Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Deadwood story -- yeah, I shot the sheriff, part one

This is a story based on an rp scenario that just happened -- nothing planned, but it all worked out remarkably well. It was a complete hoot to be a part of. The original transcript that it was developed from is posted on the The Road to Deadwood forum.

The side by side, break-action double gun that features prominently in this story...still well loved today even if sort of retired...

Dio had just acquired a new toy: a lovely Belgian-made break-action, breech-loading, double-barreled 10-bore shotgun, with a 3-and-a-half-inch chamber and 32-inch damascus barrels. It was big, the barrels had a gorgeous browned finish, and Dio had it loaded up with double-aught buckshot--18 big pellets to each round. It was, quite simply, a monster...and Dio was in love with it. As she was heading up Main street towards the hills to try it out, she was suddenly distracted by as series of noises -- shots, and then shouting -- from the direction of the Bella Union. Dio instantly rushed over to find a small crowd gathering outside: Sal, the Bella’s manager, a cluster of her working girls, and Federal Deputy Marshal Sand Rau.

“What happened Sal?” asked Dio.

Jesse, one of the Bella girls replied, pointing up the street at a large figure that was disappearing towards the creek, “That man there! The one walkin' down the street...he shot Pel!!”

Sal interjected in an air of disgust, tinged with anger, “That Mr. Hawk shot Pel, my new bartender, when he asked him to pay for his cigars...”

Jesse went on somewhat frantically, “He's walkin' down toward the river...past doc's office!...He jes’ up and shot 'im! Fer no reason ‘cept a seegar!!!”

Dio peered up the street at the man, who even at this distance she could tell was unusually tall and solidly built. She turned to Marshal Rau and said calmly, “Go git ‘im Sand, I'll look after the feller what got shot.”

As the lawman took off loping up Lee Street, and the other girls tried to get Jesse settled down, Dio accompanied Sal into the Bella. There, leaning against the bar was a thin, strikingly handsome man. This apparently was Pel, the new bartender. Old Bill Deerhunter was pressing a bloody bar rag against the man’s leg trying to staunch the flow of blood.

“Let’s get him settin’ down, so Miss Dio can look after him,” said Sal in a calm and determined voice. Dio carefully set her new shotgun behind the bar, while Old Bill and Sal assisted the injured man in hobbling over to the sofa.

“How bad ye hit, pard?” Dio asked, as the others helped Pel to ease painfully down on to the poor sofa, the upholstery of which already had more than the usual number of stains from various body fluids that had leaked out of Sal’s customers and employees over the last few months.

Pel, grunted and lifted up the bloody cloth. “I believe it is nothing more than a wound through the flesh...I don’t think the bone was hit, but it does seem to be bleeding rather freely...”

Dio was about to say something about how she “had seen worse,” when suddenly, Marshal Rau dashed in.

“Hey who was it or who am I lookin’ for?"

Old Bill looked exasperated. “Twas that blasted Hawk again!”

Sal looked even more irritated. “DAMMIT SAND...MR. HAWK!”

“The big man, with a big beard!” added Jesse.

Old Bill chimed in again, “His name is Hawk and he just went down the street!”

Marshal Rau still looked a bit perplexed.

“Yes,” said Sal...he’s a large bearded man....a bit ripe, you can’t miss him.”

Old Bill nodded. “Ugly too. Ugly and MEAN.”

The light of comprehension seemed to be dawning in Sand’s eyes. “Which way?” he asked.

Miss Zoe came in at that moment. “Hawk? He was just walking down the road right behind me!”

Jesse had an expression of extreme frustration. “Like I said before, past the doc's office!”

“OK!” said Sand and he rushed out again. Old Bill looked at the people in the room and shrugged. He then followed the Marshal.

Jesse watched them go and sighed. “Nobody ever hears me,” she commented plaintively.

Meanwhile, Dio was concentrating on Pel’s wound. She unsheathed her skinning knife and cut away the blood-soaked cloth of his trouser leg. The bullet seemed to have passed through Pel’s upper leg, going at an angle from the front to the side. Dio noted that the entry wound seemed fairly tidy, but the exit point was a bit more ragged and appeared to be the source of most of the bleeding.

Sal came over to watch. “Can you fix him up Dio?”

Without looking up from her work, Dio replied matter-of-factly, “Reckon so, Hon...say, Sal, could you start boilin’ some water, heatin’ up a poker in the stove, and git me some clean cloths?”

“All right.” Sal nodded and set her girls to the requested tasks.

“Oh, and I'll need some whiskey, too,” Dio added.

“So will I,” said Pel.

Sal smiled at him. "Well I know Miss Dio wants the whiskey to clean the wound...I assume you want some of that whiskey to take the edge off?"

Pel tried to force a smile. “Ladies, I trust you won’t think any the less of me that I could use a drink right now.”

“Of course not,” Sal said gently, as she handed Pel a glass of rye, and then passed a full bottle of the cheap stuff to Dio.

“Thanks, Hon,” Dio nodded as she took the bottle of raw whiskey and began cleaning the area around the wound. While mopping up the oozing blood with a towel, she peered at the various holes in Pel’s leg. She took some large tweezers from her hunting bag and carefully pulled some bits of cloth out of the entry hole in the man’s limb.

Pel made a hissing noise and his eyes watered slightly.

Dio grinned at him in spite of herself. “Oh, by the way, Pel, did I mention that most o’ this was gonna really hurt?” She began cleaning out the wound with the whiskey, pouring it liberally over the injury. “Matter o’ fact I guess I shoulda let ye know it was gonna hurt jus' like the Divil himself was pissin’ brimstone into that hole there.”

Pel was a greenhorn, and something of a dude at that. Educated, well spoken, a lawyer back east. All in all, Dio was pretty favorably impressed with how he was handling this ordeal so far. But he needed to be prepared for what was coming.

“Pel, I am gonna fix yer bleedin’ by puttin’ on a hot poker to sear it closed. If’n ye thought the cleanin' part hurt, this is gonna be like a visit from the grandmother o’ that pain...Sal, I’d be obliged if’n ye’d give him some more whiskey.”

Sal came back over and handed Pel a bottle. Without a word, the man began draining its contents. Sal looked at Dio and asked, “Ready for the cauterizing and then bandaging?”

Dio nodded. “Ready, Hon.”

Sal turned to Jess and instructed her to fetch bandages and the poker from the stove. The girl brought over the clean cloths and the poker, which was now glowing a dull cherry red at the tip. She looked at the wound and winced.

Dio carefully took the poker and noting Pel’s blissfully vacant expression she went ahead and pressed it to the source of the bleeding in the exit wound. Pel’s eyes went wide for a moment and then he made a curious gurgling noise through his gritted teeth. Otherwise he was remarkably quiet.

The room filled with the pungent fragrance of burning flesh and blood. Dio handed the smoking poker to Sal who set it into the coal scuttle by the stove.

"Done with it?” Sal asked.

“Yep.” answered Dio. “I think we’re good.“

To her surprise, Dio looked up to find that Pel was watching her intently, his face streaming with rivulets of sweat.

Dio smiled at him. “Yer gonna be fine I think...we din't havta cut out the pistol ball or nothin’....looks to be you took it clean through the fleshy bit o’ thigh here.”

Pel grunted, “Did it have to be the painful fleshy bit?”

Dio shrugged as she bandaged the wound. "Well shit pard, better than hittin’ a bone or big blood vessel or some such...Jess, Hon would you bring me that pot o’ water what’s a bilin’?”

Jess wrapped a cloth around the handle and brought it over. Dio dipped the last clean towel in the hot water and began washing off the blood that had run down Pel’s leg. Then she began washing the clotted gore from her own hands.

At that moment Sheriff Daz Perun entered the Bella. “Good lord! What the hell is goin’ on here?!”

As Sal was explaining the situation to Daz, Old Bill came in, his eyes flashing with disgust and anger. “Lost his blasted trail down around the chinaman’s place...Sand is still lookin’ for him, though...”

Just then, Mahaila Bertrand entered the Bella and dryly observed, “Well if Sand is still looking for the man, he’s just going to have to go in a big circle.”

Everyone in the Bella bar room went silent and as one, looked at Mahaila with a mixture of curiosity and befuddlement.

