Over-the-Rhine in Downtown Cincinnati, OH, has a long, rich, and often muddy history, a past of immigration, of social change and social distortion, of rises and falls and culture clashes and cultural reconciliation.
It’s here amid the brick and mortar that Cincinnati’s personality, a pasticcio of young and vintage, of Old World and New, of music and art and passion and violence and destitution and wealth, and of black and white and everything in between, really begins to shine.
There’s no away to hide the dramatic backdrop that struts jaggedly behind the row of modest homesteads on Mormon Row. The Tetons are hulking and intimidating in their firm embrace of this open country, and the old barns and homes seem to hug to the shadows in an attempt to ward off the notorious Wyoming winters.
It’s quiet now, except for the bustle of photographers that come just as the sun rises or as the storms sets in. The images of these historic sites are so ubiquitous that we all fight tooth and nail for the one photograph no one has ever managed to capture, the piece that will pull us out of the pack.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were 27 homesteads here, complete with barns, drainage systems, barns and corrals, a tight-knit community called Grovont.
The Moulton barns are the most popular, built by John and TA Moulton on today’s Antelope Flats Road, just north of Jackson.
They lived and farmed here as late as the 1950s, and water still flows in some of their irrigation ditches.
The entire district was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. Jonmikel and I have lived in the area for years and go to Jackson many times a year, and this summer was the first time we wandered down into Antelope Flats. Not sure why it took us so long to see one of the most recognizable cultural sites in North America.
Gold was discovered in these hill in 1874, a legacy of the ill-fated Custer. The rush to get rich overtook the territory, turning what was supposed to be the last safe haven for the free-roaming tribes of the West into a White Man’s playground.
The Homestake Mining Company built the first railroad in 1879, and from then on the Black Hills were a Cat’s Cradle of rail scars and the pockmarks of mines.
The Burlington and Quincy Railroad built this path and its cars in 1880, and the rail has since brought a barrage of miners, investors and — now — bright eyed tourists to the wilderness between Hill City and Keystone, South Dakota.
Today, the 1880 Railroad rattles along the ties that bring together history and kitsch, the past and the ineffable present, Hill City — a town of wineries and roughnecks — and Keystone, the town that will always represent the arrogance of the American government as they carved faces of white leaders into land that was supposed to belong to Indians.
But the ride is quiet, lumbering, pleasant. It passes through fields and farms, idling by homesteaders and cabins that have seen better times in the last 100 years. There are followers — local train enthusiasts, our conductor assures — one man with a beard down to his navel on a Harley and a young ferroequinologist, a yuppy in an SUV. They race after us, SLRs in hand, sometimes meeting us at a crossing and at other times just missing us in a fog of whistles and steam and trailing gravel from the tracks. Just to see the train in action.
We arrive in Keystone and find a quiet place to sit and drink, watching the costumed employees flounce around for the tourist groupies. We discovered early on that the walking tour of Historic Downtown Keystone would be more exciting if it were of the open, empty prairies of Wyoming, so we settle in and wait for our next train.
… we begin our Black Hills Road Trip with a historical venture into Buffalo, Wyoming, home of the Occidental Hotel and Saloon.
As True West’s “Best Hotel in the West” and one of the hotels that National Geographic Traveler loves to gush about, the 1880 Occidental has quite the seedy and wildly seedy reputation. It has been host to some of the most famous names of the Wild West: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stopped by from time to time on their way to Hole in the Wall; Calamity Jane passed through while pursuing in vain the notorious Wild Bill Hickok; and Buffalo Bill Cody called the hotel home when passing through town. Even Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway were rumored to tell wild stories of hunting, drinking and other adventures in the building’s romantic parlor.
As history slowly faded into the shadows of the Great Depression and the modernization of the late 20th Century, plans to demolish the building nearly became reality.
But in 1997, saviors Dawn and John Wexo bought the dying hotel and embarked on a 10-year restoration project to return the Occidental to its former glory and reclaim the history of Buffalo, WY.
Today, visitors can stay in the charming rooms that sit above the bar and restaurant, take in live bluegrass music (that happens every Thursday night!) in the Occidental Saloon, and share a romantic dinner among the Bordello tassels and tin ceilings of the building’s original vaults, a private getaway in the Wild West.
Through the burned brush, desiccated stretches of tropical desert and lava fields that threatened to break through the soles of our shoes, the cacti and gnarled trunks opened up onto a plain of red rock, endlessly smooth from the constant winds of the Pacific. Covering the stone field are etched imprints of a culture suppressed by modern amenities, petroglyphs from a record of life forgotten. People, warriors, families, children, animals and lines, all forming stick-figure masses of unknown meaning and unknown age.
The Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve can be accessed through the gates of the Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii. They keep it difficult to find and difficult to get to on purpose, hoping that through lack of effort, people will not take the time to locate the remnants of ancient Hawaii. It is the irony of archaeology that to enjoy and learn about archaeological sites is to ultimately, slowly or in one fell swoop, destroy them.
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