Labor Day weekend Stephen came to visit me (YAY!). We got a late start on saturday because his flight came in an hour later than he was supposed too. I showed him around the town, hiked up capital hill. On our way to Dillon to see the rodeo we stopped at a pizza joint in Basin, The Leaning Tower of Pizza. The had pretty good pizza (much better than the one in boulder) and you could put anything from buffalo meat to pepperjack cheese on them.
We drove to Bannack, a ghost town by Dillon, and Montana’s first capital. The town is quite small for a capital, having only 30 buildings, but is pretty well preserved. We couldn’t go into some on the more well preserved homes because they only open them during tours, but we were free to wonder around.
Walking down the streets of Bannack we first came across the Hotel Meade. Originally the building started out as the county courthouse for Beaverhead County. Shortly after the mine dried up, the nearby town of Dillion who had a fancy new railroad station, petitioned successfully to have the county seat moved to Dillion. The building was than turned into the Meade Hotel. This hotel housed the various travelers who came and went as the mines opened and closed.
Next we went to visit the Gallows. I have to admit I was expecting something with a platform and a drop floor, but it was quite low tech. However I find kicking the stump out from underneath the criminal not as dramatic.
Nearby the gallows was Bachelor Lane. This small compact area of ramshack houses were built by miners who came to Bannack. In the summer when most of them arrived, they didn’t bother with housing and slept off their hangovers outside. However when things started to get cold they would throw together these houses to stay warm.
We came across a station where you could pan for gold. Stephen and I decided to try it. At first it didn’t make sense. You practically poured out all of the gravel into the water. However since gold is much denser than water, even a tiny spec of it will stay in your pan while you let everything else float out of your pan. Our teacher was fairly good at it, getting three specs in just a few minutes. It took Stephen and I a bit longer to get one.
Last we walked by the school and mason’s lodge. Unfortunately the lodge was locked so you couldn’t check out the old globes they had. They had a chalkboard with rules that a school teacher had to follow. Sadly teachers could not loiter in ice cream parlors.
After Bannack we went to the Dillion Rodeo. Having never been to a rodeo I did not know what to expect. I did not anticipate the amount of beer that would be consumed in my vicinity, or the endless trips to pick up more beer. The first act we saw was a race to see which team could get their wild horse saddled with a rider the quickest. We watched men physically wrestle these young horses into submission and hop on, holding on for life. A few horses got away and pranced around the arena as if to taunt the cowboys. Next we we watched what looked like calf tackling. The calfs would have a running start, while a cowboy would ride along side the calf, lean over to grab it around the neck, and slide off the horse to use their momentum to turn the calf on it’s side. We later watched as two cowboys tried to rope the calfs by their feet and head respectively, but no one was able to achieve this feat. One of the funniest tasks was a milk race. After roping the milk cow around the head, the second cowboy runs over and holds it still. Than the original cowboy runs over and milks the cow. One team accidently dropped their milk bottle near the start line so the cowboy had to run first to get the bottle and back before he could begin milking the cow. Meanwhile his poor partner struggled to keep the cow still as she fought to be free.
The wildest events by far were the bronco and bull riding. For those who don’t know what that is they tie up the male’s parts. And on this horse or bull. a cowboy rides bareback, with only a rope to hold on to, while the horse or bull bucks wildly. I could see why this would be a useful skill on a horse, for when they had to break a wild horse in, but on the bull i’m sure started as a stupid dare between guys. One of the horses bucked so wildly that shortly after he knocked his rider off, he fell on his back. During the bulls one rider got knocked off on the ground. Before he could get up the bull ripped his vest off with his horns and stepped on the cowboy’s back. The bull also clipped one of the rodeo clowns in the face with his horns. Luckily everyone was alright, but I was not too impressed by the stupidity of this tradition.
I’m sorry I don’t have many pictures of the rodeo, but my camera does not have much of a zoom, and the sun was going down so that also made it hard to get pictures.
Shortly after leaving the freezing arena (I think the temp dropped to about 45 that night) I of course step on a nail. Random nail, middle of the street in the suburbs, and of course I have to step on it. Stephen and I spent about an hour in the emergency room to get it cleaned and get a tetnus shot. I felt really silly when the rodeo clown from earlier showed up to get medical attention.
So the nail in the foot kinda ruined my plans for hiking. After another late morning we went to the Gate to the Mountains Tour. It’s namesake was given by Lewis and Clark through their travels, they came across this river that flowed through the mountains. At one point in the river the mountains open up to a view of the river. The mountains were quite unique in their formation. Because of the soft limestone many of the peaks became bent in curves, and the rain has created many caves in the soft limestone. We also came across the site of the Mann Gulch Fire, famous for the death of 12 firefighters back in the 40’s. Normally they would allow the passengers on the tour to take a picnic during the tour, but the site had been washed out by all the floods.