Mah looked back and continued, “Sand’s looking for Hawk, right? Big, crazy bearded man, right? Well he’s right outside -- across the street by the Gem.”

to be continued

Monday, July 27, 2009

The experiment of roleplaying in SL

I regularly read Prokofy Neva's blog Second Thoughts (in fact, far more often than I ever look at the official Linden stuff). Many people frequently find Prokofy's long-winded commentaries to be infuriating or impenetrable (I will freely confess that about 54% of the time I don't even understand what the conversation is about), but Prokofy's writing almost invariably sparks intense debate and discussion, and by golly it sure as hell makes you think, even if your conclusion is to violently disagree with the blog's author. If Prokofy didn't exist, I suspect the SL blogosphere would have had to create him in some form. And periodically, I think what Prokofy puts out there can carry a certain degree of profundity, such as his most recent post "Second Life is a Crystal Ball" in which he expresses the idea that SL can be seen as an "emergent behavior panopticon." Prokofy observes:

"There are a thousand things you could be studying in Second Life, whether it is how disputes are resolved, how protest emerges and dissipates, how corporations manage people online, how people communicate and adjust their goals and compromise -- and lots of other separate tributaries of things like prototyping a car engine or a medical procedure, and they're all happening in SL -- yet largely unstudied."

This got me to thinking about what I have been observing and reflecting upon in recent months: the various different directions that the various SL roleplaying communities have been taking while playing out as experiments in creative cooperative recreation. Each rp environment is an experimental playground of the imagination, and as the people who are utilizing them experience problems and see new potential, they either make that environment evolve in response to the difficulties and perceived possibilities, or some of them move on and and create new communities and environments that try out new guidelines and forms of organization.

And right now, let me say, there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all rp environment. One style or system is not better than another. I am not a social Darwinist who thinks that rp communities are steadily evolving towards a single ultimate and ideal form, while the other versions are left behind to die off as some kind of inferior evolutionary dead-end dinosaur kind of thing. I firmly believe that the development of different forms of rp communities with different social structures is a good and healthy process, which accommodates the wide variety of people who are taking up this form of virtual recreation.

We are all different in terms of experience, how we learn, how we play, how we interact with other humans, and what we need to get out of that interaction. Consequently, it makes sense for a wide variety of roleplaying experiments to develop in-world, building upon and growing out of one another, and just because a new type of organization comes along, or an existing community develops in a different direction from what it had taken before, does not mean any of the various experiments are less legitimate, less fun for certain people, or deserve to go extinct.

Mind you I am very happy in Deadwood and am intrigued with how it has evolved since its inception (which is to a good extent different from how it functioned in its early months). But I am also intrigued with how other communities are evolving and what kinds of systems and structures they are establishing. For example, I recently decided to look into a community that is based upon the world of Harry Potter, not only because it sounded like a fun and interesting rp environment, but because its community leadership has set up a highly structured system for bringing in new players and fostering an enjoyable rp experience.

This is very different from so many rp communities which have a relatively loose induction system, that bascially comes down to "hey, read these rules, join this group, put on the right stuff, and please don't act like too big of dick." So I was very very curious about this "Hogwarts United" group. They start with not only giving you rules and guidelines to read, they also ask you to fill out an application (compete with well-thought out backstory), attend orientation class, and go through an interview. And THEN, if you are intent upon playing an adult and want to go to work for the Ministry of Magic or the Hogwarts School, you have to fill out another application to the folks who are in charge of those entities.

So far I have filled out the application (a process I really enjoyed being as so much of it was about developing a backstory, a process that I find to be really fun). I attended the class, which was a pleasant and efficiently-run (and not overly long) review of rules and guidelines with an opportunity to ask questions. And I had my interview with a charming and friendly admissions rep. This was more like a conversation than an interview, and again I found it to not be particularly onerous or intimidating, and the interviewer, Katerina, was very nice about listening to me ramble and answering my questions about this and that. I felt pretty good about it, not only because she approved on my ideas for what I wanted to do with my character, but because it felt like this process will ultimately be helpful in my transitioning into the community.

I'm still waiting to hear about my application to the school (to work as a special archivist dealing with the "restricted" collections), but hopefully, the Headmaster won't decide that it's too out-of-the-box or that I am too huge of a goober to pull it off. I'll keep you guys posted on how it turns out.

Anyhow, the whole thing has me curious to see what the community will be like and how it functions. I have never been a part of quite such a highly structured rp environment,and while I am sure it is not ideal for everyone, I could see how it could produce some interesting results, both in severely limiting access by potential griefers and in facilitating the introduction of new players into the environment. I suspect the next step in the evolution of rp communities may be something that combines elements of this highly structured approach with elements of the some of the looser systems.

Like Aldo says, "SL is a big social pressure cooker and you never know how the soup is going turn out, but at least it gets done pretty quick."

So what do you all think about what kinds of rp communities and environments best suit who you are, and what kinds of experiments might develop next?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Miss Dio's story continued -- life is a series of meetings and partings

The following story was oringally posted on "The Road to Deadwood" forum, and may be seen as a reflection of the soft spot I have in my heart for the American soldier. I think the soldiers of the the old frontier army generally haven't gotten very fair treatment in popular media in the last 30 or 40 years. And the way they are represented in contexts such as SL is usually just downright silly and offensive.

Above is a photograph by Grey Villet of extras on the set of the John Wayne/William Holden film, "The Horse Soldiers," taken in 1958. In my mind, I picture the members of Sepp's provost marshal detail looking something like these guys.

The days had passed into weeks, stretching unnoticed into late summer and early fall. Dio spent at least half of her time out of town, "shamelessly ignoring her responsibilities at the laundry" (according to a certain lady bank manager), in order to spend days riding with Sepp and his provost marshal's detail, looking for signs of hostiles and tracking deserters. She also spent nights camping out with her old one-eyed horse soldier, discreetly bedded down some distance from the rest of the group, so as disturb the sleeping troopers or distract those on watch. It reminded both Sepp and Dio of the old days, when she would join his ranger company on patrols when she was "too goddam pissed off" at Jack to stay at the ranch.

Iniitially, the members of the detail had been somewhat surprised to see First Sergeant Bogart's "lady" falling in with them on their patrols. But the young troopers were quickly disabused of the notion that she would be a hindrance or a distraction from their duties, espcially as she could out-ride and out-shoot most of the them, except maybe Corporal Brill, and was as a good a tracker as either Sergeant Bogart or Dan Wolf, the civilian scout who accompanied them. Any idea that "Miz Dio" was in any need of looking after on the trail began to evaporate when one of them figured out what the odd decorative peices on her saddle actually were. All remaining doubts were finally and completely erased when the detail ambushed a gang of horse thieves, and Dio brought down two of them with three rounds from her carbine, and then finished off the wounded one with her belt knife. Although the Sergeant prohibited her from taking any "souvenirs" that time, they did overhear her telling the "old Dutchman" as they rode away from the scene of the ambush that he "really knew how to show a gal a goddam good time."

By the time the leaves were turning, the members of the detail thought of her as one of them--just one who peridocially had to return to Deadwood to "warsh other folks' soiled knickers fer a spell." Her long stories, the interesting variations of camp cooking she introduced to their routine, and her regular and prolific stream of incredibly profane commentary gradually brought even the most hardened of them to feel a strange attachment to this strange woman. They therefore took it doubly hard on the day that First Sergeant Sepp Bogart, 3rd U.S. Cavalry, was informed that he had orders to turn the detail over to Corproal Brill to lead it on the return to Ft. Fetterman, while he himself was to report to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, to spend the remaining 11 months of his enlistment period training green troopers. They realized they were losing not only the presence of their lead man, but his lady as well. As they tightened saddle girths and checked their gear before breaking that last camp, a couple of the younger ones seemed to be on the verge of getting "a bit maudlin."

Noting this as she shook their hands, Dio smiled and said, "Aw come on boys, don't be so goddam hang-dog 'bout this. Hell, when y'all git back this way y' can come an see me in Deadwood City... and shit, this ol' Dutchman 'll be there too, once his hitch is up, right First Sargeant Bogart?

Sepp smiled as he checked the loads in his revolver, appreciative of the fact that she had finally stopped calling him "Hon" in front of the men. "Absolutely. I 'm sure we'll see each and every one of you gentlemen again before too terribly long."

"Damn right, Hon," she grinned at him. "And it's like m' ol' grandaddy used to say--life is a series o' meetin's an partin's, but what makes it worth livin' is what y'all do with the parts in between. An I reckon we all done some purty good livin' together in this part what we done had betwixt meetin' up and right now."

Sepp grinned back as he swung up into his saddle. "Damn right, Hon," he agreed. "Carry on Corporal..and good luck boys." As he took up his reins, she rode up next to him and leaned over and gave him a long parting kiss, while the provost marshal's detail whistled and huzzahed, and then turned their mounts westward.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A new Deadwood story -- signs of the times

Hey kids, I just got back from a week on the road and wanted to give you a completely new story. I worked some of this out while on the plane from St. Louis to Phoenix, while stuck squeezed into a seat next to a really nice but decidedly uber-rubenesque gal. We had to put up the arm rest that was between us in order for her to fit, and then ...well, there’s that oddly uncomfortable sensation of a stranger’s thigh pressed up against yours for three and a half hours. To distract myself from that, I thought up Dio stories, including this one:

It was about the middle o’ the day on a Wednesday, back in October o’ ‘76, an’ I was standin’ on Lee street, jus idly chattin’ with a couple o’ the workin’ wimmen from the Bella, when along comes m’ esteemed neighbor Mr. Bu.

