My family lives very close to Dodge City, Kansas.
Dodge City makes people think of two things; Boot Hill and Wyatt Earp.
Last week I took my visiting family to the Boot Hill and Front Street Museum.
The museum does sit at the base of the original Boot Hill and contains some of the original graves. Probably not the original grave markers though and real cowboy boots aren't sticking out of the ground.
Much of the museum is much like any other....full of old stuff and signs that quickly bored my kids. However, the artifacts are not the main attraction of the Boot Hill Museum.
The main attraction is the living museum and replica of Dodge City's famous Front Street.
There is the Long Branch Saloon where we watched a snake oil salesman trying to sell his "medicine", Prickly Ash Bitters. Yip smelled it but wasn't about to taste it! The show ended with a 'customer' and the salesman running out the swinging doors followed quickly by the sound of a pistol shot. As soon as my boys heard the shot they were out the door looking for a dead body. One lady commented that watching my boys was the best part of the show! This is also where Yahoo, Mom, Melinda Sue and I learned how to do the Can Can.
At about 10:30 the Marshall and his deputy were looking for some help and were having new deputy tryouts. There was the running and hopping on one leg test. Because every deputy has to know how to chase the bad guy hopping in case he gets shot in the leg.
Then there was the moseying test. The deputy up front was an expert and was giving the kids the best tips on how to mosey around town. Moseying is much more important skill for a deputy than you'd think!
Of course the shooting test. Funny, the kids aimed and "shot" the deputy in the background. When he fell down they all ran up to see if he was really dead and because the Marshall hollered, "Kick him to see if he's really dead!", there were five little kids kicking this poor guy in the ribs!
During the summer at noon everyday at Boot Hill there is a shootout...with blank ammunition of course. It all started with two guys busting out of the swinging doors of the saloon carrying on about one of em' cheatin' at cards. Well, there was a bit of a scuffle.
Then Mr. Red Pants ran off and returned with a gun and proceeded to totally miss Mr. Card Cheat who he was aiming at.
Mr. Card Cheat was much steadier with his gun and leveled Mr. Red Pants.
But then Mr. Marshall showed up and Mr. Card Cheat was joined by a couple of his buddies and another gunfight was on!
And all four em' went down! Wouldn't have been much of a gunfight if they hadn't!
There is plenty more to the Dodge Hill Museum than just a gunfight of course.
There is a steam engine outside to climb on, an old school house and blacksmith shop, an old time general store, a place to get a sepia photo taken wearing old fashioned clothes and plenty of artifacts to see.
But the gunfight was the highlight of the day because when you think of Dodge City, you think of rough and rowdy cowboys and gunfights in the streets. And there are some pretty interesting stats on Dodge City of the Old West.
- 1,500,000 buffalo hides were shipped from Dodge City between 1872 and 1878 during the years when the buffalo were nearly brought to extinction.
- The city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried north of the "deadline" which was the railroad tracks (Note: The railroad tracks lay less than two city blocks from the original Front Street.) The south side where "anything went" was wide open. In 1877 the population was 1,200 and nineteen businesses were licensed to sell liquor
- For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexican bullfighters imported from Mexico would put on a show with specially chosen longhorn bulls.
Although the Old West is no longer it's really something to come to Dodge City and see the tracks, the river and the first streets in town and imagine how wild this town once was. Living history is the best way to understand it.