Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You Say Goodbye, I Say Chateau

or A Long-Expected Party
On Monday, June 14th, I visited the Chateau de Mores. It's the summer hunting cabin of the Marquis de Mores. He founded the town of Medora, naming it after his wife. The Marquis came to the Dakota Territory to make it rich in the cattle business. He decided that the way to save money would be to process the meat before sending back east in refrigerated railway cars rather than shipping the cattle live and losing meat in the process. The company was shut down after three years because business was not as booming as it had been at first. After losing a lot of money, even by today's standard, the Marquis and family moved back to France. The cabin was named the Chateau, which is French for castle, after the family left.
The Marquis was quite the entrepreneur. After failing in the Dakota Territory, he tried railroads in Indochina. He also led an anti-Semitic movement and ran for Paris city council. He dueled on occasion. He went on to try to unify native tribes into a pro-French alliance in Africa, where he was murdered at the age of thirty-eight. (The museum said that he fought bravely with a gushing head wound. It was my favorite sentence in the entire museum.)
So that's the Marquis.
The ladies who ran the museum were very nice. I think it was mainly because we were young twenty something girls and that kind of folk probably don't come through the doors as often. (I went with Jenny from the Cities area of MN who is about my age, I think.) We started with an art gallery that randomly has a pair of chaps supposedly worn by Theodore Roosevelt himself. Then we watched the video. This is Jenny's favorite part of all museums. It showed off the Chateau and gave some history. The next room we went to was all about the Marquis and his business. We played the informative games too and we sat on some saddle. Jenny didn't realize that her saddle was a side saddle til a nice tour guide told us.
After a quick look around the gift shop, we walked up to the Chateau. About half way up there is a small building with a display about the Civil Conservation Corps that helped to build the National Park and restore the Chateau during the depression. Then we were met by two tour guides on the porch of the Chateau. One them launched into a spiel. Then we walked inside to the dining area and the other guide went into her spiel, telling us we'd just gotten off the train from out east and that after we went upstairs to freshen up, we could come back down for food and then hunt. Then we went through the kitchen. We went upstairs unaccompanied so we broke into a closet and took our time looking in all the rooms. Some things are from the original house because they only took personal items back with them so bed frames and other things are legit.
Then we went back downstairs through the huge hunting room and then the master bedrooms (they each had their own, like I Love Lucy but two separate rooms instead of two twin beds.) We switched tour guides when we got to Medora's rooms. She knew everything about her. The rooms had an amazing view of the badlands that Medora painted. Medora, in her day, ran the household, bought groceries (when they're from the east, it's a big deal,) she also painted and played the piano. She had nannies to care for her children. The guide said she was women's lib before there was womens lib because of all she did and because she married when she was twenty-six which was spinster age back then and also the Marquis was younger than her by two years and she hunted in pants (still side saddle though.)
The last room was the living room. It had a piano, lots of chairs, books, a fireplace, and mounted bison head (not original, of course you would take your hunting trophies with you.) We learned that there are no living direct descendants.
Then we were told that we could make the hike to the stables. We did. It was down hill a bit. There was a horse down there who was not pleased we were in his territory. The live horse was there because there are stagecoach rides you can go on. It's only a half hour ride so it doesn't go all the way to Deadwood, like the Marquis' stagecoach business used to. It was much more of a hike on the way back up.
We arrived back at the museum and had a piece of birthday cake; it was the Marquis' 152nd birthday. The lemonade was fantastic and very refreshing after the walk.
On our way out, a different tour guide lady asked us if we'd been up to the Chateau and the tour guide who had talked with us earlier, I think her name was Karen or maybe Sharon, she said that we been up there and toured the whole museum too. We liked her a lot.
note: the subtitle is the title of the first chapter in The Fellowship of the Ring, which I am currently reading. I felt it was fitting since it was the Marquis' 152nd birthday.
Also, the Marquis' full name was Antoine Amedee Marie Vincent Amat Manca de Vallombrosa.

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