“Well, Howdy there, Mr. Bu!” says I, an’ he responds in his usual way with a slight smile, an’ a lil’ bow.

“Missus Di-oh, good day! And Bella Union ladies! Good day as well!”

He give the gals another o’ his smiles an’ a lil’ bow, an’ they giggled an’ curtsied like proper courtesans, an’ we commenced to chat until this wagon come along, driven by a couple o’ micks. We made way fer ‘em an’ it drew to a halt jus’ beyond us, in front o’ the newspaper office. Now mind ye, not the office o’ the current fine publication what Neil runs in his sober moments, but the one that preceded his newspaper. Twas run by a feller named Williams -- not one o’ m’ favorite people in the world, but that ain’t neither here nor there -- and this Williams feller comes outta his office when this wagon pulls up.

He begins a’shoutin orders an’ instructions at these two Irishmen an’ they set to unloadin’ a big sign fer the newspaper office outta the back o’ their conveyance. Oh and it was jus’ one helluva sign, too. Musta been at least mebbe seven feet across an four feet tall, an’ judgin’ by the look o’ the letterin’ an’ decorative flourishes, it had been painted up nicely by a professional sign painter. The wood, I could tell, was planed and sanded smooth, with the boards fitted all tight and neat -- either tongue an’ groove, or at least pegged -- an’ then surrounded by a frame o’ first rate s-curve mouldin’, all squared together with perfect angle joints at the corners. It was jus’ the kind o’ sign that if the thing had been a gentleman sign an’ you happened t’ be a lady sign, you woulda been in grave danger o’ bein’ swept off’n yer feet, an’ at great risk o’ havin’ yer signly virtue compromised. It was just that goddam handsome of a sign.

So we was all admirin’ this shinin’ example o’ carpentry an’ the signpainter’s art, watchin’ as the two Paddys hoist the thing up over the porch o’ the newspaper office an set to attachin’ it to the front wall o’ the buildin’. I sighed an said, “I tell ye what folks, I certainly would be a happy ol’ woman to have a sign even half as nice as that on the front o’ m’ laundry.” ‘Bout that time, Williams, the publisher, espies us an’ comes o’er. He don’t even acknowledge the existence o’ the Bella gals an’ Bu -- instead he starts right in a’babblin’ t’ me about how I need to begin purchasin’ advertisement space in his newspaper, an how it would be a boon to m’ business, a sure-fire means o’ drawin’ more trade than I could handle. An’ I’m startin’ to think to m’self, “Yeah, that would be even better than a big ol’ sign -- would be kinda like havin’ a sign where the whole damn town could see it, an’...”

Then somethin’ happened that kinda changed my mind real quick.

Bu was listenin’ to this Williams prick a’gibberin’ on about the powers o’ newspaper advertisin’ an’ when he finished Bu smiled an said in his quiet, philosophical ol’ gent’s voice, “Notice in newspaper, make much sense. Perhaps Bu could do this for bathhouse...”

He got no further than that before Williams exploded, “No chance of that, you heathen monkey! I’m not going to sully my paper by promoting some vile enterprise like fact, the sooner people come to realize that you and your kind are a menace to civilization, and we drive you from these shores, the better! Mrs. Kuhr I would think you would have better judgment about the kind of company you keep, instead of associating in a public thoroughfare with chinks and common...”

He was glarin’ at the two gals from the Bella as he was sayin’ this, so he never saw what was comin’ in the form o’ m’ right hook what caught him square on the side o’ his jaw. He sank to one knee an’ was lookin’ up at me with considerable astonishment an’ pain as I launched into him like a un-fed hawk on a fat pigeon.

“DON”T you even THINK o’ goddam TRYIN’ t’ tell me who t’ associate with, ye puffed-up, tin-plated, bile-spewin’ limp-membered TOAD! And FURTHERMORE I would sooner shove a goddam sharpened stick in m’ fuckin’ eye than buy adverstisin’ in yer wretched lil’ rag, what ain’t got no value beyond use in the outhouse!!!”

At this point something of a small crowd was gathering to view the entertainment. My friend Ron the gunsmith told me later that I had gotten to within several inches of the man’s face and was pokin’ him repeatedly in the chest with m’ finger to emphasize the finer points o’ m’ oratory, tho’ I don’t actually recollect that. Ron compared Mr. Williams’ role in the whole episode to someone tossin’ lamp oil into a burnin’ camp fire an’ then bein’ puzzled as to why they ain’t got no eyebrows left no more. Anyhow, I warn’t done quite yet.

“NOW you listen to me, an try to unnerstan’ this as well as yer tiny lizard brain will allow, ye slack-jawed, cockchafin’ greenhorn half-wit! If you EVER, an’ I mean EVER say another goddam word to me, I SWEAR, by the name o’ Jeezus an’ his horn-blowin’ angels, I will goddam slit yer worthless, weasel-fuckin’ carcass clean open, from NECK to NAVEL, an’ then I shall damned well RIP yer mealy lil’ lump of a heart clear outta yer chest with m’ BARE HANDS, an’ feed that sonofabitch t’ the goddam coyotes!!!!”

He din’t reply. He din’t even nod yea or nay. He jus’ got to his feet, never taking his eyes off me, his mouth slightly agape, an’ then he turned an’ went into his office.

The Bella gals were suppressin’ a fit o’ giggles, an ol’ Bu was jus’ standin’ there with that slight smile o’ his. He shrugged a tad, an’ said quiet-like, “As Missus Di-oh now not put anything in paper, may Bu and his nephews make sign for Missus Di-oh laundry?”

Without thinking I replied, “Yes, Hon, I would greatly appreciate that...”

“What you wish it to say, Missus Di-oh?”

I thought a minute and pulled out a scrap o’ paper an’ a grease pencil from m’ haversack an’ carefully printed out the words:

Washing and Ironing
D.A. Kuhr & Co.

About a week later, I was still asleep in the back room of the laundry when I was roused by a vigorous knocking at the door. I shouted something about “hold yer goddam horses, I’m a’comin’ pard,” then I pulled the coverlet about me fer some semblance o’ modesty, picked up m’ Walker Colt just in case, an’ stumbled out to see who it was. Through the front window I could see one o’ Bu’s “nephews,” wavin’ an’ grinnin’ like a bobcat what had found an unlocked hen house. I went out an’ greeted him in cordial fashion, an’ found him an’ some companions -- other “nephews” I imagine -- proudly standin’ there with a very large sign.

“Uncle Bu send this for Missus Di-oh. He say we show you, make sure is good...then put up for Missus Di-oh.”

I nodded, still not quite awake, and began looking it over. It was made from first rate lumber, planed and sanded smooth, pegged tightly together and framed by perfectly jointed mouldin’ that...well, was suddenly looking very familiar. It was painted quite nicely...a creamy colored background an’ rich brown lettering that had been very carefully an’ exactly copied from the wording I had written out for Bu the week before: there even was the period after the word “Laundry” that I had included when I wrote it.

“Tis fine work, boys,” I said. “Far better than what I fear I can afford...”

The head “nephew” waved his hand dismissively. “Missus Di-oh no worry. Uncle Bu make this gift for Missus Di-oh. We put up now.”

And they set t’ placin’ ladders an climbin’ on to m’ porch roof to hang the sign. As they began their task, m’ friend Mahaila came strollin’ up with a basket o’ washin’ fer to be done.

“Good morning Dio. Oh my, that is a grand-looking sign you have there.”

“Mornin’ to ye, Hon. And thanks. Tis a gift from m’ esteemed neighbor Mr. Bu.”

Mahaila and I watched Bu’s “nephews” as they efficiently hoisted up the sign and began fastening it to the front edge o' the porch roof.

After a moment of peering at the sign, Mahaila dryly commented, “Funny thing about know just last week, I heard this terrible commotion in the street and I went to find out that someone had stolen the fine new sign off the front of Mr. Williams’ newspaper office, just a day after it had been placed there....”

I looked at Mahaila, and she looked at me. I could tell she was tryin’ not to laugh.

I called up t’ the head “nephew” on the porch roof, “Say pard, ye must convey to yer Uncle Bu m’ thanks an’ gratitude -- tis a very good sign...much nicer than I coulda hoped for...might I ask where ye found such nice finished lumber an mouldin’s fer the sign?

Head “nephew” was still grinnin’ as he replied “Oh, Missus Di-oh, we find this wood some place.”

