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National Days


Dodge CityGet out of Dodge! That was sound advice in the wild 1880s, when cowboys, money, whiskey and women turned many a drunken Spring Break into a fatal shootout, so today we mark


This is the anniversary of Dodge City’s first saloon opening, when George M. Hoover began selling whiskey to the soldiers from nearby Fort Dodge out of a tent on June 17, 1871, firmly establishing the character of the town that would come to symbolize the Wild West.

The previous fort had been conquered by the Indians in the Indian Wars, and the town of Dodge City was not much more than a rest stop for weary travelers on their way to someplace better. Enter the railroad and cattle, and Dodge became a boomtown overnight, the Queen of The Cowtowns, its streets lined with drunken cowboys, saloons, brothels and all the desperadoes, card sharps and conmen that combination attracts.

The place needed not only a sheriff, but a whole bunch of deputies, to say nothing of an ambitious undertaker or two to fill the town’s infamous cemetery, Boot Hill. Dodge City, Kansas was like Disney World to that dangerous breed of Westerner, outlaws. Promoted nationally by hack dime novelists as knights errant with a taste for the nightlife and defending their easily-bruised honor, the gunslingers of the Old West were in reality drunken psychopaths with guns who prompted townsfolk to hire even bigger psychopaths with guns to get rid of them.

Among the famous lawmen who put their hand to cleaning up Dodge City were Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Charlie Basset, with varying degrees of success. What finally cleaned up Dodge for good was the disappearance of the cows and the money to other towns, and by 1887 Dodge City was just one more sleepy little West Kansas village.

•Suggested Activities: Riding off into the sunset.

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