pages fly away 64

Dodge City grew up around Fort Dodge on the Kansas frontier and became a boom town in the 1870s when the Great Western Cattle Trail started running through it.  For a few years it may have been the wildest town in the West, full of gunfighters, gamblers, saloons, and brothels.  Famous figures who once roamed the streets include Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Doc Holiday.  It was the setting for the popular TV Western Gunsmoke, although the filming was actually done in Utah. 

It was late in the afternoon by the time I pulled up adjacent to the Boot Hill Museum.  There was free parking and the façade of an Old West town.  At the first intersection I came to there was a statue of Wyatt Earp, an opportunist who drifted from boom town to boom town with his brothers, both a lawman, gunfighter, prospector, possible brothel owner, and even boxing referee.  Like many legends of the Old West, he was a storyteller and mythmaker, and it is sometimes hard to know where the truth lies when it comes to the many adventures and deeds attributed to him.

There were supposed to be gunfight reenactments and can-can dancers, but I was arriving late in the season as well as the day.  There was a statue of a longhorn and one of Marshall Dillon from Gunsmoke.  By the time I got to the museum, they were getting ready to close.  I didn’t beg to be let in, but the attendant took mercy on me and let me run up to Boot Hill.  I passed a rack of law badges at the door and made my way past a replica pioneer town with a wooden boardwalk. 

The cemetery had been on the highest hill in town and only used for about seven years.  There was a poem written from the perspective of the unsung dead, urging passing travelers not to cry for them.  Some of the causes of death included shooting, hanging, scalping, and freezing.

After leaving the Museum, I passed The Western Hotel, then the Gunfighters Wax Museum.  They too were closed, so I missed out on the chance to see Davy Crockett, Calamity Jane, Frank and Jessie James, General Custer, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the Dalton Brothers, Belle Star, Bat Masterson, Sitting Bull, Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin, Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickock, really almost the entire Old West Gang, most of them only famous for killing people.

As I was leaving, I passed an old locomotive and statue of Doc Holliday, sitting at a table covered with money, cards, and alcohol, reaching for his pistol.  He’d been a dentist with a bad temper and a drinking problem, and now sat there, inexplicably, a hero to many.

I’d passed a hotel on the way into town, advertising rooms for twenty-nine dollars.  That seemed too good to be true, and it was, but I got one for forty.  The woman who owned the place had been a refugee from Vietnam who’d worked at a meat packing plant for twenty-four years before buying the hotel.  Room 24 in the back was large, with pictures of white-tailed deer on the walls.

There was a Chinese restaurant with a buffet that I ate dinner at.  So far, I’d bought most of my food from gas stations so the whole night felt like a luxury.  At the next table, the group of young people were talking about a real-life outlaw they all knew who was back in prison again.  Would he get a statue on Main Street?  That was doubtful.  Maybe if he started rapping about his criminal lifestyle.  Then there was a chance.

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