I have always wanted to visit a ghost town. With yesterday’s oil leak fixed, we turned our motor home towards Bodie, via an elongated washboard masquerading badly as a dirt road. (We lost a hubcap on the way.)
Bodie was founded by Waterman S. Body, a man who prospected for gold here and found it in spades. Body was something of Fate’s punching bag. After working tirelessly for his entire life to find gold, he then dies three months after finding it in a freak blizzard. The gold rush he started drew ten thousand people to the new town, which the citizens decided to name after Body, only to misspell his name as ‘Bodie’. Later, they decided to raise an expensive marble headstone in Body’s honour, but the stone was instead used for an honorary etching for the recently deceased president, and without the headstone they somehow lost track of where Body’s body was located. Poor Body.
Then again, no one should be surprised at the less-than perfect nature of the Bodie citizenship. This was after all a Wild West gold town. Killings occurred with monotonous regularity, almost daily. Robberies, stage holdups and street fights provided variety, fuelled by the 65 saloons. My favourite example though is the simple fact that the ‘Thou shalt not steal’ sign hanging in the church was stolen!
It wasn’t just the people that were likely to kill you in Bodie; the weather tried its best to do the same. The winters offered six metres deep snow, winds reaching 100 miles per hour and the temperatures could drop to 40 degrees below zero.
One little girl, whose family brought her to Bodie, wrote in her diary, “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie,” a well-known saying throughout the Wild West.
The decline of Bodie climaxed in 1932 when a boy, pissed off at having been given green jelly instead of birthday cake, stormed out of the party and angrily started flicking matches. He set fire to a small building, and the voluntary fire brigade came out. “No biggie,” they must have thought. “We have fire hydrants all over this place and tons of water in the reservoirs.” They turned on the nozzle but only got a trickle of water. “WTF”, they did not think since the internet abbreviations hadn’t been invented, so they thought “Where the fuck is the goddamn water?!” The water was in the reservoirs, but because of the depression, no one had thought it worth the money to replace the filters, now clogged up with mud and sand.
Large parts of Bodie burnt down. What remains is still there today, and it is an amazing experience to walk through the town. The pictures speak for themselves, but as always, they only convey a small part of the experience. If you drive through California, I warmly recommend a detour down the dirt road to Bodie.
And now my comrades all are gone;
Naught remains to toast.
They have left me here in my misery,
Like some poor wandering ghost.