Deadwood is a small town in South Dakota which is known for:
- being the burial site of Wild Bill Hickok
- being the burial site of Calamity Jane
- the whole town being a National Monument
- being the site of the annual “Days of 76 Rodeo” and Parade
- having more Casinos than is good for any place
We are going there for the first four of the above – casinos will have to wait until we get to Las Vegas.
The parade is typical of a small town parade with people sitting down on the side of the street watching people they know pass by in the parade, everything being good natured and relaxed.
The parade starts with the National and State flags passing by (everyone stands)
and then the first of a number of marching bands
carriages of the sort which used to bring ladies into town
and a modern carriage with a native Indian perched precariously on top throwing candies (aka sweets) to all of the children
and then numerous people dressed as themselves, or as somebody else or as a scene from history
or simply showing us that they can ride a long horned bull
and then there was a selection of cars from all years and it finished with the Road Sweeping machine cleaning up deposits! It was nice to see it because it was totally relaxed with everyone having a good time and the children collecting enough of the sweets thrown at them to give them a sugar overload for the next month.
Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane
Above the town is Mount Moriah Cemetery where many of those who lived in the town during its past are buried.
The road up to the cemetery passes a number of houses which were probably there when some of the early occupants were buried
and the graves of the two most celebrated occupants
are marked with large plaques
and for Bill Hickok, a bust surrounded by offerings from his admirers which when we were there seemed to be lots of miniatures of whisky and strangely, a pair of sunglasses
and something more sedate for Calamity Jane whose offerings were mainly money, presumably a recognition of her trade. It is impossible to see either of these and not to start humming “The Deadwood Stage is a coming over the hill……….”
Downtown Deadwood has been largely preserved but just to show that planners can make the same mistakes in any country, a few horrible modern totally out of place buildings have been inserted between 1800s originals (they do not deserve a photograph here).
Many of the original buildings are now casinos or selling to tourists
One building which has remained as it was in the 1800s is “Saloon No 10” where Will Bill Hickok was playing cards when he was murdered.
The chair he was sitting in is preserved in a glass case over the door
and inside, the bargirls are dressed as they might have been back in the old days
and the floor is covered with sawdust just to give it the correct feel. We had to have a drink in there for reasons of research.
We had taken to riding down to town from our campsite at Whistlers Gulch on the bus and we were somewhat startled when the driver announced “we are going to have to divert, there is a gun fight going on” until we realised that it was one of the many re-inactions for tourists! Hopefully they were better than that at Cody.
The Days of 76 Rodeo
The Rodeo takes its name from the fact that in 1876 there was a gold rush to Deadwood because of discoveries nearby. Rodeos are a serous business and those that ride (perform) in them can earn significant money in prizes.
The Rodeo started off with the Pledge of Allegiance and a general veneration of all that it is to be an American and in this case, a farmer and rancher.
It was then announced that “Paul Harvey will address the Rodeo” ! I had not been warned about this and was rapidly thinking of what I was going to say when I realised it was not me but a famous (but now dead) broadcaster called Paul Harvey who was based in Chicago who was to address the Rodeo. I first encountered my alter-ego when I first came to the USA some 43 years ago and everyone then (as they have repeatedly done this trip) said to me “Do you know you share…..”.
However, half way through the Rodeo, an announcement was made over the Public Address system by the commentator, “I understand there are two people from London England here, would they like to stand up and give us a wave?” And so we did to a general round of applause. It turned out that the person next to me who had been explaining to us what was happening in each round had slipped off to the commentary booth and suggested they make an announcement.
During the rodeo we saw a number of different events including: Bull Riding – bulls are not normally known for their willingness
to be ridden and the rider has to stay on them for 8 seconds. He is judged according to how much effort the bull put into throwing him off and his style in staying on. If the bull is adjudged to have made insufficient effort, he is disqualified but given another chance if he wants it.
Having thrown off their rider (either before or after the 8 seconds), the bull usually shows its annoyance by chasing anything it can see in the arena and generally jumping around quite alarmingly. Other riders have the job of guiding the bull back into a cage at one end of the arena, sometimes lassoing it and making it fall to the ground until it realises resistance is useless.
The Tie Down Roping event most impressed me because to be successful, it required not just the cowboy to show his skills but also the horse to play its part. A calf is let loose from a crush cage and it makes a bid for freedom
by running as fast as it can. The cowboy has to give it a heads start
and then chases after it and has to lasso it. If he does not give it a good enough start, he earns a time penalty and if he does not lasso it he gets disqualified.
Having lassoed it, he dismounts whilst the horse and the calf are still running,
runs to the calf, and has to throw it on its back
and tie its legs together. The horse has to stop the calf running forward and walks backwards whilst the cowboy is dealing with the calf, keeping the lasso rope just taut enough. The cowboy who accomplishes all of this in the shortest time wins.
Steer Wrestling requires a cowboy on horseback to chase after a runaway calf
throw himself off his horse and wrestle the calf
to the ground
until the calf is completely prone. He who does this the fastest wins.
Bronco riding (both with a Saddle and Bareback) requires the cowboy to stay on an unwilling horse for a minimum of 8 seconds.
Scoring seems to involve how much effort the horse makes to dislodge him and the style the cowboy shows.
If the horse is adjusted to have made insufficient effort, he is disqualified but given another chance.
It seemed to us that a number of the cowboys suffered injuries during the Rodeo – not surprising really.
You may have noticed that it is Cowboys and not Cowgirls. There was only one event for “The Ladies” and that was barrel racing where they had to chase around three barrels placed quite far apart in the arena and the one who did it the fastest won the prize.
All of the events showed traditional cowboy skills as did some of the acts put on in between the skills events.
We were treated to a hold up of the Deadwood Stage Coach during which numerous people were shot or kidnapped before a posse arrived who added to the general carnage but at least they recovered the gold.
Another interval act involved a fairly remarkable demonstration of the Rodeo Clown controlling his horse using voice commands only. It culminated with the horse jumping onto the bed of a moving flatbed truck.
It was an interesting event to go to and the skills and danger involved were quite extraordinary.