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Published: January 28th 2009
I get maybe two hours sleep on the train shifting positions every five minutes. As we pull in to Dodge City station we get chatting with a woman who is also alighting. She seems concerned when we tell her no one is meeting us and offers us a lift with her husband in there massive truck. It is a good job we met here as the station is deserted and it was a long way out to the other side of town and the Thunderbird Motel where we had reservations.
We were greeted by a tired and bedraggled Thai woman in a grubby, blue, paint stained hoody. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and asked if we wanted to go straight to bed and check in later. This sounded like a good option. The motel was another one straight out of the moves. All on one level it's rooms surrounded a dusty courtyard where several hunters trucks were parked with traps in the back. It was as cold inside our room as it was out. I took all the covers off the spare bed and put them on ours, turned the heater on to full bast and we lay, clinging to each other, fully clothed under ten blankets, shivering in the cold. It was six am when we arrived and it took us while to fall asleep.
I wake up around midday and we watch The Insider on TV lying in bed, still tired and a little hungry but unwilling to move from the now warm and cosy room. The room had two sagging double beds, a big old TV, a fridge fit for the knacker's yard and an antique Microwave. All electrical appliances were plugged into a multi plug adapter and then into the wall. The carpet was thick , brown and matted. I dread to think of what lurked in its deep pile fibres. The bathroom area was divided off by a shoulder high, slatted wooded wall. A door led to the toilet and shower that were both sufficiently clean.
After the movie, which lasted over three hours due to adverts every ten minutes, I wandered out to find some food. There was no pavement so I walked along the yellowish brown, dry grass verge past Hotel, motel, fast food joint, petrol station, drive in restaurant and garage. There was McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Subway, Taco Bells, Taco Tico's, Thai Buffet, Mexican Burrito and other fast food places but I was looking for something a little more nourishing. I walked ten blocks and gave up. I wandered into a petrol station in the hope of finding some sandwiches but no luck. There was plenty of beef jerky, potato chips, ready made beef tacos, doughnuts, coke and other junk but not much that I would consider eating. I bought a couple of fruit juices and cereal bars. The checkout girl asked me 'Where you from?'
'London, England' I replied.
I laughed and wandered back to the motel to order Pizza.
We watched a couple of Westerns 'The outlaw Jose Wales' and 'Tombstone' which was all about Wyatt Earp, a very apt movie for Dodge City. We fell asleep a little after midnight.
Next morning we wandered over to the Motel office. The Wi-fi wasn't working in our room and we needed to book our next hotel in Albuquerque. We got chatting to the Thai woman who had greeted us the previous morning it turns out she had escaped from Laos in the early eighties walking for seven nights with four children, the youngest was only a baby. During the day they hid fearing for their lives should they be discovered. She got to Thailand and flew to America where she became a refugee. She worked in a motel and eventually saved enough money to open one of her own in Dodge followed by a restaurant and a second motel. She has now sold all but the Thunderbird Motel and has invested the money in the stock market. Unfortunately her investment has lost fifty percent of it's value in the credit crisis but she is going to sit tight and has even bought some more stock not that prices are low in the hope of better times. She sends money back frequently to her family in Laos and has helped them set up businesses, buying them trucks and bikes. She has remarried an American who helps run the Motel. She refers to him as 'My Honey'. They were a delightful couple, friendly and very helpful.
Her 'Honey' gave us a lift to the Boot Hill Museum as they said it was too far to walk, it was no such thing but we accepted the kind offer. The seven dollar entrance fee to Boot Hill Museum is worth every cent. Although it starts with a cheesey thirteen minute introductory film it soon improves when you walk up Boot Hill to what looks like a small hut but is deceptively large inside. The exhibition starts pre Dodge City with the Native Americans their dress, spiritual beliefs and customs. It real struck me how in harmony the Native Americans were, only killing what they needed and using every part of the kill for tools, clothing, shelter, weapons and food. They had a low impact on the environment and respected the earth as source of life and equal to themselves. There is also a section on Tipi etiquette and how the Native American way of life was transformed when a Spaniard bought a heard of three hundred horses up from Mexico. It was the Native Americans who found the Santa Fe trail that the white man then used to transport goods. Fort Dodge was built to protect traders on the trail from Native Americans who would raid wagons and steal their goods. Eventually the US government virtually wiped out all the buffalo that the Native Americans depended on in order to defeat them and force them onto reservations. Buffalo hunters came from miles around and earn good money which they then spent on gambling, drink and women in the now flourishing but wild and dangerous town of Dodge. When the buffalo had gone cowboys started to arrive in Dodge having driven cattle across the trail. This was Dodge City at it's most wild and dangerous with gun fights, bar brawls and killings. Enter Wyatt Earp who with the help of his brothers and Doc Holiday cleaned up the town making it a safer place. There was a reconstructed street with Saloon Bar, School and Jail and in summer time they reenact gun fights and there are dancing girls in the bar.
We wander back to the Motel after a throughly enjoyable afternoon. We buy hot chocolate, cheeses and bean burritos and some fruit from a petrol station on the way. There is a beautiful sun set across the flat landscape. Dodge City provided me with a experience of America that I really craved. It's an old town in the middle of nowhere with nothing much happening. It's a friendly town where people tend to stay and although I could not see myself living there I did enjoy the couple of days I spent in Dodge.
Our train was due at six in the morning the taxi was due at five twenty. I brushed my teeth in a daze listening to the radio. 'Your listening to Super Hits K95 playing only the best music from the past' the presenter announced before playing Rod Stewart's 'Young Turks'
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