“ found it?”

“Yes! We find it!”

I arched an eyebrow at Mahaila, and then asked the question I jus’ hadda ask. “Um...outta curiosity, is it perhaps best if’n Missus Dio doesn’t know about where ye boys found the wood fer that sign?”

With no change in his cheerful countenance, the head “nephew” answered, “Oh yes! Missus Di-oh really does not want to know where we find it."

I turned to Mahaila and said quietly, “Well, Mah, I cain’t take it down. Tis a gift from Mr. Bu an’ while I don’t know much o’ the celestial way o’ lookin’ at things, I expect tis not unlikely they look on gift-givin’ in the same way that injuns do -- as somethin’ o’ great significance an’ not t’ be taken lightly. I would not wish to offend Mr. Bu fer the world. But I am sure that as soon as that slimy, mud-eatin’ peckerhead Williams sees that new sign o’ mine, he is gonna put two an’ two together an’ it shall be cause of a great kerfuffle...which don’t concern me very much -- I kin hold m’ own, an’ then some -- but it could be some real trouble fer Bu an his people if’n they get connected t’ the situation ...”

Mahaila looked unperturbed. “Dio, does Mr. Williams ever bring his own laundry back here to be done?"

“Hmmm, no he usually sends one his printer’s boys....”

Mahaila went on, "I would also imagine he does not come back here to use Mr. Bu’s bathouse, nor the opium den, nor the Celestials' grocery and butcher, does he?”

“No, Mah, I can safely say I have never seen him back here on China Row.”

My friend smiled. “I should think know...I have some first-hand knowledge about people who are burdened with hate.”

I nodded. When I had first met Mahaila she was having a dreadful time in Dodge City, in large part because she had the misfortune to fall into a romance with a man who had native blood in his veins. Her words on such matters carried some true weight in my estimation, and I encouraged her to share her thoughts on the issue.

She went on, “People often respond with hate to that which they fear. Mr. Williams, I think has expressed substantial hatred towards the Celestials, and I suspect that is a reflection of his equally substantial fear of them. So naturally, though he may call for their removal, he is not likely to ever change his habits and come back here where he may see your excellent sign. Simply put, he is too afraid of your Chinese neighbors to wander back here. I also gather, he has good reason to avoid ever running into you again. While his fear of the Chinese may be misplaced and unnecessary, I suspect any fear he has of you is perfectly justified.”

I grinned at her an’ we turned to see that Bu’s nephews had completed the task and were admiring their handiwork. We applauded them an told them “job well done” an’ in thanks to them I gave them some bottles o’ wine I had taken as payment from Miz Sal at the Bella fer....well that’s another story fer another time.

But sure enough, I never did see that Williams feller back there on China Row, an’ the matter o' the source o' m’ excellent new sign n’er did come up.

Tis still up there, if’n ye care to see it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dialects and "accents" in SL -- or, who was that monster I saw you with last night?


I finally got around to looking at the Girl Genius comic for the first time (in fact, I managed to piss away the better part of a weekend reading all the way through the online version of the stories, which first began appearing in hardcopy form in 2001). And this got me back to considering the different ways we express ourselves in our typed chat in-world.

The issue of people "speaking" (ie, typing ) in some form of dialect or "accent" in SL has been kicked around quite a lot in recent months and seems to have been a catalyst for a certain amount of angst and anger in certain communities. I have been thinking about this a good bit, especially after Miss Eugenia Burton commented on some elements of the conversation on her blog, Complicated Conundrum and mentioned that yours truly goes around the grid, frequently using an approximation of a rather thick 19th century rural Texan dialect without running into any obvious hostility or irritation because of how I "talk." Eugenia holds up the example of my experience as a contrast to that of other folks in sl who use an "accent" and feel that they are getting a substantial degree of negative reactions for their use of non-conventional spelling and speech patterns. Not unreasonably, she asks why.

At the time she wrote this piece, I had commented that I thought the question deserved some pondering, in part because I felt like I must be missing something. To some extent I felt this way because in the last couple years I have spent less and less time in the sims where the debate was growing, and also because I really didn't know very much about the group of players who seem to find themselves at the center the discussion in a great many cases. These are the sl residents who take on the appearance and speech patterns of "jagermonsters," fictional soldier-creatures that feature prominently in the stories of the Girl Genius comic by Phil and Kaja Foglio.

In the comic -- and when recreated by players in SL -- these creatures speak a heavily accented form of English that is represented through a distinctive arrangement of spelling and word choice that is meant to suggest a Germanic/Balkan background for these characters. It tends to look like something along the lines of, "Dollink! Dot is vun goot-lookink hat hyu got dere!

And yes it can be somewhat hard to follow sometimes. But does it really foster as much of a negative reaction as people think it does? And does it actually rub people the wrong way to greater extent than the happy horseshit dialect I tend to inflict on others in-world?

In some ways, I would think what I do would be more likely to piss people off. My dialect is not merely a construction of dropping g's, using o' rather than "of," and employing the ever popular "y'all." It also draws on colorful and profuse period profanity, good ol' working-class frontier vulgarity, and speech patterns, spelling and vocabulary that is drawn from sources such as Mark Twain, period newspapers, and historic diaries. The way I talk can not only be confusing, it can be downirght offensive to Victorian sensibilities. And it doesn't help that I am a woefully wretched typist to boot. I am told by some of our rl German-speaking residents in Deadwood that my chat makes their translators emit blue sparks and smoke after a while.

Yet I don't think I have ever really caught a ration of shit about what I am typing as Dio (other than within the context of rp, where it is not uncommon for some greenhorn lady fresh off the stage to get all offended by my coarse talk...but that's all in think).

Well it may be a bit of apples and oranges, being as in places like Deadwood, everyone expects some expression of persona through typed chat. I'm not that different from other people there. And I don't go to parties and dances in Caledon or the other steampunk sims any more, so consequently, I am not in contact with a non-frontier rp society at large in any big way. I gather, however, that many of the "jagerkin" spend a lot of time participating in the general social life of the Victorian and steampunk sims on a very regular basis. So that very well may be a large part of why they can end up ruffling some feathers, while there aren't negative emails or blog posts (that I am aware of, anyway) talking about that dreadful Kuhr woman and how hearing her speak is like being subjected to the sound of nails on a chalkboard accompanied by fumes from a portapotty at a outdoor rock concert that the honey-wagon boys forgot to pick up until a week later. I'm just not around enough to irritate the fuck out of people for the most part.

So is part of it about that "being hard to follow" thing? There may be something to that. In Deadwood we had a grizzled old character named Crakajack whose typist went to almost mind-numbing lengths in creating long segments of chat that were truly spectacular examples of "genuine frontier gibberish." It was funny and brilliant and entirely appropriate, and holy Mother of God, I wish I had saved some transcripts of it. At the same time, I seemed to be the only person who had the least goddam idea of what he was saying (and yeah, it took some effort to read it over a couple of times and figure it out). I don't think Crakajack ever got the kinds of interaction or reactions he hoped for, and finally his typist killed the character off (he got shot over a gambling debt back on China Row).

So there is a balance we have to seek between giving free reign to our creativity and actually being able to communicate with others effectively. I do at times find my myself adjusting my dialect for the situation: if I know I am talking with a non-native speaker of English who is probably using a translator, I'll pick simpler vocabulary and type it out more fully so there is a better chance of the translation making some sense. Likewise, I will tone down the colorful and earthy stuff in certain circles, just because the idea of getting the message across often takes precedence over the authentic feel of the language. So maybe we need to be willing to make compromises if the goal is communication.

That said, once I actually got into Girl Genius, I came to get a sense of why people are so committed to taking on the persona of a jagermonster, including the occasionally impenetrable chat.

These guys are a hoot and a half: funny, sarcastic, tough, brave, enthusiastically violent, and uglier than a Fox News marketing meeting. They wear a wacky mix of pre-1900 European military-style uniforms, and most ordinary folks are scared shitless of them. They provide a regular comedic element to the Girl Genius storylines, and at the same time they often function as a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the action and main characters as the classic outsiders, who periodically make observations of substantial profundity.

So, of course, lots of people want to be jagermonsters: I so totally get it now that I have read the comic (which by the way, I thoroughly freakin' enjoyed). The jagers are characters that appeal to certain kinds of people who feel a connection there -- the sense of humor, the sense of being outsiders, of being different from the rest of society (and so perhaps appreciating the very unique different-ness of the jager way of looking and talking). The more I have pondered on this, I don't think it really is about rp as much as it is about selecting an avatar and a way of speaking and comporting oneself -- the persona -- that we feel best represents the uniqueness of who we are, even in a virtual context. People clearly are putting on the jager look and doing jaeger-speak not so much in the interest of telling stories or creating specific scenarios -- they simply are choosing to move through the world in a form that they have found comfortable and fun..

