The featured image on today’s blog is Desperate Dan. Desperate Dan was a wild west character in the British comic The Dandy. I was always a huge fan of anything even remotely related to the wild west. Perhaps it was as a result of watching television shows like Wagon Train, Rawhide with Clint Eastwood, Rin Tin Tin, the Lone Ranger and Gunsmoke. Quite the little tomboy, I always played cowboy games, proudly wearing
the Davy Crockett coon hat my grandfather made me.
Before I moved to Canada, my grandfather bought me a big picture book of Canadian animals. I remember he showed me a wolf and told me that those were the kind of dogs that people in Canada had. He also showed me a polar bear and a grizzly and
warned me not to go near them when I saw them in the streets.
After living in Canada and then the US for a couple of years, I was back in England for a short time and, being a really huge storyteller (okay, so I was a big liar!), I made the most of the fact that all the kids I knew in England were seriously misinformed about the
reality of life in ‘America’, which was what we called anything on the other side of the Atlantic—Canada and the US combined. I played it to the hilt. I made it sound like I was on a constant cross-country trip via wagon train. I made up a new language and told them it was ‘Indian’. In reality, while in North America, I had never been outside of Toronto and New York. I’m sure someday I will be punished for the massive lies I told back then.
Anyway, back to Desperate Dan, the strongest man in the world. Desperate Dan had apparently originally been a bit of a desperado on the wrong side of the law. But then he turned his life around and became deputy and sheriff of the town he lived in. Desperate Dan ate huge cow pies that had horns and a tail sticking out of the pastry. He also had a dog named Dawg. I loved Desperate Dan and I think I got a lot of the content for my big fat lies from reading The Dandy.
Thanks to my beloved grandfather, I had received a steady supply of English comics while I was in Canada. My grandfather would roll a whole bunch of them up into a tight bundle with candies in the middle and send them off to me every couple of weeks. .
But here’s the part that’s confusing to me. When I did a little research on
Desperate Dan after finding the picture, I learned that he had actually lived
in Cactusville, Texas. I could have sworn that he lived in Deadwood Gulch. I know I didn’t make up Deadwood Gulch, so who lived there?
Almost forty years later, about 1991, I drove out to British Columbia through Canada and then back through the US. The drive home through Washington, Montana, Wyoming
and South Dakota (I’m probably missing a few states) was a dream come true for me. The scenery made me feel like I was coming home. I took every opportunity to visit
sites and tourist attractions like the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming,
Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, the Big Horn, and Old Faithful.
But nothing could compare with the visit I took to Deadwood, South
Dakota. Deadwood Gulch! Home of Desperate Dan—or so I thought. Resting place of
Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. I gambled in the same saloon in which Wild Bill met his maker, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he met Jack McCall, his murderer. In fact, I watched the gunfight play out and followed Jack McCall out into the street and then strolled along to the courthouse to watch the trial that is re-enacted every evening.
To this day, I count that trip as one of my most enjoyable and memorable. All
because of the little seed planted by Desperate Dan when I was just a kid. Interestingly, although I’ve driven through the Rockies quite a few times, I’ve
never seen a grizzly. When I worked for Nishnawbe Aski Nation I flew up to remote northern communities quite often, but I’ve never seen a polar bear. I’ve seen
lots of wolves but no big scary bears roaming the streets. But because I trust my grandfather, I do pack a hefty canister of bear spray, just in case.