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Deadwood Gulch, South Dakota Territory 1877
She had been warned! Lottie Buchanan stepped off the stagecoach and looked around nervously. Yes, shed been warned, but that hadnt stopped her. "Oh no," faltered from her lips.
Deadwoods mud, and the board sidewalks were certainly a far cry from St. Louis refinement and civilization, paved streets and lighting. She had been told it was an overnight metropolis in the wilderness, fueled by greed, gold and gunpowder. No law, no organization, and no order existed. Disputes over gold claims were frequent and bloody.
She had been warned that Indians ambushed stragglers and mail riders. Bandits waylaid armored and guarded bullion coaches. Prices were outrageous. She guessed now she would find out for herself.
But she wanted this independence, didnt she? The opportunity to sing had long been her dream. She swallowed the lump in her throat. This wasnt St. Louis, to be sure, but she had signed a contract and she intended to fulfill it. Petrified, she raised her chin just a notch, determined to make the best of these dismal surroundings. This was the first time she had been away from her family. "Oh, if they could only see me now." She laughed nervously and wiped the tears from her eyes. Mama would be more than terrified for her refined and genteel daughter.
"Which way is the hotel?" she asked the driver.
"Deadwood Palace or the Melodean?"
He spat a stream of amber liquid and pointed. "Right over yonder on Main Street, maam."
"Thank you." Holding up her royal blue skirt, Lottie crossed the muddy and rutted street. A boy trailed behind with herluggage.
Lottie thanked the young man and gave him a tip when he set down her small trunks. Walking to the registration desk, she said, "Lottie Buchanan. I believe I have a room reserved."
The balding clerk, spectacles riding low on his nose, replied, "Oh, yes, Miz Buchanan. Were glad to have you. Room 203." He hesitated briefly, and added, "We hear tell you can sing sweet as a canary."
She smiled shyly and murmured a quick, "Thank you."
Snapping his fingers, he passed a key to a youngster who materialized from around the corner. The young man hefted her luggage to his shoulder. With pride, Lottie signed her name to the register with a flourish, and walked up the stairs, the plank flooring echoing under their steps.
The boy unlocked the door, set down her bags and stared at her. "Youre very pretty, Miz Buchanan." He blushed furiously.
"Thank you." She gave him a sweet smile, and then turned to look out the window when she heard the door click shut.
Deadwood, nestled in a canyon, and shaped like a chickens wishbone, was bounded by steep mountains on every side. She noticed a few nice houses, but most were small cabins, or tent houses with lumber part way up. Lazy spirals of smoke trailed from the chimneys. Main Street appeared to be the main thoroughfare, with eating places, mercantile stores, hardware store, gambling halls, saloons and even a photo studio.