Hell, Dio is pretty much her typist, other than Mrs. Kuhr is a little younger, a little tougher, a little more fun to listen to, and a better shot. We do tend to take on personas that amuse us, that are perhaps the slightly more polished or intensified versions of what we think we are (or wish we could be), and it is understandable that when we have a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to our choices of avie and persona and speech patterns, we will feel it is, in essence, a rejection of ourselves in some way. Ultimately it probably is only about not being easily understood, but it feels to us like something more.

A story from Deadwood -- one warm afternoon in the Gem

This is one of my favorite stories from the early days of the Deadwood sim, re-posted from the Road to Deadwood Forum. It didn't start out as a story, it was actually an impromptu bit of roleplaying that happened between myself and my friend Sepp. We did this scene, pretty much as you read it here, with both of us making it up as we went along. Sadly I did not save an actual chat transcript (we didn't have the forum at the time, and there seemed to be no reason to do so), so I had to reconstruct it from memory. It 's a bit cleaner and a bit more polished than what actually transpired, and some of the descritpoive elements have been fleshed out to give it some depth. But the spirit of what you are going to read here is as true to the real encounter as I could make it. And yes, Foxy and Lil were eavesdropping, thank you girls. And thank you Sepp.

The Gem saloon in the Deadwood sim, ca. late 1876.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Rod Eun

Dio was back in the corner at the end of the bar, drinking her coffee and trying to not pay much attention to the usual Gem noises. Willie the bartender was breakin' wind like a buffalo with bad digestion, Foxy was yelling at someone about something or other, and a couple of drunks were arguing and threatening each other in that vaguely hilarious way that only dimwitted inebriates are capable of. Lil was, as usual, in the back "medicating" herself.

All in all, it was just another normal afternoon at the Gem Saloon, Deadwood City, the Dakota Territory.

Dio's ears, attuned to picking up new noises from the usual din, noted the sound of boots moving towards her across the broad uneven planking of the Gem's floor. Instinctively she turned, expecting to see good ol' Lefty or Daz, or one of the other boys that made the Gem more than just another booze parlor.

Instead, it was a figure that was not one of the usual cast of characters--yet at the same time it was strangely familiar...not too tall, slightly stocky....and dressed in a manner that set the wearer apart from the usual run of cowpokes and miners, trail trash, drifters, confidence men, dandified grifters, and pointlessly arrogant pistoleros that seemed to make up the bulk of the male population in this wretched little tin-plated piss-pot town.

He had on a blue army shell jacket of an obsolete pattern, decorated with faded yellow cavalry piping; a battered old-style forage cap; yellow-striped blue breeches, stuffed into riding boots; and a heavy revolver--a venerable cap and ball model that had been converted to cartridge, she noted--and he had it worn butt-forward, set at the perfect angle to be efficiently drawn while fighting from horseback.

Her eyes traveled up to the face...sun and wind burnt, rough features with a small, neatly trimmed beard..and a eyepatch...the surviving eye, looked straight into hers, and she knew him, then and there. Even with all the changes that can be wrought by the passing of 16 years, by traveling thousands of miles on bad coffee and worse food, by taking the impact of yankee shell fragments and prison camps and witnessing the deaths of friends and enemies at close hand, living out an endless life in the saddle and carrying out orders that may or may not have made any sense to a man who loved reason and logic and human decency...through all the damage that had been done over time and distance to the young man she had once known...she recognized him.

He stopped next to the bar, a good eight feet or so away from her. Not all that far, really. But it felt to her like a great chasm still stood between them, and he seemed to understand and respect that. After a pause, a voice, soft but deep, spoke to her, quietly, but at the same time cutting through the surrounding din, like the light of a hand lamp piercing the dark of night.

"Hello Diogenes. Some gentleman told me I could find you here."

She could still only look at him blankly.

Another pause followed, but he never took his one-eyed gaze away from hers.

His voice was still quiet. "I am sorry about Jack. For what it is worth, I wanted to let you know that I did my best to keep him alive. I am desperately, truly sorry."

Finally she spoke. "Hello Sepp."

Then the words came out like a small flood, "Cap Johnson's boys come to see me after they got sent home. They tol' me he din't suffer none. An they give me his ol' forage cap. An' they needed them some money..but wouldn't accept a gift nor a loan from me, so the eldest, Mo, he done give me his calvry sack coat an let me give him some money fer shit...please, tell me the truth, Sepp...and goddam you to hell for ever if'n yer lying to me...was it quick? Did he really feel nothin'? did..."

The old horse soldier did not flinch, his expression was like stone: impassive, grim, but still looking straight into her eyes. "On my honor, Dio, it was as quick as a soul can depart this minute we were all sitting there on our mounts under some trees, waiting to move out. And all of a sudden there was a woosh and a bang, like a huge clap o' thunder, and we all went down..and Jack was gone. Same shell killed his horse, and my old bay, Ceasar, and took my eye, and few other less noticeable pieces of me, and it hurt one o' the other boys something dreadful..."

Sepp dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment and then looked up into her eyes once more. "Dio, if I thought there actually was a God, I would swear to you on his Holy Book that Jack felt no pain in his passing."

"I...well...the boys told me that...but you know how fellers'll tell a widder just about goddam anythin' tryin' to spare her feelin's. I'm right glad twas the truth. I believe you Sepp. Funny...I still got Mo's gray woolens, but damn me if'n I din't lose Jack's cap somewhere..." Her voice trailed off.

Silently the soldier reached into a haversack he carried, and pulled out a very battered old gray military cap. It had dark brown stains around jagged holes..the kind of holes that no moth can make.

He gently set it on the bar, in the gap in between them. She stared at it as if it was some strange creature...

"I found it on your kitchen table at the ranch Dio," he said. "I got there just as the foreclosure auction was ending. You were one knew where...but I saw the cap and I picked it up, I thought maybe you might want it some day."

She continued to stare at it. Her face was impassive, set with a determination that would have held a world of meaning for Sepp's Apache and Tonkawa rangers from before the war..those men would have understood what her face meant, and would have appreciated it. A single tear slowly etched it's lonely path down her cheek.

"He loved you very much Dio," Sepp continued. "Jack was not a man of many words, he didn't have much to say a lot of the time, but there wasn't a day that didn't go by that he didn't think about you and miss you terribly."

For the first time he took his single eyed gaze away from hers. He looked at the floor. "I had something I wanted to give make sure you knew how much he loved you...that locket with your picture...when I came to, I ... I got it from Jack's..well Jack's mortal remains...I had it with me all these years...I was determined I was going to give it to you how much he loved you..that locket, that picture that when he thought no one was looking, he would pull out and gaze at it, and, well...he loved you more than can rightly be put into words."

He again raised his one eye to meet hers. "But damn if I didn't lose it..just a few weeks ago..must have been a careless damn fool and lost it on the trail somewhere..."

Now it was his voice that trailed off.

For the first time she smiled. A tight, wry, ironic smile.

"It's allright, Sepp. Someone I god, they, um... sort of found it." She pulled it out of the pocket in her buckskin skirt.

For the first time since he had walked into that barn-like shithole of a saloon, he smiled.

Suddenly her expression changed.



"That note you left for me..with Mr. Bu..."

"The old Chinese gent, your neighbor?"


"What about it?"

"In told me to stop hunting for you up in the hills, to wait down here in town..."

"Yes. It was too dangerous for you to be doing that, Dio."

"In said you din't want nothin' to happen to me...cuz you loved me."


"That true?"

"Yes it is. Dio, I've always loved you."

She regarded him in silence for a moment and then slowly, quietly asked, "Even back then...when we was young an just bein' foolish?"

"Yes. And if your next question is did I love you just like a sister...or a right good friend...No. I loved you the other way. But Jack was my best friend. I was always happy for you two. You two being married...well, it was the best a fellow could hope for under the circumstances."

"That how come you never got hitched?"

"Well, it wasn't all of it, but yes, by God it was a big part of it. No woman ever seemed to quite measure up to you, Diogenes."

Suddenly, without a word she moved closer to him. She slowly put her arms around him and pressed her head against his shoulder and began crying. Huge heaving sobs, as years of pain and loss and emptiness poured out in a wave that wracked her slight body. He gently put his big paw-like hands around her and held her... even as she began hitting him on the chest.

"Goddamit" she hissed. "Goddamit to hell and back, you lousy ol' good fer nuthin' feckless saddle-tramp sonofabitch! And you know somethin' else? You look like a goddam idjit in that blue monkey suit."

For the first time in years, the old soldier laughed. He laughed so hard tears came to his eyes.

