Friends of Bodie Day: EXTRAORDINARY

This day had been in the planning since last October when we were here with Bob and Jenny. We thoroughly enjoyed it and made a promised to return and bring our friend, Cyndy. I'm apologizing for the length of this blog post. The day was incredible causing me to take too many great photos. I had a difficult time eliminating many. Since "a picture tells a thousand words" you're in for a novel of epic proportions.

I have to explain the character I chose portray. Madame Moustache was the pseudonym of Eleanor Dumont (1829-1879), a famous and successful gambler on the American Western Frontier, especially during the California Gold Rush. She was actually one of the first professional Black Jack players in the nation, moving from place to place, running very profitable card tables until the gold/silver of a town ran out, then she would move along. Her life is more than I can share here, but Bodie was her final stop. One night while gambling, she misjudged a play and suddenly owed a lot of money. That night she wandered outside of town and was found dead of an overdose of morphine, apparently a suicide. The note she wrote said that she was tired of life.

This is one of our favorite places to visit. Bodie is an original mining town from the late 1800s. What’s left today stands in a state of “arrested decay” and is maintained by the California State Parks System, who took over the town in 1962.

In 1859, William S. Bodey discovered gold here. A mill was established in 1861 and the town began to grow. It started with about 20 miners and grew to an estimated 10,000 people by 1880. By then, the town of Bodie bustled with families, robbers, miners, store owners, gunfighters, prostitutes and people from every country in the world.

Friends of Bodie Day is an event to celebrate the town as it was in its heyday with costumes, history walks, music and great photo opportunities. We loved it all.
What's amazing about Bodie is that it appears that all the inhabitants up and left one day and in a big hurry. Homes and businesses still have possessions within them. Window peeping is a highlight and since this was Cyndy's first time in Bodie, she looked in many windows. 
Since I was a madame in a mustache, I created 'business' cards with the above image of Eleanor and a little story printed on the back. I distributed them to anyone who was curious. I also brought a bunch of mustaches so everyone could join in the facial hair fun. One man who asked to take my photo said that each year he comes he learns something new. Eleanor Dumont was this year's lesson.

As part of the specialness of this day, we were allowed into buildings that we had never been in before. What a treat to wander in the footsteps of the hardy residents of yore.

There were photographers creating tintype photos that were simply amazing and so appropriate for this town.

We spent the afternoon meandering on our own. Since we were all members of the Bodie Foundation, we then had a barbecue dinner followed by a guided tour around the park.
We stopped as various locations and met the residents of Bodie, learning their stories.
The Ladies of the Night told of their 'Going West' dreams and the harsh reality of the actual truth. It was a sad and thought changing stop. 
Bodie had a Chinatown, with several hundred Chinese residents at one point, and included a Taoist temple. Opium dens were plentiful in this area as well, though we only learned about the laundry on our tour.

This was the first time we stayed into the evening. It became more magical as the colors changed and our shadows elongated.

We ended our day on a hill overlooking town, at the cemetery. There are only about 80 markers remaining in the Bodie Cemetery. Many of these can be easily read, while others have been damaged by vandals or have been worn down by the harsh Bodie winters. It seemed the fitting day's end to explore where many Bodieites were laid to rest.
Bodie continues to be one of those places to me and this day was one of those days whose memories will linger and make us just have to come back again. What a great, great experience.

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Cyndy Brown said...

Man...I remember this! How fun to go back and look at us "then"!!!

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