Mount Moriah cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota, up in the Black Hills, has such a reputation of notoriety that the staff charges admission for tourists to wander around and look at the graves, with a detailed tour guide pamphlet and map in hand. Among the many famous folk buried there are Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane, who I wrote about in a former post.
Less well known was a fellow named Prentis Bernard, who went by the more “Wild West” sounding name of Vinegar Bill. The Mount Moriah visitor’s guide has this to say:
Prentis Bernard, alias “Vinegar Bill” died December 8, 1907. Colorful characters are a hallmark of Mount Moriah Cemetery, “Vinegar Bill” being a prime example. Bill’s infatuation with a soiled dove inhabiting the “Mansion,” a notorious Deadwood brothel, caused his demise. After finding her in a compromising position with another man, Bill pulled a gun and greviously wounded his supposed rival. Struggling for his pistol, the paramour shot Bill dead. The local mortician kept his remains for ten days, but no one claimed the body so it was buried stark naked in a coffin which was several inches too short. The County Commissioners, upon hearing of the outrage, forced his reburial at Mount Moriah in Potter’s Field.
Now this story sounds really familiar to me. I heard it in a song by the Beatles that went like this:
Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota
There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon
And one day his woman ran off with another guy
Hit young Rocky in the eye Rocky didn’t like that
He said I’m gonna get that boy
So one day he walked into town
Booked himself a room in the local saloon
Now she and her man who called himself Dan
Were in the next room at the hoe down
Rocky burst in and grinning a grin
He said Danny boy this is a showdown
But Daniel was hot, he drew first and shot
And Rocky collapsed in the corner
So I guess Rocky Raccoon was a real guy, after all.