What relevance does the past have to us today? Is there meaning hidden in the stories that have stood the test of time? What can we learn by exploring our history? These are some of the questions that have stuck out in my mind throughout my travels. Consequently, much of my path has revolved around finding interesting parts of America’s story.
In an attempt to flesh out my understanding of how and why we are where we are today, I have continually found knowledge by visiting the areas where these stories originated. This days quest brought me to Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood South Dakota where the journey became strangely personal and pushed me to contemplate the meaning of my own story.
Deadwood South Dakota, a small tourist town in the Black Hills, exists today specifically because of our want to connect with our history. Once a gold mining town on the edge of the wild west, it harbors a significant place in the annuls of American History as the mining hub that fostered the gold rush of the Black Hills, and in consequence, partially represents the push of the Sioux Tribe of American Indians out of the land they cherished as sacred and enriching the colonial aspirations of the United States.
Drawing in dreamers and outlaws alike, all searching to strike their fortune, it soon became your quintessential Old West town, complete with the crime that inevitably brought. One vagabond that was drawn to this was none other the Wild Bill Hickock.
At the beginning of my voyage, at Wooloroc Museum in Oklahoma, I came upon a portrait of Wild Bill. Ever since, I have jokingly told a tale about how I will one day invent a time machine and go back to become him because of how similar we look. This has interestingly fueled a quest to find areas in time that he may have been at some point.
I had known that Bill had died in Deadwood, having been shot during a poker game, and had spent time in the local tourist traps watching reenactments of that fateful day. Jokingly making comments about how I was watching people act out the future ending of my life, I felt an urge to see if I could dig into his story a little deeper. However I didn’t expect to find myself sitting in front of his grave, contemplating the meaning of life, of purpose, and of legacy.
This brought me to the local cemetery and final resting place of Bill, Mount Moriah. The cemetery (in and of itself) is a beautiful property on top of a hill, overlooking Deadwood with the Black Hills stretching out into the horizon. Hours could be spent walking throughout, imagining fantastical tales of its (mostly 19th Century) inhabitants. I was here for Bill though, who has a special area dedicated to him and his friend (as well as supposed lover) Calamity Jane.
Sitting in front of his bust, I found myself deep in though about what it takes to make an impact on history, to be remembered. Bill was a celebrity of his time, the fastest gun in the west, but other than clean up the town of Abilene Kansas as Sheriff, he really didn’t do too much. He died a poor, gambling, alcoholic after having tasted fame. How appropriate that that part of the tale is so similar to many of todays celebrities. But what he did do is leave behind a story that had touched many people. That story continued to grow throughout time and is now a part of our history, of our culture.
I sat for a great while pondering on this thought, as well as contemplating my story. What will I leave behind? Will I be forgotten? It seemed for a moment as if these thoughts plagued my entire being.
Does it even matter?
In the end I decided it didn’t really, unless there was some eternal sense of ego that needed to be fulfilled. What really was important, I thought, was to have a sense of purpose, which in turn, leads to a sense of meaning. That in itself turns into our story and whether or not that story becomes important in the grand scheme of the world, it remains ours. We own it outright and fully and I don’t think there is anything else we can truly say that about.
Closest Supercharger Spearfish SD 18.4 mi
3275 Old Belle Rd, Spearfish, SD 57783
Mt Moriah Cemetery
10 Mt Moriah Dr, Deadwood, SD 57732