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Elbow Creek Magazine

THE HIGH LONESOME

By Isnala Mani

Out here they call it a lot of things, these High Plains of Texas.  It's called the Llano Estacado...Staked Plains. Land so flat that the Spanish  gold-seekers had to drive stakes into the ground to find their bearings. No  mountains to reference, no trees or rivers to mark on their maps....just  thousands of miles of nothing at all. Some just call it the High Plains and  shrug at the harshness and terrible beauty of it. They work the land and the  land works them. Both lose and both win and in the end the man is gone and the  plains remain forever.

The Comanche and the buffalo were once here. Now the rancher and the  hard-scrabble farmer and the oilman are here. In time they, too, will disappear.  A wolf sometimes...maybe...maybe just the memory of a wolf appears on the edge  of your consciousness. Only the unchallenged wind and the cruel sun remain in  the summer. In winter there is only the bone-breaking wind off the glaciers,  nothing to inhibit their howling harshness.

Those who travel this land...the truckers and the cowboys and the hobos and  the drifters...they call it the High Lonesome. A man can easily travel all day  and all night without ever seeing another human being. Creatures seek others of  their kind. Standing at the edge of nothing or in the middle of it there is that  feeling of overwhelming alone-ness. The sun is so high at mid-day...you can  imagine that, if the sun could see at all, it could not see you. A man is  overwhelmed by a sense of his own insignificance. So many miles, so many winds,  so much sun or ice...and only you in your smallness. Solitude...so often  sought...becomes a curse. A man becomes disoriented...there are no cardinal  directions...no landmarks...nothing that is familiar. It becomes impossible to  not believe...that you are the last person left alive on earth. Some mistake  this for loneliness. It isn't really, of course. It's just lonesome-ness.

Loneliness is something else altogether.

 

 

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Mount Moriah Cemetery
Deadwood's Historic Boot Hill
By Cathy  Buburuz


