We didn’t make it through the year without losing yet another popular former Keystone resident. Last week I received a call from Wade Morris, who now lives in Washington state, informing me that his mother, Jody Morris, passed away from cancer just before Christmas. He asked if I remembered his mother when his parents ran the Rushmore Bar in the 1980s. Yes, I told him, I did. In fact, I can still see her lovely face and that special smile she had most all the time. She had beautiful long, brown hair that always looked perfect and I envied her for that. Those like me who have baby-fine hair with little body and no incentive to curl or fall in waves will know what I am talking about. When Jody wasn’t working behind the bar, she often sat on a stool and visited with the customers. She had a way of toying with straws or a swizzle stick as she talked, but as I recall, most often she listened.
Jody was sort of the “mother hen” of old Keystone back in those days. The regulars told her things in confidence that needed a special person and a little old-fashioned advice. The Rushmore Bar was the local hangout for just about everyone back then, whether they wanted a cold one or just a place to meet and swap the news of the day. I also recall Howard being “miffed” on occasion when Jody did not make chocolate chip cookies. So many of these special people have passed on since that time and a lot of them were lost in this past year.
Looking back, I am now one of the Keystone “old-timers” who was here during those really fun times of the 1980s and into the early 1990s. I can recall much of the nonsense of those days, like the first Holy Terror Days, the Great Wall of Keystone, Professor Keasey’s patio mesquite barbeques with Lee Silverton (and dead skunks under the porch), the stagecoach, the Black Hills Gold wars and yup, Single Jim and Shep the Wonder Dog at the Rushmore Bar. For those who don’t remember that far back, Shep the Wonder Dog was a parrot. That’s kind of how everything was. We still had colorful old Harry Hardin, prospector and storyteller whose burro drowned in Keystone’s 1972 disaster. Harry loved to say mournfully “I lost my ass in the flood” and wrote lots of poetry about it. Paha Ska was the imposing and stoic iconic American Indian greeter for thousands of tourists for nearly half-a-century. He began an enviable art career by first painting on black velvet and later sold his paintings and decorated hides worldwide. Paha Ska wore a mirror on his wrist that reflected sunlight so people couldn’t snap his photo without tipping him. But he told stories in hesitating English that kept visitors in awe and they returned again and again to savor all the flavors of this unique place half-hidden below Mount Rushmore.
I really enjoy my memories from those days. While some are admittedly getting dim, thoughts of the shenanigans taking place in the Rushmore Bar in the years when Jody and company held forth remain among my favorites. My condolences go out to her family and friends.