late evening in Calico when Bismark stepped out into
the street. His tall, solid figure cast a long shadow in the
evening sun. A hush came over those who had gathered to witness
the incident. Mothers covered their children's eyes to shield
them from the impending doom about to fall on someone. Slowly the
Sheriff moved into the street. The conversation was short and to
the point. Neither man would back away. Bismark's draw was
infamous throughout the West. His hand dropped to his side,
resting dangerously close to the .45 caliber Colt revolver that
marked his trade. With speed faster then the eye could follow his
gun was in his hand. As he brought it up toward the Sheriff the
street exploded in a hail of gunfire. So loud that it seemed to
deafen the senses. As the smoke cleared, old Bismark lay still on
the ground, a victim of his own foolish pride and a faster gun.
The town would be safe for another 55 minutes.
Anyone who has traveled the famous Interstate 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, is familiar with the gigantic letters etched into the mountains, near Barstow, that spell out the name of this once prosperous mining town. Normally, this stretch of land along the edge of the Mojave Desert has few inhabitants. A few gophers and an occasional rattlesnake or tarantula. That all changed in 1881 when Silver was discovered just over the ridge. In no time, it seems, the town of Calico was formed. Named after the varying colors of the surrounding mountains, this mining town, in its heyday, boasted of having 22 saloons, a China town and red light district to maintain the some 1200 miners that flocked to the hills in search of their fortunes. And fortunes there were. In the next 25 years, over 86 million dollars in silver would be extracted from the surrounding claims. Much of it from the famous glory hole of the Maggie Mine at the edge of the town. Then the price of silver dropped and by 1907 it was over. Nothing remained but a ghost town with the wind whistling through abandoned buildings, the only witness to the once rowdy and often violent town. This would most likely have been the end of the story, had it not been for Mr. Walter Knott of "Knott's Berry Farm" who purchased what was left of old Calico along with some near-by claims to preserve one of the few remaining original mining camps remaining in the southern California area. After the preservation of several of the building and the re-construction of several others, the land was donated to San Bernardino County and became what it is today, a County Regional Park.
We had arrived during one of the many festivals held in the park. This created an accelerated amount of activity everywhere. As we worked our way up the incline that was the Main Street we passed show after show. The paths that led off from the main road took us to all kinds of intriguing little places such as one of the old mine shafts which, for a couple of dollars, we were allowed to wander down into, to see an assortment of dioramas depicting life underground in the old days. The work was hard and there was little relief from the boredom of digging. Still one could make a living at this work, and there was always the night life waiting after a hard days in the mines. As we wandered further on, there was more music, and a cowpoke rode out on his horse, jumped up on the saddle and with the skill of a practiced expert, spun his rope around, over and under as he demonstrated some pretty sophisticated rope tricks.
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