Trip Date: July 18, 2013
DAY 9: DODGE CITY
Our trip home across the prairies was dogged by smells. We were grateful there was no feedlot near our hotel in Dodge City, but the adjacent IHOP where we had breakfast had its own aroma, which Wendy said was like a dirty diaper with soap. At least there was soap in there somewhere.
I took Wendy to the Boot Hill Museum, a recreation of Front Street from 1876 complete with its own version of the Long Branch Saloon, renowned from the tales of Wyatt Earp and television’s long-running Gunsmoke. The museum started in 1947 as project of the Dodge City Jaycees and has steadily improved, with a large collection of artifacts and displays.
We walked through the line of buildings, with Wendy liking the saloon gal, piano player, and big-mustachioed bartender at the Long Branch. Years ago I ordered a sarsaparilla at their bar, and thankfully was not mocked, but this time we moseyed on through, browsing past the artifacts from Dodge City’s past. We liked the Hardesty House the best, a genuine 1878 Victorian cattleman’s home which transported one back to that era.
Then we waited out front for the noon gunfight, staged in front of the Long Branch Saloon with real guns loaded with blanks. Wendy and I enjoyed this all the more since we recently watched Tombstone, the mixed-accuracy portrayal of the famous gunfight in Arizona between outlaw Cowboys and the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. That incident was in 1881, a few years after Wyatt Earp had been an assistant marshall in Dodge City; he would return to Dodge in 1883 for the bloodless Dodge City War. Wendy thought Kurt Russell’s appearance in the movie was a good match for the pictures of the real Wyatt Earp we saw in Dodge.
In reality, there was a gunfight inside the Long Branch Saloon on April 5, 1879 when Frank Loving killed fellow gambler Levi Richardson. In the mock version, a group of Cowboys, complete with red sashes, outside of the saloon, refused to obey orders to disarm from the marshall and his deputies, with violent results.
After the gunfight we walked over to Boot Hill and went through the People of the Plains exhibits in the original museum building, where Wendy liked the life-size stuffed longhorn and buffalo.
The wind can be your friend or your enemy out there, depending on if you are upwind or downwind of a feedlot. We saw many modern wind turbines, especially outside of Spearville, which boasts 67 GE Energy 1.5 MW wind turbines and is the third largest wind farm in the state.
We ate at a Jose Peppers in Wichita, with me having my usual beef fajitas while Wendy enjoyed “Poco Pollo” – three chicken burrito pillows covered in jalapeño cream cheese, melted Colby Jack, and pico de gallo. She loved it, along with their Spanish rice and masa.
It was good to finally reach Bartlesville, over 800 miles east of Mesa Verde. Wendy was a splendid partner on the trip, helping with logistics, photos, and the blog posts. And I’m thrilled to note that we did not turn on a television even once; our vacation was far too interesting for that vast wasteland. The West has much to offer and I am certain future summers will find us in fun cities like Santa Fe and Durango, as well as rural places far from the madding crowd.