Deadwood’s Wild West, keeping memories alive restoring and driving horse drawn wagons

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:43 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Check your calendar. The Wild, Wild West is back. It’s 1876 in Deadwood.

The Education Director of Deadwood History, Amanda Brown, says, “We celebrate the Days of 76′ here every year with the annual Day’s of 76′ Celebration. "

And every year they bring out various horse drawn vehicles that need someone to guide them.

“We’ve got different local groups and organizations that work together and work with the Day’s of ‘76 committee to take charge of whichever carriage or vehicle or wagon they are in charge of,” says Brown.

Those who steer the horses are known as Teamsters, like Jess Gray from Gillette, WY.

“I’ve had my team of horses for seven years. Don’t even remember where I started, you know? I just bought these and I was too torn up to ride anymore, and a guy let me ride with him one day and I drove his team and I drove to Colorado and bought these boys,” says Gray.

“They love me, they love me. They are just big babies is what they are,” gray whispered to his horses while giving them a pat.

The horses pull the wagons that Doug Mikkelsen, a Teamster from Fort Pierre, SD, has found a passion restoring.

“I’ve been around teamstering for many years. I was a little kid when I got into it. Somebody’s got to do it and save them,” says Mikkelsen, “because they don’t make them anymore.”

Though these two fellas do nothing but get a rise out of one another and are full of smiles, teamstering is nothing to laugh at.

“It’s an all day deal. You start at daylight,” says Gray, “you end up out until dark.”

Will the teamstering days come to an end?

“Well, we’re going to keep doing it as long as we can. As long as I have a little bit of help, I’m good. Like the ladder to get up here. Few things like that, it’s all good. I enjoy it, I really do.”

Doug and Jess’s wife play a part in that help, and they’ll ride it out as long as they can, as they don’t think there’s a generation to pass the torch to and keep the history alive.

“As far as regular kids playing on their little telephones,” says Mikkelsen, “they have no interest in anything old west and I wouldn’t no what would entice a kid these days to even be interested.”

“No, they’re more interested in their phone,” Gray added.

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