Amy Roberts: Little Bessie carries on
Ryan Summerlin May 27, 2014
I live on a street called Little Bessie. Surrounding me are streets with names that evoke feelings of the quintessential Wild West — Annie Oakley, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp, to name a few.
When I first moved into my home in Prospector over 10 years ago, I knew who that crew was — the benefit of having a dad who loves black and white Westerns, I guess. I remember closing on my house and musing to the mortgage lady that most of my neighborhood was named after a bunch of gun-toting, saloon-keeping, hard-gambling, outlaw cowboys. But despite the legendary status behind each of those street names, I really did not know who Little Bessie was. She one of the few namesakes without its own Wikipedia page. I sort of assumed it was a famous cow. And I was calling her home.
So I asked a neighbor if he knew the story behind the Little Bessie brand. I have never done the research to verify his claims, but he told me Little Bessie was the madam of the brothels back in the town’s mining days. She was a large woman in charge of the loose women. He even suggested the whorehouses were once located on our street. (No wonder Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp are so close.) This neighbor was emphatic and told me under no uncertain terms, Little Bessie was where the miners came to party.
If this little history lesson is all true, then not much has changed over the last century. Little Bessie still opens its arms to anyone and knows how to have a good time.
Last weekend we had our somewhat-annual "Big Bessie Block Party." It’s not really a block party when friends who live in Jeremy Ranch and Kamas show up, but that’s part of our charm. We’re an all-inclusive bunch and what block you happen to live on doesn’t really matter so long as you bring a decent case of beer to ours.
There was a band, a bar, lots of yard games, a BBQ, and face painting for the kids. It was the timeless Memorial Day weekend experience, happening on Any Block, USA. Until a moose strolled right down the street and briefly interrupted the party — then it quickly became pretty specific to Park City.
Neighbors got reacquainted after a long winter of hibernating, new friendships were formed, dogs chased each other, people caught up with those they hadn’t seen in years, children squealed between water-balloon fights — it was an ideal way to kick off summer. