Thursday, August 27, 2009
Vacation Part 5
Today we drove over to Virginia City (Montana), which is a restored western town located about 55 miles from where we are camping. Virginia City’s history is quintessential Wild West -- founded from a gold mine, with plenty of outlaws and vigilante violence. We took a 35-minute tour on an old fire truck, which gave us the opportunity to get a great overview of the town’s layout and history. We learned that gold was selling at $16 per ounce in the 1860s and that the Chinese laundry owners would sift the used wash water for gold dust after they had washed the miners clothes.
After the fire truck tour, we walked the boardwalks of Main Street, which is still the only paved road in town; if you don’t live on Main Street, you live on a dirt road in Virginia City (your street has a name and a modern street sign – but it ain’t paved). The old stores all have false fronts, which I learned was a way to make a town look bigger to outsiders.
The local outlaws were called “Road Agents” and there were 100 murders in Virginia City the very first winter of the town’s existence. Eventually, the local Masonic Lodge members took it upon themselves to rid the town of the road agents, and 22 road agents were hanged in one year, five of them in one day. Most of the outlaws were buried above the town, on Boot Hill – so named because these men were buried with their boots on.
The town museum has a preserved club foot from one of those road agents.
Of course, we had to go see it.
While in Virginia City, we had our “old time” photograph taken, and we are now the proud owners of a portrait of the four of us as a Wild West, gun-slingin’ family. (Yes, Hank is in the photo, but, absent opposable thumbs, he is not holding a gun.)
We got back to our camper around 5:30 p.m. Turns out we didn’t miss anything on the lake – because, although sunny, the day was too cool and breezy to do much swimming. (And it’s August, for Pete’s sake!) Tomorrow is our last full day here, so we hope for hot sunshine and a calm day!