     Since its establishment in the late 1870s, Mount Moriah  Cemetery (owned and maintained by the city of Deadwood, South Dakota),  has served as the final resting place for more than 3,400 souls, among  them many colorful characters who played significant roles in the  historical development of the Wild, Wild West.  Buried in the rocky  hillsides, surrounded by whispering winds, spruce, pine, and wildflowers, are  such notables as James Butler Hickok (Alias "Wild Bill"), Martha  Jane Canary ("Calamity Jane"), and John Perrett ("Potato Creek  Johnny").      Throughout his lifetime, James Butler Hickok served the  Old West in a wide range of occupations which demanded a fast gun and no  aversion to bloodshed.  He served as both a marshal and army scout and, like  many others, he travelled to Deadwood's gold camp in search of adventure  and fortune.  On August 2, 1876, while gambling in Deadwood's Saloon No.  10, he was shot and in the back of the head and killed instantly by a  local named Jack McCall.  At the moment of his demise, Wild Bill held aces  and eights, a poker hand from then on known as "The Dead Man's  Hand".  A hastily convened  miners' court found McCall innocent, but he was later tried by a regular  court, found guilty of the murder and hanged.  His reason for killing Wild  Bill is unknown.  Wild Bill's friends buried him in nearby Ingleside  cemetery, but two
years later he was reburied at the present site at Mount  Moriah where thousands of tourists come to pay tribute (and a one dollar  admission fee) to view the historical site.  The hundreds of thousands of  dollars collected at the base of Mount Moriah are used for the upkeep of the  cemetery and, according to a local tour guide, no one except the locals  visited the cemetery until the town council made the decision to charge  admission.  Seems tourists don't believe an "attraction" is worthy  unless a fee is associated with it.  Strange, but true.
     Not unlike  Wild Bill, Martha "Calamity Jane" Canary landed noteworthy mention  in the history books for a number of reasons.  In her short 53 years (1850 to  1903) Calamity Jane lived a unique and varied life.  She worked on a bull  train, performed in Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, and was a prostitute  of little or no repute (probably because of her masculine, far from glamorous  appearance). She toted guns and often disguised herself as a man to obtain  work.  One story most historians claim to be strictly a figment of  Calamity Jane's imagination was her claim to have been Wild Bill's love  interest.  Her acts of charity and her willingness to nurse the sick attest to  the warm, feminine side of this rough and tough female of the Old West.   In 1903 Calamity Jane died in the mining camp of Terry from a variety of  ailments including acute alcoholism.  One can only wonder what Wild Bill  would have to say of Calamity's dying wish, which was granted - that she be  laid to rest next to him.  Actresses Angelica Huston, Debby Reynolds  and Doris Day have portrayed Jane in the movies.  In my opinion, Angelica  Huston‚ís portrayal was most realistic and  enjoyable.     
    Potato Creek Johnny, a name synonomous  with Black Hills prospecting, was without a doubt one of Deadwood's most  loved characters.  The small, bearded figure of John Perrett was a familiar  sight along the streams of the Tinton area where he may or may not have found  one of the largest gold nuggets every panned in the Black Hills (some  believed he may have melted down several pieces of gold to earn the title  "finder of the largest nugget").
     Loved by children for his  kind nature and child-like stature (he was under four feet tall in his  boots), Potato Creek Johnny took part in numerous parades and community  activities, until his death on February 21, 1943.
     Also buried in  those thar hills is Henry Weston Smith, also known as Preacher Smith,  Deadwood's first ordained minister who was murdered (presumably by Indians)  while enroute from Deadwood to a nearby mining camp. The community, enraged  by his death, placed bounty on Indians fora time.  Deadwood's richest  man of the day, Harris Franklin, settled in Deadwood at the age of 29.  His  wealth, estimated at five million dollars, came from investments in the  liquor business and the mining industry.  His stately mansion, now aged, was  built below Mount Moriah on Van Buren Street.  He was also known as the  largest investor in his namesake, the Franklin Hotel, where a great many  tourists come to try their luck in its casino and gambling hall. Such  notables as John Wayne, Teddy Roosevelt, Tom Brokaw, and Kevin Costner have  stayed in Franklin's historic hotel rooms over the years.  Due in no small  part to his vast fortune, Franklin's headstone is one of the most impressive  markers on  Mount  Moriah.
     Equally impressive is the stone  that marks the resting place of Seth Bullock, Deadwood's first sheriff.  He  was a friend of Theodore Roosevelt, a member of the Black Hills Rough Riders  in the Spanish-American War, a mining promoter and mine owner (the Homestake  Gold Mine in the Black Hills is the oldest operating underground mine in the  United States and is mentioned in this article because of the fascinating  tours it offers for a reasonable price).
     A life-long promoter of  Deadwood, Bullock and the Black Hills Pioneers constructed the monument to  Theodore Roosevelt on Mt. Roosevelt.  Bullock requested that he be buried  above Mount Moriah on a plot of ground facing Mt. Roosevelt.  Visitors to  this site require good hiking boots, as this grave is about 750 feet above  the main cemetery.  In fact, be prepared for a strenuous but enjoyable trek  should you visit this unique resting place as it has many sections to  explore.
     At one time a large number of Chinese were buried in a section  in the upper left hand portion of Mount Moriah.  For religious reasons, the  bodies were later exhumed and returned to China for reburial.  Today only a  few graves exist in this section.
     The Jewish section, complete with  tombstones inscribed in Hebrew, is located in the upper portion.  Many of the  prominent citizens who founded Mount Moriah were masons, and one of the most  attractive sections is located in the heart of the cemetery.
      Children's graves are found throughout the trails that wind through  the hills, and there are also three Potter's Fields, final resting places for  a number of early-day indigents, prostitutes included.  Most of these  graves are unmarked.
     Some might think that a trip to the  cemetery is an odd way to spend a vacation, but if you're ready for a switch  from pulling slot handles at Kevin Costner's Midnight Star, or have had  your fill of blackjack at the Gold Dust Casino or The Silverado, Mount Moriah  offers a fascinating change of pace.  And, many believe that a trip to the  gravesite of that most famous poker player of them all (despite his violent  death) will bring good luck at the card tables.



Note:   Many of the facts contained in this article were excerpted in part from the many pamphlets and brochures available from Deadwood's Chamber of  Commerce.
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