They kissed...gently, tentatively at first, and then the kiss lengthened and became more intense. And then, arm in arm, they walked out of the Gem and down the street towards her new home in the back of the laundry at the end of China Row, in that very good location right next to Mr. Bu's popular opium house.

Neither noticed that they had left something behind on the bar: an old gray military cap. Later the next day, she would remember it was still there and would go retrieve it. But life, as it does, seemed to have moved on...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A roleplaying transcript -- talking about men and their...guns

Hi folks, sorry I
haven't thrown any new crap your way for a few days -- was out on the road this week for rl employment nonsense. But here's an impromptu conversation -- completely made up as we went along -- from the early days of the Deadwood sim. The context here is that someone has been trying to terrorize the town, and the townspeople have laid a trap for this person. This is one of the conversations that takes place while they are waiting for the troublemaker to show up.

The following transcript is re-posted from The Road to Deadwood forum. It involves a conversation between Dio and another character named Marrant Vita who was, if I recall correctly, the first school marm in town. What I find charming about Marrant is how-- in spite of her history and past events (see Marrant's excellent character intro on the RTD forum for the tragic details) she still has a distinct romantic streak, a sweet idealism about what is possible between a man and a woman, that is truly endearing.

One reason it is so charming, is that I think most of our Deadwood women actually share a longing for that same romantic ideal, but most of the rest of us have either learned to hide it, or do our best to deny it, perhaps even to pretend (or hope) it doesn't exist. So many of us have been hurt and disappointed once or twice (or more) too often to be otherwise. Consequently, it is almost something of a shock to come across someone like Marrant, an honest-to-God legitimate member of our sisterhood of the broken heart, who still openly believes and hopes for that romantic possibility.

Diogenes Kuhr: mind if'n I set with y'all a spell Marrant?
Marrant looks up from her book... No, please, have a seat. Mighty quiet
Diogenes Kuhr: yep I'm wonderin' if the person behind all this knows we is waitin' for him ...
Diogenes Kuhr: ...or her
Diogenes Kuhr: what y'all readin' hon?
Marrant: It's a short story called the Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Diogenes Kuhr: oh?
Marrant: Yes, I started thinking of it... it has a headless horseman in it
Diogenes Kuhr: does it turn out?
Marrant: well, the main character's a schoolteacher
Marrant smiles... a man
Diogenes Kuhr: hmmph
Marrant: He and this other man are both suitors of the same woman. The schoolteacher gets scared off by a Headless Horseman..and the other man marries the woman,
Diogenes Kuhr: this gal they both like...she purty?
Diogenes Kuhr: or rich?
Marrant: Pretty, I think...
Diogenes Kuhr: so why'd she pick the other feller, not the schoolteacher?
Marrant: I guess because the schoolteacher ran off, terrified of the Headless Horseman
..lost his chance.. The other man seemed a bit more.... manly...and you never know if it was or wasn't the other man who was the Headless Horseman...but it makes you wonder
Diogenes Kuhr: hmmm
Diogenes Kuhr: not surprising then
Marrant *smiles*....not at all
Diogenes Kuhr: real men make their chances
Diogenes Kuhr: create their own opportunities
Marrant: I would want a man who wasn't scared.....not one who ran away from a Headless Horseman
Marrant *notes all the men who are absent tonight*
Marrant Only a few brave men here tonight, Dio. Of course, if Kane was still alive, he'd be here
Diogenes Kuhr: fine line twixt bravery an loonacy
Marrant *gazes off* ... Kane was a very brave man...
Diogenes Kuhr: oh?
Diogenes Kuhr: cain't say I ever saw that in him
Marrant: Well.. I mean, he was very tall and he had a big gun
Diogenes Kuhr: what did he do makes y'all say that?
Marrant: ..and he dressed in black..and...he and Badger were friends, and Badger seems very brave
Diogenes Kuhr: the Lipan Apache rangers that m' friend Sepp had in his Texas Ranger company, had them a sayin...
Diogenes Kuhr: "big gun, small penis"
Marrant's *eyes pop open wide*
Marrant *hopes the ghost of Kane can't hear that quote*
Diogenes Kuhr: o course it's not literally true..
Marrant *wonders how big Badger's gun is*
Diogenes Kuhr: like Ron over there
Diogenes Kuhr: he's always armed to the teeth, but I reckon he's got stones to spare...
Diogenes Kuhr: cuz I seen him face down bad guys and mean critters
Diogenes Kuhr: an chase after em
Diogenes Kuhr: an he's a standin' here tonight
Marrant gazes at Ron
Diogenes Kuhr: I think what the Lipans meant was that it's easy fer someone to talk brave when they have a gun ready to hand
Diogenes Kuhr: but it's about how you act
Marrant: That Headless Horseman didn't have a gun at all... would that mean he had a very large.........Marrant *lets her thoughts wander off*
Diogenes Kuhr: *laughs*
Marrant: Dio, you know I'll be looking a guns from now on with a whole different eye
Diogenes Kuhr: *grins* I should hope so

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dio's Story, part seven -- the search in the hills

reposted and edited from the The Road to Deadwood Forum

She knew it was going to be hard finding Sepp and his detail up in the hills. She just hadn't realized how hard.

"Shit," she thought at one point, "these boys are pretty goddam good."

She had figured that Sepp would use every trick he knew to stay hidden from both the miners and wandering groups of hostiles or bandits. And by God, he didn't disappoint her.

Sepp had been trained by the same old rangers and hunters who had taught Dio how to not make obvious trails; to move noiselessly; to leave no evidence of having passed by or where you were going. When she talked to the men in the gold camps, asking if they had seen any bluecoats, they could only tell her vague stories about grim and silent riders who seemed to move like ghosts, suddenly swooping out of the dusk to grab a suspected deserter for a "little chat," or pouncing without warning on small groups of road agents or horse theives.

The only signs she could find were the occasional blurred and masked set of tracks, more often than not suddenly vanishing into a creek bed or over a rock face. And every now and then, Dio came across some freshly mounded dirt, marked with a bit of board or a slab of bark stripped from a nearby tree, and bearing grease pencil inscriptions such as "unknown hostiles," or "deserter," or "unknown bandit, executed 1876."

Dio would spend several days or a week at time, trying to pick up Sepp's trail. When she ran out of supplies, or the signs were cold or nonexistent, she returned to Deadwood, making a brief visit to rest her horse, pick up fresh ammunition and food, and maybe even do a few loads of washing in order to raise some needed funds. But within a day or two, she would be heading back into the hills to continue the search.

Even as she tried to follow Sepp's detachment, she knew she had to be as careful and cautious as they were. One time, Dio thought she had found their trail. She had come across the tracks of a small group of shod horses, hidden as much as possible, deliberately obliterated or made misleading by means such as backtracking in streams--all the tricks that someone like Sepp would be using. But when the freshness of the tracks told her she had caught up with the group she was following and that they were probably just over the next hill, she didn't simply go riding over the ridge like some feckless greenhorn. Instead, experience and instinct told her to tie her horse some distance away, and silently belly crawl up the slope to take a look first. There, she saw not a squad of army scouts and troopers, but a little band of Cheyenne warriors, resting a small herd of horses they obviously had stolen from some white settlers or miners--hence the tracks of shod horses, rather than shoeless Indian ponies. As quietly as possible she backed down the hill on her stomach, made a dash for "rented hoss" as she called her mount, and got the hell away from there as quickly as she could.

Meanwhile Sepp also made some stops in town--but always by himself, never bringing in his detachment. This was partly to keep them from falling prey to the trouble that lay waiting for tired, thirsty, recreation-starved soldiers in a place like Deadwood, but also to conceal how small his detail actually was. During the course of one of these stops in town to pick up supplies, he learned the truth--that Dio was alive, that she was in this town--this miserable little boomtown--and that she was out in the hills looking for him. On discovering this, he left a note with an elderly Chinese gentleman who lived next door to Dio's laundry, telling her to stay put, that he would come find her, that going out into the hills on her own was too dangerous.

And it certainly was dangerous.

Inevitably, Dio let her guard down for just a moment while taking a rest and was surprised by a miner who thought he could have his way with her. As he worked on undoing his trousers, he never saw the sudden flash of the boot knife that caught him in the throat. With a second and third quick slash, Dio cut his jugular vein and then sat panting, as she watched him bleed out. Seeing the man die before her eyes, Dio 's rage grew--every flint-hearted banker, drunken bastard, lecherous swine and greedy prick she had ever known in her jumbled life became personified in this gasping, wreck of a human, staring at her with terror and pain in his eyes. That look of terror grew as she told him what she was about to do.

When he finally expired, she grimly stood up and began taking everything he, gun, gear, clothing, and finally, the kind of mementos she had learned to take from a fallen enemy when she rode with Sepp's Apache and Tonkawa rangers.

