Visiting one of the iconic town of America’s “Wild West”
Having been bought up on classic Western films starring great iconic actors such as John Wayne, Patrick Widmark, Henry Fonda and alike, I have always wanted to visit some of the towns synonymous with these movies. So, as we journeyed through Kansas the opportunity to visit Dodge City was too good to miss. To get in the mood for this adventure we, well mainly me, binge watched several of the old Western movies that we picked up cheaply on DVD at Walmart stores and that were running on the classic movie channels on TV.
Dodge City was a true frontier town and was the end of the cattle trails from Texas, such as the famous Chisum trail. The herds were driven this far and from here distributed across the western territories. With these cowboys arriving in Dodge after a long hard ride they were up for a good time – and this often ended up with trouble. Dodge City ended up having a reputation for lawlessness – and to sort this problem out some tough US Marshals were put in place. Names of these Marshals, such a Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson have passed down into folklore. Eventually, the railroad arrived in Dodge City and the long cattle drives stopped and soon Dodge City became a civilized town. Today the cattle industry is still significant in Dodge City and there are some large meat processing plants scattered around the town, but the cattle for these come from more local sources.
The Boot Hill Museum has been built on the original site of the famous grave yard. They have also constructed a replica of the original the Front Street. We arrived at the museum early and it was like a ghost town. After a short orientation movie we set out to explore.
The museum exhibits are fascinating and there are some fantastic artifacts and photographs from the period (around the 1850’s to 1880’s). There were profiles of the good and bad characters from Dodge City’s past. We then took a brief trip outside and look around the Boot Hill cemetery, which is on the original site but is marked with none too authentic grave markers. Amusing but it does not add anything to the experience! Next we headed off to Front Street, which is continuation of the museum. We visited the general store and had a chat with some of the “locals” and then hit the saloon where one of the costumed staff is teaching a special ed member of staff the guitar. The young man gave us a rendition of “Twinkle twinkle little star”, for which we thanked him with rapturous applause. The look of pride on his face was heart warming. We then knocked back our sarsaparillas before heading off into the sunset.
Overall, the museum is a bit tacky, but if you love Westerns and stories of the wild west then it is worth dropping in for an hour or two. Although, the wild west is a distant memory Dodge City itself has not exactly pulled itself completely away from its turbulent past. The night before visiting Boot Hill we got talking to a couple of police officers who specifically work to control the illegal activities of the gangs who still haunt the city today, although much of their influence has diminished of late. So, I would suggest visiting the Boot Hill museum in passing and then getting the hell out of Dodge!