The Flat: 5000 Buffalo Hunters, Ranchers, Prostitutes, Drunks and Criminals in One Place

While researching Fort Griffin and The Flat we came across a little town being rebuilt in the old western style. The owner claims he is going to turn it into a tourist trap when he completes it all, haha, but it is open now for anyone to browse around. So we took advantage of it!

At one point in time The Flat had over 5,000 people living there. Wyatt Earp met Doc Holliday there and Big Nose Kate also used to hang out at The Flat. Once there were over 200,000 buffalo hides piled up at The Flat. The ground was soaked with blood. It was a real western boom town…and now it is trying to be recreated by historians and Old West buffs alike.

The only thing that exists from the original Flat is this jail cell. Everything else is gone, but this has endured. What a monument! But the ground itself is full of old square head nails and rusted bolts and whatnot. We picked some up. One word of warning, however, they really don’t want you to go out there with a metal detector, which makes sense. They don’t want the land being dug up by amateurs.

There is a good story associated with this jail. (Though not necessarily this cell.) There are a lot of police records kept from that time and one of them from a sheriff says something along the lines of, “I arrested a mean buffalo hunter and put him in jail. But he was so mean I had to shoot him.”

That was the real Old West, my friends.

Ah, the personal conveniences of the Old West. I get tickled when I see movies that show western streets from that era. They are so clean and straight and level…when in reality they were little more than mud pits filled with refuse and filth. Do you doubt me? Cram 5000 unwashed people in a small area and then get back to me on that one….

You can tell the men working on this town are doing so from a real labor of love. You can walk into many of these buildings and they are even decorated on the inside with furniture, paintings, etc. It is an amazing accomplishment and they haven’t even finished!

I thought the wagon yard was amazing. The guy built this stone fence himself. Back in the day there were a lot of stone fences because the mesquite trees weren’t as thick as they were today, and the cottonwood trees along the Clear Fork had been felled to raise The Flat. But, being cottonwood, it didn’t last and the buildings fell apart and disappeared over time. But by then the boom was over anyway and The Flat was a ghost town…and then not even that.

I was personally fascinated by these wagons. I leaned over the stone fence and stared at them a long time, trying to get a feel for what it was like to use these things everyday of your life. I wondered who had used them, and why, and what their lives were like. For a writer it was a great experience. I can’t wait to get back there. I loved it.

Conversing with Story Again: Finding Story Where You Least Expect It

Story: Hello.

Me: Whoa. Didn’t expect to see you here.

Story: That’s funny. Why not, may I ask?

Me: Because I’m just sitting here on the rim of a canyon watching the sun go down.

Story: And?

Me: Well, I’m not doing anything. I’m not thinking about writing or stories or trying to come up with ideas or…oh, now I see.

Story: Of course! You don’t have to actively search me out. In fact, I come upon you when you least expect it.

Me: Like a thief in the night?

Story: I was more or less thinking I did it like a cat padding through cotton…but whatever makes your boat float.

Me: Nice of you to show up, though. I could use a good story idea to work on.

Story: Well, now you have one. All you needed was a little downtime and relaxation. Watch a sunset. Listen to music. Whatever it is you do to turn off your mind…which in your case we can all agree is a short trip from “active” to “shutdown”.

Me: Nice.

Story: Hey, better take what you can get. But back to your point. It’s true I turn up when you least expect me. A lot of writers, especially new ones, worry they won’t have enough story ideas to write. When the truth of the matter is you’re going to have too many story ideas to write. The trick is picking which ones are the best. You obviously can’t write them all so you have to use your judgment and intuition as to which one is the best. Some of this comes from confidence but I think most of it is from instinct.

Me: Well, wherever it comes from, thanks. I needed a new story idea and this one looks like it could be good.

Story: Glad I could help. Ahem. So, are we going to go write now?

Me: I thought I would keep watching the sunset.

Story: Why?

Second Story: Hello. Glad you meet you.

Me: That’s why.

Story: Hoo boy, it’s getting crowded around here. But that’s a good thing.

Me: I agree. Well, looks like the sun is down. Let’s go write.

Story and Second Story (together): Me first!

You never know when a story idea will hit you. Be ready for it anytime of the day.

 

 

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