The next day, when a party of prospectors stumbled upon the naked, scalped, and emasculated body of a white man whose throat had been cut, they assumed it was evidence of yet another attack by hostile Indians. When they noted that his chest had been opened and some major organs removed--and apparently left out to feed the wolves and coyotes--they were convinced that here was a clear message from the Sioux, telling interlopers such as themselves to leave the Black Hills or suffer the consequences. A couple of them did actually decide to give up and return to Iowa that night.

Even as the frightened fortune hunters were packing their gear to head back east, a small figure in buckskins and a battered, broad-brimmed hat slowly rode into Deadwood, leading an extra horse and cradling a new carbine. The old slouch hat was curiously decorated with a few wild daisies stuck in the band. Her saddle had even more curious decorations--a scalp and what appeared to be a severed set of male genitalia.

Deadwood was not a place for those who were faint of heart or weak of stomach. Dio was neither. And she had no intention of going anywhere else.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A modest real life adventure -- prospecting on the American River

I had a little adventure on Friday that I wanted to share with y'all (but I had other things that had to come first, so I'm doin' it now). It was one of those "Kon-Tiki" experiences that give you some small insights into people's lives in the past: my friend Aldo and his father-in-law Gregg invited me along on a gold prospecting trip to the North Fork of the American River, a little ways to the east of Sacramento, California.

When they asked, of course I said "Hell yeah," and laced on my old Corcoran boots and met up with them for about an hour drive, the last portion of which went down a winding dirt and gravel road that was scraped into a pretty steep hillside. This triumph of engineering led down to the Ponderosa Way bridge (see picture, above), where we disgorged from the jeep with gear that included shovels, five gallon buckets, a small pick with a scoop blade, a sifting box, a little portable sluice box, a gold pan, and some other miscellaneous accessories of low-tech mining. We climbed over a low barrier and went down to river bed. The water was fairly low and moving kind of fast. The exposed part of the river bed was a field of loose, rounded river rocks (some qualifying as boulders), sand and gravel. We then hiked a ways over the rocks, heading downstream from the bridge until Gregg saw some likely looking spots among the boulders and gravel of the bar.

We spent a good part of the day digging up gravel and sand, sifting it into the buckets and then putting the resulting material one handful at a time into the sluice box (which was set into the flowing stream so water was running through it). The water washed away the lighter sand and gravel, leaving the heavier bits (including hopefully, some gold) against its "riffles" (small ridges). Finally, when it looked like the crap was mostly gone, we took the remnants and did the panning thing, swirling it around in the pan and washing away more of the light material.

It was a wonderful, wonderful place: absolutely beautiful. The river water was clear and cool and the rocks, though a pain in the ass to hike over, were fascinating. Gregg pointed out various piles of rocks here and there which he identified as "tailings" from earlier mining operations, perhaps going back as far as the 1850s.

In the course of the day, the three of us actually found two minuscule flaky little pieces of gold, which Gregg carefully retrieved from the pan with a little suction gizmo and put into a jar.

I can't tell you what those little reddish yellow flakes might be worth, but I can tell you that finding them taught me a couple of things, things that I think have a significance for those of us who are trying to create stories about life in a 19th century gold mining community.

First and foremost, placer mining for gold in the old, hands-on way that guys did it in the 19th century is goddam hard work.

You are mostly bent over or squatting. You are pulling up big rocks and tossing them out of the way so you can get at the finer material -- the sand and fine gravel -- that lies underneath and around the bigger stones. Much of the time, you are scooping up this stuff with your bare hands to put in the buckets, because the shovels, and even the little scoop/pick tool, are too unwieldy to get the sand and gravel out of the crevasses. And Christ it sorta made your brain hurt -- Aldo and I spent a lot of time squinting at the sand and gravel as we washed it through the sluice and then swirled it in the pan, concentrating so terribly hard, like badly-trained mentalists trying to bend a spoon with brain waves. We were both scared shitless that we would accidentally wash away something that was of some value.

But Gregg was a lot more blase' about it all. He's been doing this stuff for years and he says it just gets to be second nature. And he was really, really nice to not give me a ration of shit about my spectacularly inept efforts to swirl the sand and gravel and water in the pan in the proper way. I could just imagine the grief that oldtimers probably would have shoveled on to some poor, feckless, dewy-eyed greenhorn who was trying to get the hang of it for the first time.

So we were doing this for only one day, and it was kinda rough on the knees (though we wore knee pads) and on the back and on the fingers. And I'll admit all three of us are older and more sedentary than your average historical 49er. But goddam, it gave me a whole new level of respect for those guys. Especially the ones who got to California by taking a fucking hike across several thousand miles of prairies, mountains and deserts to get there.

The experience also made me ponder some things. One thing I noticed was that here we were in this astonishingly beautiful place, and before long, you stopped seeing it. Your eyes were focused down: among the rocks, in the sluice box, in the pan. Were the argonauts of the past blinded to nature's wonders in the same way?

And I wondered if the guys in the 19th century talked at all while digging, running a sluice and panning. I know we didn't have much to say, other than things related to the work itself:

"How about this spot?"

"Hand me that bucket."

"Is this anything?"

"Watch your fingers there..."

I could also understand how if you did this for weeks, or months, or even years, it probably aged you prematurely. And I could see how other ways of making your living -- blacksmithing, bartending, gambling, robbing stagecoaches, stealing chickens, or farming -- must have become very, very attractive sooner or later. Especially in the valleys of California, where it never snowed, the land was fertile, and all kinds of stuff would grow, did the lure of the yellow metal ever completely fade, or did it hold you in its grip forever?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dio's story, part six -- a face from the past

reposted from The Road to Deadwood forum

Dio and Sepp had no idea how close they finally were to each other.

Sepp was now a First Sergeant in the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, under General Crook at Ft. Fetterman, in the Wyoming Territory. As the lure of gold enticed soldiers to take "French leave" and take up mining in the area around the new settlement known as Deadwood, First Sgt. Bogart was dispatched with a small detail of troopers and scouts as a provost marshal's detachment to round up deserters. In the course of his work, Sepp began periodically stopping in the town seeking information on stray soldiers and to get supplies for his little command, but he never happened to encounter the woman he had been seeking since the war.

Then one night he happened to visit the Gem, where Miss Lil, in one of her "entrepreneurial moments" picked his pocket. All she got for her troubles was a battered locket, which she tossed in one of her jewelry boxes without even opening it. When he realized he had lost the locket, Sepp felt a huge emptiness inside--he thought he must have carelessly let it slip out while he was on the trail, never imagining that it had been stolen. He had carried that little trinket since Jack was killed, hoping to give it to Dio so she would know how much her husband had loved her, and that he had been thinking of her every day while he was gone from their west Texas ranch. Now it had evaporated, and he felt it was a sign that he would never see her again.

Not long afterwards, Deadwood's folks were having one of those days: a day when everything seemed to be going from bad to worse, to just downright unbelievable. Lil had been sick, gone through a botched operation, and was dealing with the consequences, including infection, excruciating pain and delirium. Dio had befriended a newcomer--a young man from the slums of New York who went by the name Amsterdam--who subsequently had to be talked out of killing himself, and then prevented from shooting Deac (which Dio accomplished by standing in between the two of them when they were about to pull their weapons).

Afterwards, called upon to help Miss Lil--as no one else with any medical knowledge was around to alleviate her suffering--Dio found herself re-bandaging the woman's wounds and administering some morphine from Mr. Bu's supplies. In between facing down and cussing out an irate Percy (livid that Dio had protected someone who had threatened his brother and frightened Miss Estwee), and trying to keep various friends and strangers from wandering into Lillian's sick room, Dio was given an odd gift by the Gem's owner. For some reason, the delirious and heavily drugged Lil decided to give Dio a memento to thank her for her help--and the piece she chose to give the widow Kuhr was an old locket she had "found."

When Dio opened the strangely familiar object, she found a familiar face smiling up at her from the picture inside the locket. It was her own, in a tintype taken over 17 years before.

Once she had recovered from the shock, Dio got some semblance of an explanation from Lillian, and realizing that Sepp was patrolling the hills near Deadwood, she returned to the laundry. She grabbed her pistol, and dug out her old buckskin trail clothes from the immigrant trunk she had acquired from yet another disappointed fortune hunter who had given up the hunt for gold. After one final round of exchanging harsh words with Percy and preventing him from killing Amsterdam, she set out on a rented horse to begin looking for Sepp.

She suddenly wanted to reconnect with her lost past very, very badly.

The Deadwood Free Press does it again

As SL community publications go, I think the Deadwood Free Press is hard to beat. Every couple of weeks, a group of really busy people led by the slightly drink-addled yet surprisingly productive Poohneil Streeter turn out something that is fun and interesting. And it keeps getting better. They attempt to give an overall look of a 19th century publication and meld a mix of reports on rp events and what is happening within the sim with historical information and even snippets of actual historical news from the 1870s.

