and in turn, the miner s attracted all the elements of a bonafide frontier town..scam artists, ladies o f the night, merchants, gamblers, gunfighters, and preachers. Deadwood exploded in size with it's fair share of churches, stores, saloons and opium dens. The bo om didn't last long, however, when it was full tilt boogie, it attracted the inf amous and the famous like a giant historic magnet of destiny. The most colorful character drawn to Deadwood, and the one person whose life is celebrated on a ye arly basis...the flamboyant James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickok. Born in 1837, the well coiffed Wild Bill rode into the dime novel west from his prairie roots in Illinois and created a persona and legend that invited the youn g guns of the west to dream of taking him on and taking him down at high noon, a ll in hopes of making a name for themselves and leaving their own footprints in the sands of Wild West legend. His law-dog career was primarily in the cow towns of Hays and Abilene, Kansas an d brought his peculiar no frills, no compromise, and unconditional surrender bra nd of law n'order to a lawless frontier. His background also included working as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, a scout for fellow blonde, Gener al George Armstrong Custer and a stint as a sideshow attraction with Buffalo Bil l Cody's Wild West Show. Getting on in years and eyesight failing, Bill decided to slow it down and go th e gold fields and strike it rich in the Dakota's. Rumor has it that along the wa y he married a lady who owned a circus, and was also a lion tamer and tightrope walker, an interesting combination to say the least, and hence his reason to rai se money in order to raise a family. Wild Bill lit out for Deadwood in 1876 and so did someone else who would figure prominently in the annals of the Old West, Martha (Calamity) Jane Cannary-Burke. More man then most men of the old west, sh e would be linked forever with the six gun hero, not only in life, but in death as well. Wild Bill was playing poker in the Number 10 Saloon one day, with his customary seat-with-back-to-the-wall taken he sat with his back to the door instead. In wa lks Jack McCall to make his mark in the history books. Some say he was hired as part of a conspiracy to assassinate Wild Bill on behalf of the towns criminal el ements just to make sure that he had no plans of putting on a badge again and cl eaning up the town. In effect, Jack McCall would become the object of Wild West conspiracy theorists worldwide and would be the first Lee Harvey Oswald..The Lon e Gunman! When Bill fell lifeless to the floor on August 2, 1876, he held a pair of 8's and pair of Aces, which to this day is referred to as the "Dead Mans Han d". What suit they were and what the fifth card was, is still up for debate. Wild Bill was originally laid to rest in Ingleside Cemetery, but the towns growt h eventually called for re-internment in Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where he lies peac efully today. Calamity Jane lived on throughout the west until 1903 when she die d penniless in South Dakota. Her final wish, to be buried next to Wild Bill. She is. Today that Deadmans Hand is celebrated along with other events in the yearl y Days of '76 Days and Wild Bill Days. The true Gold Rush of Tourism began with the first "Days of 76 Celebration" in 1 924. Silent Cal Coolidge visited the area in 1929 and in addition to donning a w ar bonnet, he attracted a half million visitors at the same time, and the new ru sh was off and running. Today over 2,000,000 visitors descend on the area to vis it not just Deadwood, but also the Black Hills, the Badlands and of course, the great granite monolith of Mt. Rushmore and the work in progress of Chief Crazy H orse.
History and gaming go hand in hand in Deadwood, and you won't have any trouble t rying your luck at any one of numerous casino's that run like a string of pearls throughout the town. The Number 10 Saloon is ready to open those swinging doors wide pardner, so be careful if someone deals you a pair of eights and a pair of Aces with your beer. To get the real flavor of the era, visit the Days of 76 Museum and try your luck at one of the gold mines that still hold just enough treasure for the tourist t o be amazed and delighted, and of course, the obligatory visit to the "Boothill Museum" (every town had a Boothill. They were at the time, the equivalent of a L evittown for the dead!). Re-enactments relive those exciting days and you don't want to miss the Chinese Tunnel Tour. A visit to the Wax Museum is a must on any itinerary, but the Jewell of the crown is a visit to pay your respects to the L ucy and Desi of the frontier west, Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Graves are prote cted these days because some tourist come to mine and pilfer souvenirs from the tombstones. (Footnote: Wild Bills original tombstone completely destroyed by sou v-hunters way back in the 1880's. In 1891, a ten foot bronze statue was put in i t's place and within ten years, it was destroyed too!! Ah, what price fame, eh?) History stands proudly shoulder to shoulder in Deadwood alongside miniature golf , gold panning for the kids, paintball, go carts and water slides. Outdoor enthu siasts will find enough hiking and camping areas that will make your head spin. Souvenir shopping here is overwhelming and can create a hunger, so make sure you please your palate at any of the large variety of eateries that won't require a suit and tie. Lodging runs the gamut from downtown motels, to bed and breakfast s, to cabins nestled in the pines with fishing opportunities, as well as a pleth ora of RV campgrounds and rustic tent sites too, for the more Muir-like tourist. Deadwood is alive and well with activity from The Days of 76 to Kool Deadwood Ni ghts in August, and the heavenly hog Harley meet in neighboring Sturgis every ye ar. The Black Hills region is indeed alive with the sounds of tourism music. Dodge City...Tombstone and Deadwood. Legendary locations that define the High Pl ains Drifter past of America. The growing pains of a nation hungry for expansion and growth and feeding that hunger not with a knife and fork, but with six gun justice. Today, you can journey back in time and walk in the footsteps of The Go od, The Bad and The Ugly and pretend your Wyatt Earp. On the other hand I think I'd make a better Doc Holiday. See you in the saloon Pard!