Dead Man’s Hand

24 July 2008

Dead Man’s Hand

Deadwood was my choice of spot on the map. I've been fascinated by the prospect of seeing Deadwood since watching the HBO series. If you've not seen the show and won't mind too much the violence and bad language, it's nothing short of a masterpiece of writing, acting and photography.

The real-life Deadwood today is a little bit different. There may be gunfights on Main Street four times a day but there is little in the way of bloodshed. Deadwood has survived fires and floods since its earliest days as a mining camp but it was economic decline after the second World War that almost forced its slow, painful death.

Instead of allowing their town to lie bleeding in the dirt, Deadwood’s residents played their eights and aces dead man’s hand and brought limited gambling back to the town.

I say limited, limited I said, because most of Deadwood’s Main Street shops have made way for casinos, bars and souvenir gift shops that sell everything from tacky but wonderful fifties Americana to replica six-shooters and sheriff’s badges. I couldn’t resist picking up a lovely model pickup truck, the kind that we saw rusting in yards and fields all through Wyoming, plus a Marshal Of Deadwood badge for my friend Steve who was very jealous that we would be walking the streets of Deadwood.

Rather than figure out what to see in Deadwood for ourselves, we paid a few dollars and hopped onto one of Kevin Costner‘s Original Deadwood Organised Bus Tours. Kevin wasn’t driving the bus as he was too busy cooking lunches in Diamond Lil’s, but the tour guide was one of the funniest I have ever heard. His commentary was a constant stream of one-liners and the cost of the fare was worth it just for this and for access to the cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.

Horse Hoarse from laughing, we hopped off our saddles tour bus and with a fistful of dollars 20% off discount vouchers in our dead man’s hands we sat down in Diamond Lil’s for one of Kevin Costner’s best Dances With Wolves buffalo burgers (mine with spicy fries). Kevin didn’t put in an appearance but he does own the joint and its walls are lined with photos and costumes from his movies.

I’d forgotten about some of Costner’s movies, Field Of Dreams always makes me weep buckets as it reminds me of my father, and some including Waterworld are best forgotten. But he has starred in some great movies and Costner himself has to be commended in his part in regenerating Deadwood. Sure, some of its parts are tacky, but it’s great to see that the town is taking its renewal and conservation so seriously.

I’m sure that Seth Bullock, Al Swearengen and Ian McShane would be proud.

By Andy Clarke

Your messages

  • Steve Jebson
  • July 24th 2008


One of the very few times where shouting in an email is THE most appropriate thing to do.

  • Steve Jebson
  • July 24th 2008

... of course I was shouting because i’m sooooo excited ;-)

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