History Wednesday: Calamity and Conceit

When I was in Riverton, Wyoming, this past weekend I had a chance encounter with a descendant of Martha “Calamity Jane” Canarie, an iconic figure of the Old West. His wife even does portrayals of her. Now there’s a History Wednesday topic if there ever was one!

It should be an easy blog entry too, right? Well, the historical Calamity Jane is so intertwined with legend, tall tales and flat out bullshit there’s not much to go on. People can’t even agree on how her real name was spelled.

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And we can’t even blame sloppy Arabic translations for that.
Image credit: Jim Gordon

According to Calamity Jane’s autobiography – which itself is called into question as most historians believe Jane was illiterate – she was born in 1852. Or was it 1850? Or 1847? Or earlier? In any event, in the mid 1860s Jane and her family moved in quick succession from Missouri to Montana to Salt Lake City. Along the way both of her parents died, leaving the (apparently) teenage Jane in charge of her younger brothers and sisters. After several more years of bouncing from place to place, by 1874 Jane settled more or less in the Fort Laramie, Wyoming, area.

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I’ll go out on a limb and say she wasn’t involved with the cold fusion hoax while in Salt Lake City.

Calamity Jane earned her nickname after ostensibly fighting in the Indian Wars alongside Generals George Custer and George Crook. This is disputed in contemporary sources. After moving to Deadwood, South Dakota, Jane then met and claimed to have married Wild Bill Hickok. While it’s accepted she and Hickok were acquainted, there’s no evidence to suggest the two were ever an item, much less married.

Note the pattern here.

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“Tell me about it. Hey, two pair!”

Despite all that’s written about her, there’s not much we can say for sure about Calamity Jane. Sources agree that she was a woman who lived in the late 19th Century American West who dressed as a man, told stories and drank too much. That’s about it. The historical provenance of just about everything else is dubious at best.

Much like this fine period piece.

Yes, Jane was clearly a master storyteller. In her later years she appeared as herself in shows throughout the country, notably Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Despite often being destitute herself, Jane was also universally recognized for her generosity. While in Deadwood, at great risk to her own health Jane often cared for seriously ill adults and children.

Jane died in 1903 after years of whiskey and hard living finally caught up to her. She was buried next to Wild Bill Hickok per her request. Yet even in death Calamity Jane’s penchant for embellishment continued to make the rounds. In 1941 and again in 1996, people publicly claimed to be Calamity Jane’s long-lost daughter or granddaughter. However, to date no evidence has surfaced that Jane ever had children.

As for my acquaintance in Riverton, he claimed descent from one of Jane’s siblings. That’s much more plausible.

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A Gift to Google

SB has been around for nearly three months. In that time I’ve managed to cover nearly 1,300 topics in over 70 posts and probably in the neighborhood of 10,000 words, the size of a short book. Naturally, that’s caused some disparate search engine traffic. Today I want to share the highlights of those searches with you. For one, it’s funny. For another, it’s yet another lazy-ass way to put a post together.

These findings are based on Google searches, as Bing and the others didn’t have a lot of material to work with. I know many of you were looking for something other than a silly-ass blog from Idaho, so I’m trying to help out with some facts about the topics you really want to read about. I’ve already covered SB’s top search query, “gr8tits2play,” several times. I’m not going to discuss that further today.

Main Street Guitar Company

Despite being mentioned a grand total of once here before today, SB appears as the third link in a Google search for this term. That tells me there’s not a whole hell of a lot of information on this company.

It appears Main Street Guitar Company is (or more likely, was) based in Cedar City, Utah, of all places. The company has no web site, and every indication is the Cedar City location is no longer in business. As for my Main Street bass, it was made in China. I can tell because the sticker on the back of the headstock clearly says so.

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My phone battery is charging. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.

As for the quality, I can tell you I paid well under $100 for my instrument used. Glean from that what you will.

Feodor I

History Wednesday’s top contribution to Google appears to be its account of the hapless 16th Century Russian czar. SB makes a first-page appearance for the term, ahead of entries from such august scholastic organizations such as, um, Answers.com.

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Feodor would be 455 years old if he were alive today. How about that?

As for Feodor’s much better-known father, Ivan the Terrible … yeah. I have my SEO work cut out for me on that one.

Honey Boo Boo

Uh oh. Google’s webmaster tools tell me SB has an average search rank of 11th for this train wreck. Thankfully, an actual search proves this isn’t the case. Google doesn’t even have me in the first 10 pages …

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… yet. Oh, this could get ugly.
Image credit: ~AngryDogDesigns

My Favorite Search Terms

Of course, not all the search terms that stick around here have any staying power. Many are simply hilarious, such as:

“desirable outcome carnival cruise triumph”
“when did a trading post at moose factory get stupid”
“has anybody really thought about the logistics to the movie air bud”
“strom thurmond takes a dump”
“do cats try crap on astro turf”
“ghaddafi leisure suit”
“what in the hell is going on at idaho state university”

“The last time I saw people covered in that much feces they were touring the White House with Al Roker!”

Beautiful. Keep it up, y’all.

Oh yeah, for fans of SEO, “gr8tits2play.” Ha, ha!