If you want to download a copy and look at it follow this link:

Deadwood Newspapers

Friday, July 3, 2009

Celebrating the Birthday of the Republic -- a Deadwood event


Tomorrow, July 4, the citizenry of Deadwood City in the Dakota Territory will commemorate the birth of the United States in the traditional manner of a frontier community of the 1870s. These elements are commonly known as the “Three B’s”--Booze, Beasts, and Bombast.

The role of alcoholic libations--the “Booze” in the equation--requires little explanation in a town that has roughly one saloon for every 39 residents. The “Beasts” are involved either for riding or eating. On the frontier, 4th of July activities commonly include horse races, some form of barbeque, and perhaps bull riding (unless the barbecue got scheduled first).

As for “Bombast,” what is a modern 19th century celebration of our Independence without speeches? Oration is looked upon as both an art and a form of edifying entertainment, notwithstanding the fact that this part of the festivities seems to be intertwined with the imbibatory element. And it should be noted, that an essential and expected aspect of the “speechifying” is the inevitable snide remarks and insults directed at the Kingdom of Britain and its rulers, both past and present.

Curiously, any former or current citizens of the Empire who happen to be present will be treated with the utmost respect and “neighborliness,” not just because of the expansive nature of frontier hospitality, but also because “o’ course when we say them things, we don’t mean YOU, personally, pard.” In fact, all are welcome.

That said, I do remind potential guests that because of the immersive nature of the rp in Deadwood City, if you do want to come to this event, you'll need to put on a human avie and appropriate 19th century clothing. If any of you folks out there want to give it a shot and are uncertain about trying it, send me an IM and I'll help you get oriented in between when I have to do some things.

The tentaive scheudle for the day is:

Marksmanship competition at 10 AM (Sponsored and organized by yours truly)

Horse race at Noon

Picnic and speeches at 1 PM (I think I'm doing one of the speeches)

Canoe races on Whitewood Creek at 3 PM

Some kind of conclusion to things at around 6 PM, maybe?

Heavy drinking is optional, but expected throughout the course of the day.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

RP transcript -- Dio wrassles with a mountain lion

an early rp transcript of a surprise scenario that no one including myself was expecting, re-posted with some editing from The Road to Deadwood Forum. I really like this, not just because so many people got involved when I was attacked by a mountain lion -- which Ron Xi shot while I was "wrasslin" with it -- but because while I am lying in the street bleeding like mad, they are talking about all sorts of things, including what they are going to do with the cougar's hide. And through it all, Sand, our marshal, was still trying to figure out what happened:

[18:54] Sand Rau: what is THAT!
[18:54] Brooklyn Alcott:*backs up to lefty*
[18:54] Kiwi Little: dont move...
[18:54] You: mountain lion
[18:54] Lefty Fargis: watch it Dio a mountain lion!
[18:54] Brooklyn Alcott:*blinks in surprise*
[18:54] Lost Ferals HUD: Ganesha would like to animate your avatar. Click [Yes] to accept.
[18:54] Cookie Portocarrero: oh mah goodness - shoot it!
[18:54] Ganesha lines up on their target and... POUNCE!
The mountain lion has pounced on Dio but Ron shoots
[18:54] Deadwood 1.6: Ganesha Xi falls to the ground apparently dead or unconscious...
[18:54] Deadwood 1.6: Ganesha Xi trembles a little then appears to die...
[18:55] Deadwood 1.6: Diogenes Kuhr falls to the ground apparently dead or unconscious...
[18:55] Brooklyn Alcott:*runs to miss Dio*
[18:55] Kiwi Little: miss Dio!
[18:55] Cookie Portocarrero: oh mah lord
[18:55] You: goddam that hurt
[18:56] Kiwi Little: damn who shoot mis Dio?
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott:*bends down to miss Dio*
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: it was the lion I think
[18:56] Nitron Xi: I think the lion got Miss Dio!
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: *opens the bag*
[18:56] You: not shot, goddam cougar got me...
[18:56] Sand Rau: SOME ONE GET A DOCTOR
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott:* rolls miss Dio over*
[18:56] Lazurus Thorne: Get Miss Dio off the street
[18:56] Brooklyn Alcott: I AM a doctor
[18:57] Cookie Portocarrero: is she breathin, Dr. Alcott?
[18:57] Brooklyn Alcott: *kneels down*
[18:57] You: sonofagoddambitchin' cat
[18:57] Brooklyn Alcott: yes she is breathing ....*giggle* cussin too
[18:57] Sand Rau: WHERE IN THE HELL...?
[18:57] Kiwi Little: she is alive
[18:57] Brooklyn Alcott:*looks over her cuts and bite*
[18:57] Brooklyn Alcott: yes...
[18:58] Nitron Xi:*runs over* Miss Dio! Miss Dio you ok??
[18:58] Deadwood 1.6: Diogenes Kuhr is now ready for surgery...
[18:58] Cookie Portocarrero: she don't look so good
[18:58] Sand Rau: damn cat
[18:58] Kiwi Little: Poor miss dio
[18:58] You: *groans*
[18:58] Brooklyn Alcott:*puts some salve on the gauze and starts pressing hard on the cuts*
[18:59] Brooklyn Alcott looks over at the animal
[18:59] Nitron Xi:*ties a rope around the animal's paws*
[18:59] Nitron Xi: just to be sure
[18:59] Sand Rau: man alive....
[18:59] Brooklyn Alcott: *looks at the deep gashes in her stomach, arms and neck....*
[18:59] Cookie Portocarrero: you kin drag it into the back room of the hotel
[18:59] Brooklyn Alcott *presses hard*
[18:59] Lazurus Thorne: Damn
[19:00] You: thank god fer buckskin duds
[19:00] Lazurus Thorne: Carefull Mister Ron
[19:00] Cookie Portocarrero: oh Miz Dio! you ain't daid!
[19:00] Sand Rau: you maam are one tuff cookie
[19:00] Brooklyn Alcott:*reaches for the thread and needle....searching in the bag*
[19:00] You: goddam right I ain't dead
[19:00] Brooklyn Alcott: no she's not dead
[19:00] Lefty Fargis: I been needin' a mountain lion skin for my floor
[19:00] Nitron Xi:*picks up the animal and carries it into the back of the hotel*
[19:00] Brooklyn Alcott:*smiles*
[19:00] Brooklyn Alcott: she's too tough
[19:00] You: jus bleedin like hell
[19:01] Brooklyn Alcott: we'll get that stopped, miss Dio
[19:01] Brooklyn Alcott:*presses harder*
[19:01] Sand Rau: I'll help ya
[19:01] Brooklyn Alcott: oh Miss Dio he picked the tastiest one outa the bunch..giggle
[19:02] Sand Rau: she going to be ok ..doc?
[19:02] Brooklyn Alcott: course she is....she's a tough one
[19:02] Sand Rau: damn right she is
[19:02] Brooklyn Alcott: aint no cat gonna take her off this world
[19:02] Sand Rau: tuff as nails
[19:03] Brooklyn Alcott:*looks at the blood just pouring out of the neck wound*
[19:03] Brooklyn Alcott: you gonna have some cat marks to show folks, Miss Dio
[19:03] Brooklyn Alcott:*smiling and pressing down with all her might*
[19:03] Lazurus Thorne: Mister Ron, if that cat has enough whole hide....I'd like a new holster out of it
[19:03] Nitron Xi: I'll check into it for ya, sir
[19:04] Lazurus Thorne: abliged
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott:*looks over shoulder to Lefty*
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott: can you help me ??
[19:04] Nitron Xi: is miss Dio gonna be alright, Brooklyn?
[19:04] Lefty Fargis: yeah what ya need
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott: Lefty press here ...on the neck
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott: as hard as you can
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott: while i sew up her arm
[19:04] You: arrrgh goddam that hurt
[19:04] Lefty Fargis: * presses on her neck *
[19:04] Brooklyn Alcott: I'm sorry miss Dio...
[19:05] Brooklyn Alcott:*threads the needle and starts sewing the gash in the arm*
[19:05] Brooklyn Alcott: I think we did this last week didn't we Miss Dio??
[19:05] Brooklyn Alcott : *smiles, trying to keep her mind off being hurt*
[19:05] Sand Rau: think so too
[19:05] You: hell yes, Doc
[19:05] Sand Rau: *smiles*
[19:05] You: an' as much I like ye...
[19:05] Brooklyn Alcott: *smiles*
[19:06] You: ...cuz goddam, you really do smell good an' all...
[19:06] You: but I's gittin' right tired o' this gittin' patched up nonsense