Day 15: Billings, Montana to Deadwood; Over 5000 Trip Miles; Searching for Omens; Aces and Eights; Dropped Bike – Igor to the Rescue; My Evening on the Bench with Nancy, a Person Who is Homeless.


When I woke up yesterday I wasn’t exactly sure where I was heading. Then I remembered that when I was in Mahoneys Irish Bar in Butte they had a strange framed picture on the wall. It contained five playing cards, a hole card (not turned over) a pair of Aces and a pair of Eights – known as the Dead Man’s Hand. You probably have heard the story but it’s the hand Wild Bill Hickok was holding when he was shot in the back in the Number 10 Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. So, I thought, why not go to Deadwood?
As you can expect, I didn’t take the straightest route here but I arrived, almost safely, at my lodging, which was a magnificent bed and breakfast called the 1899 Inn. I say ‘almost safely’ because the house was on a hill and despite successfully parking the bike it fell over when I was taking my luggage off. Poor Big Red~! It was painful just looking at her. Now, remember that Big Red weighs over 700 pounds. Despite trying, and I have managed it before but not at this angle, she would hardly budge. I looked around. Don’t worry, someone will come along to help, I said to myself. I was getting ready to walk into the inn when a young woman came out and said: “You’re not the first one and you won’t be the last.” She introduced herself as the proprietor of the Inn. “I’ve got someone coming to help.”
A few moments later a really strong looking blond haired young man came across the street. “This is Igor.” She said. “He’s from Russia.” Igor looked at the bike, bending his head to examine the bike from different angles. I was just about to start the “how bout you grab her here, and I’ll grab her there and we’ll…” when he leaned over and lifted her back onto her kick stand, without any help from me. Thank you Igor! I started Big Red up, angled her better and parked her again. And don’t you worry she was just fine. Her safety bars protected her.
Later, I walked the half mile down to Deadwood and after looking at all the bars, stores and casinos, I settled on revisiting Number 10. I say ‘revisiting’ because I was here in Deadwood once before, three years ago. See: https://2cyclepaths.com/2014/05/22/day-8-freezing-in-the-black-hills-of-south-dakota-microbrewery-custer-big-red-tao-deadwood-cadillac-jacks-casino-number-10-saloon-old-havana-cigar-bar-and-surprise/
The sawdust was on the floor as I remembered it and up near the ceiling was the chair Wild Bill was in when he was shot. I had a pint of Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils and watched what was happening. The band was setting up and I decided to call my daughter for a chat. While I was talking to her an older (about 80 years old), somewhat bedraggled, woman walked in and looked around. I told my daughter about her and said: “I’ll probably end up talking with her.”
The music started, the woman disappeared and some woman named Wendy asked me to dance. It was “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” so how could I resist? After a while, I went outside and sat on a bench and watched the people going by. A few minutes later Nancy, the older woman, came and sat next to me and we began to talk. And talk. For over an hour. It was one of the most rewarding conversations I’ve had on this trip. I learned all about her life. No kids, two marriages, came from Winston Salem, NC. Liked living here, traveling between Spearfish and Deadwood. (About 15 miles). People were so nice to her. Always treated her well. She said she didn’t drink or smoke. She told me about how she felt about God, that He would take care of her. “Always has. No sense worrying. Something always turns up. Life is good.” I agreed. I found out she wrote poems and a guy who recognized her sat with us for a few minutes and read one she’d sent him. Better than anything I could write. We talked more and she asked could she say a prayer for me. She didn’t have to ask twice. I’m a boy that always appreciates somebody praying over me. I need all the help I can get. God knows it!
It was getting close to midnight and I had to go and walk up that big hill to the inn. That’s if I could find it 9both the hill and the Inn!). We said goodbye and I thanked her for talking with me. She thanked me. I asked her where she was going to sleep and she said: “Right on this bench. The bar’s open till 3am. They’ll look after me. Everybody is so nice.”
This is where I write one of those ‘this just goes to show you’ lines. How about the old standby ‘you can’t always judge a book by its cover’? Sometimes you just have to take a chance and talk to someone who looks a little strange. After all, Nancy did. And I’m thankful.

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