Welcome to Deadwood

I don’t watch tons of TV.
   The vast majority of my time in front of the tube, if looked at in toto over the course of a week, would consist mostly of a combination of Sesame Street and the Koala Brothers, the Disney Channel’s continuing saga of pair of koalas (surprise, surprise) in the outback who are always looking to give their friends a hand.
Other than those two, the only real addiction I have (at least until the final season of “The Sopranos” starts) is “Deadwood,” on HBO.
   If you’ve never seen it before, Deadwood is the story of a town in the Black Hills of South Dakota, before that area was even annexed as a state, just after the Civil War.
   It’s a boom town, fed by the wild rush of miners panning the nearby streams for gold.
   Luckily for many of them, that mineral abounds in the Black Hills, and there is more than enough cashola to spend in the town’s taverns and brothels to make everyone happy.
   Seedy, downright evil folks run Deadwood, preying on the populace and, occasionally, on each other.
The town is dirty and the streets are filthy – as is the vast majority of the dialogue, which could make a longshoreman blush. The genius of the show is, like The Sopranos, it somehow makes you interested in these people, against all odds.
   During a walk around Fairhaven last weekend, I noticed for the first time the historical markers buried at ground level up and down Harris Avenue – and it struck me, after perusing these sometimes shocking bits of local lore – how much Fairhaven, during the 1890s and Deadwood in its gold-rush heyday, probably had in common.
   If you’ve never taken the time to read these markers, they range from the truly strange (Unknown Dead 1901 – Unidentified dead were put on display here in hopes someone could identify them) to the amusing (Counterfeiters’ Hideout, 1905 – Three machinists produced $5 and $10 pieces and passed them at the saloons on the weekends) to the heartbreaking, such as the plaque about the boy cut in half at that spot by a passing trolley.

Some more gems from the district, and from Deadwood:

  • Town Marshal’s Office 1890. Horseback riding Marshal Parker left after 1 year in office for Buenos Aires with the city treasury. See Deadwood, Season 1, for more on crooked sheriffs.

  • Chinese Bunk House 1913 – Several hundred Chinese laborers lived here and worked in the world’s largest salmon cannery. A race war almost ensues in Deadwood when the local Chinese population gets tired of its second-class citizenship.

  • Drowning Pool – Stray dogs drowned here. Even Deadwood didn’t have one of these.

  • Town Pillory 1890 – Used by Judge Curry for men who refused to pay court costs or work on the chain gangs. Ouch. I’d take a little chain gang any day.

Try www.historicfairhaven.us for more information on the walking tour that can fill you in on all these little tidbits of the seedier side of Fairhaven’s past … and don’t blame me if it gets you hooked on Deadwood!


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