Monday, August 22, 2005

Mt. Moriah

It isn’t a complete trip if I don’t visit at least one cemetery. That’s what was missing during our stay in central Florida earlier this year, so I decided I wanted to see a really famous one on this trip—none other than Boot Hill in Deadwood, SD, more formally known as Mt. Moriah, a municipal cemetery.

Speaking of revisionism (see yesterday, about Custer), I saw about half an hour of Deadwood in a hotel room last year, a cable series famous for its blistering profanity. Just about every sentence by every character contained some. No doubt there was a good deal of swearing in the real Deadwood of 1876, more than in old Western movies or network TV Westerns, though no aural record exists, and written records are going to be vague on that point. But I suspect there wasn’t as much profanity in real life as on cable TV. The producers of Deadwood make it that way because they can. We want to make a gritty Western! None of this mealy-mouthed oater stuff for us.

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Consider the dialogue of the first half of Full Metal Jacket, set on Parris Island. Every foul word of that rang true, though I’ve never actually heard a Marine drill sergeant.

However they talked in life, the residents of Mt. Moriah are quiet now. Yet they attract a steady trickle of visitors. There’s even an admission charge, a rarity for a cemetery. But it was a reasonable $1, so I paid up and headed up the hill, for indeed Boot Hill is a hill. A lovely wooded hill, covered in pine, dotted with stones of all sorts, from nearly worn-away to large, handsome, newish monuments. A light mist was falling, and it was fairly cold for the third of August, about 55° F. I think.

Wild Bill Hickok came to Deadwood in the summer of ’76, died famously, and now reposes at Mt. Moriah. In recent decades, admirers erected a bronze bust to mark his grave, which is surrounded by an iron fence. Calamity Jane rests behind the fence as well, reportedly by her own request nearly 30 years after Wild Bill was stashed away.

I wonder how these two have maintained their fame after all these years. Custer died fighting Indians—formerly considered an admirable pursuit, now an ignominious one. But Wild Bill and Calamity? Memorable nicknames, I guess.

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At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Harold Ross was supposed to have said that the only persons that you could assume that everyone had heard of were Julius Caesar and Harry Houdini. ANK

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How in the world did you manage to see all these attractions in one trip (with 2 kids)? No parking in the beach chairs for you guys. I had never had the slightest interest in seeing Mt. Rushmore until you described it. MT


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