Friday, February 10, 2017

Livingston Dream Book #3

Down Main between W. Lewis and W. Clark Streets stands an unassuming one-story brick building that now holds the Livingston chapter of the Loyal Order of the Moose and an antiques store that might hold the record for the most Barbie dolls assembled in the same room.  Supposedly in the original location of Calamity Jane’s cabin it might be the only visible trace today of the time the legendary frontierswoman has spent in this town. The story goes that Martha Cannary a.k.a Calamity Jane had arrived in Livingston in May of 1901 after a stint at the Gallatin County poorhouse in Bozeman due to illness and other ailments related to her alcoholism and malnutrition. As she settled in town, after Buffalo Bill Cody had helped her financially to “escape” the poorhouse, she rented a room above a saloon and immediately proceeded in going to town and into one of her now legendary drinking binges, so bad in fact that it made her forget where she was staying and even losing her room keys. It was also the last time in Livingston before she was invited to travel to Buffalo, New York to take part in a humiliating experience at the Buffalo Exposition, and eventually drinking herself to death traveling back west for the following two years. There seems to be an evidently lack of any signs of her several visits to a town that she visited often and even had a small part in proclaiming it as a serious drinking town of the West. No commemorative plaques or prominent photos in the walls of the many bars in town today. An old porter at The Murray Hotel tells me a story about the time he was tending bar sometime in the 1940’s. Somebody had concocted a drink and named it “The Calamity Jane”. It was so strong, according to him, that it conjured visions of Calamity Jane herself to whoever drank it. The story, or the legend, goes that when you would go out the door after several “Calamity Janes”, she would appear and call out to you: “Hey Short Pants, can you show me the way home?”. Nobody really knows why or exactly when they stopped serving “Calamity Janes” in town but the old porter believes, in all probability, that it was because she had finally found a poor soul to take her home.  

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