The Wild West Is Still Alive and Kicking ; Cowboys, Native Americans, Rodeos, and Gunfights. Roly SmiTh Finds a Stay in the Rocky Mountain Region Can Be like a Real-Life Western

By SmiTh, Roly | Manchester Evening News, October 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

The Wild West Is Still Alive and Kicking ; Cowboys, Native Americans, Rodeos, and Gunfights. Roly SmiTh Finds a Stay in the Rocky Mountain Region Can Be like a Real-Life Western


SmiTh, Roly, Manchester Evening News


iF you thought the Wild West was dead and relegated to weekend B movies on TV, a visit to Deadwood, Cody or Custer in the foothills of the American Rockies will soon change your mind.

There's a noisy, full-scale gunfight every night outside Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel in Cody, Wyoming, as well as a nightly rodeo just down the road at Stampede Park. While in Saloon No 10 in Deadwood's Social Club, Wild Bill Hickok meets his violent death at the hands of buffalo hunter Jack McCall every evening, just as he actually did in 1876.

The states of Idaho, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming are now being jointly marketed as Rocky Mountain International, and a recent visit to those states showed that the frontier days of cowboys and Indians is very much alive and, quite literally at the rodeo, still kicking.

I started in Rapid City, South Dakota, which is perhaps best known as the gateway to the impressive Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

Here Italian sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, took 14 years to carve the 60-foot faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln out of the native hard grey Black Hills granite.

I escaped the milling crowds around the overlypatriotic memorial avenue of state flags and took the easy Presidential Trail, which does a half-mile loop around the base of the mountain, giving close- up views of the presidential visages.

Only half an hour away from Mt Rushmore is the much more impressive Crazy Horse Memorial, featuring Lt. Col. George Custer's Oglala Sioux opponent at the momentous Battle of the Little Bighorn. When completed, the mounted and pointing 500ft high figure of Crazy Horse will be the world's largest mountain carving but so far, only his noble face is complete.

But as my guide Pat Dobbs explained, the Crazy Horse monument, which was started by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski in 1948, has had no state or governmental assistance, and is being paid for purely by donations.

Pat took us on a dizzying climb up to Crazy Horse's face and out onto what will be his outstretched arm, pointing out across the sacred lands of his beloved Black Hills.

Maybe Crazy Horse was indicating the site of the fateful battle at Little Bighorn in June, 1876, which, although hailed as an outstanding victory for the Native Americans, ironically heralded the end of their nomadic way of life.

Our guide to the Montana national battlefield was a Crow Indian lady who gave us a remarkably balanced view of the two-day battle which took place across a five-mile grassy ridge, known to the natives as Greasy Grass Ridge.

More than 260 soldiers, including members of Custer's much- vaunted 7th Cavalry, died in the battle as they faced several- thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors, who had been camped in the valley of the Little Bighorn River below.

Central to the Native American way of life was, of course, the buffalo, more correctly known as the American bison. It's a wellknown fact that it was as much the demise of the bison, which once roamed the endless prairies of the west in their tens of millions, as the steady advance of eastern 'civilisation', which ended the natives' way of life. …

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