Sundance (where a legend was born), Wild Bill and Lead

Escaping from the Alien Prairie Dogs and who knows what fate, we made our way toIMG_7183a:


Here’s the thing about Sundance (named after the Sun Dance ceremony practiced by the Plains Tribes) one of its residents, or I should say resident of the Sundance jail was one Harry Longabaugh.


Who is Harry Longabaugh you ask? Why the Sundance Kid of course. You remember Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Wild Bunch and of course Etta Place, the Sundance Kid’s girlfriend and Mary’s grandmother?  (for a more detailed account of this astonishing supposition please see the section entitled  Florida – Old Friends – Family – And Our New Best Friend Rudy posted March 19, 2012, near the bottom of the section.) 


Ettas Place




After Mary completed her reminiscing we found Etta’s Place, a nice restaurant, where we had one of the best steak dinners we had on the entire trip. We tried hard to convince the waiter that we should have the “family” discount but…it wasn’t happening.




Roadeway Inn

We stayed the night at the local Roadeway Inn. They had just reopened for the season that day! We were the only guests and the young man had to make change out of his own pocket for the things Mary bought. We did get the “first guest of the season” discount but not the “family” discount.


The next morning we moseyed our way out of town and hit the road for South Dakota.


Pics from the road to South Dakota (I-90) Ya, I know I’ve groused about interstates but this one, or this section at least, wasn’t so bad:


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..and here we are.





..a room with a view?  Nope- just some artsy stuff at the South Dakota Welcome Center.

South Dakota has lots of interesting stuff like the Black Hills, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Buffalo (ya I know – bison), the Badlands, Gold, Wall Drugs, the Corn Palace, Sturgis, Deadwood and Wild Bill just to name a few.

The Feds think it’s part of the “Midwest” but what do they know? When I went to school it was part of the Great Plains. Bet they didn’t ask Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Midwest – ya right!


The southwest corner of South Dakota has “A LOT” of stuff to see packed into it, not least of which, is the Black Hills area. Caution learning ahead, boldly lifted from Wikipeda: The Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, The Black Hills encompass the Black Hills National ForestIMG_7197a and is home to the tallest peaks of continental North America east of the Rockies. The name “Black Hills” is a translation of the Lakota Pahá Sápa. The hills were so-called because of their dark appearance from a distance, as they were covered in trees.

After conquering the Cheyenne in 1776, the Lakota took over the territory of the Black Hills, which became central to their culture. The U.S. government signed the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, exempting the Black Hills from all white settlement forever. However, gold was discovered in-them-there-hills in 1874, as a result of George Armstrong (again what’s with the Armstrong) Custer’s Black Hills Expedition, erstwhile (means former) miners swept into the area in a gold rush altering the definition of forever. The US government re-assigned the Lakota, against their wishes (ya think?), to other reservations in western South Dakota and they all lived happily ever after – well there was that Little Big Horn thing involving George ARMSTRONG Custer.

Pic’s from the drive along Alt 14 (always good to drive on alternate routes -well- maybe not always):

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and a couple more:







We stopped for a break..









along side the stream











hit the road again for…. Lead.




Lead? Who names their town Lead. “Hi, I’m from Lead, where you from?”

The city was officially founded on July 10, 1876, after the discovery of gold. – hence the name Lead. Lead’s population consists mostly of Alchemists and politicians which may be the same thing.






The road from Gold…er.. Lead leads past the mines and on to…













In 1874, Colonel George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the Hills and found lead – I mean gold on French Creek near present-day Custer, South Dakota. The Black Hills Gold Rush and Deadwood was the result. But the miners felt there was just something lacking about their fair town so they got together and thought about it, passed a bottle around and thought about it, passed another bottle around, you get the picture, and finally sent for a wagon train led by “Colorado Charlie” Utter containing what were deemed to be needed commodities to bolster business – i.e. gamblers and prostitutes. Well, what else to you think a bunch of drunken miners were going to send for? One of the gamblers on that wagon train was James Butler Hickok and one of the “ladies” was Martha Jane Cannary (Burke) also known as Calamity Jane.












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We had lunch at Mustang Sally’s. Deadwood hasn’t changed much (except for burning down twice) by that I mean nearly every building is some sort of gambling hall or casino even Mustang Sally’s was full of slot machines inside. (“Arizona” Tom with the “Montana Kid”)




After lunch we went to visit Wild Bill and Calamity at the Mount Moriah Cemetery.




IMG_7260aWe learned several interesting things about Wild Bill’s grave. He was originally buried in Deadwood’s first cemetery, Ingelside, by his friend “Colorado Charlie” Utter (remember the wagon train?). Ingelside filled up quick, lots of rowdy’s in town, and Charlie paid to have  Bill moved to the new Mount Moriah. Today, Ingelside is a housing development and they are still uncovering unmarked graves.



When Bill was dug up they found that he had “petrified” and was solid as a rock and perfectly preserved. Unfortunately the same could not be said of his grave marker. The original (at left)  had been whittled on by souvenir hunters to the extent that it had to be replaced by a statue which was destroyed by souvenir hunters and was replaced by a sandstone sculpture of Hickok. Which in turn was also was badly defaced, leading to its complete enclosure in a cage for protection. This was cut open by  souvenir hunters in the 1950’s and the statue removed, never to be seen again.



The current monument is bronze and really heavy, but who knows how long it will be there. People leave packs of cigarettes and playing cards at the foot.

Now would probably be a good time to mention how Wild Bill came to be in the ground in the first place.  On August 2, 1876, Hickok was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon. Hickok usually sat with his back to a wall. The only seat available when he joined the poker game that afternoon was a chair that put his back to a door. Twice he asked another player, Charles Rich, to change seats with him, and on both occasions Rich refused.IMG_7251a

A former buffalo hunter, Jack McCall (better known as “Crooked Nose Jack”  – why don’t we have great nicknames like that nowadays?), entered the saloon unnoticed by Hickok. McCall walked to within a few feet of Hickok, drew a pistol and shouted, “Damn you! Take that!” before firing at Hickok point blank. McCall’s bullet hit Hickok in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Hickok’s killing made famous the hand he was holding “Aces and Eights”,  the “Dead Man’s Hand”. Hickok had been in Deadwood all of four weeks. My dad never liked to sit with his back to a door and come to think of it neither do I, maybe there’s some of Wild Bill’s blood running in my veins. Could be..




Buried next to Hickok is Martha Jane Cannary (Burke) “Calamity Jane”. Some say she was Bill’s girlfriend, some others his wife and yet others that Bill didn’t want to have anything to do with her. Calamity claimed he was the love of her life.




and her dying wish was to be buried next to him.




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True Love???

All I can say is:




Next stop old Presidents and big heads.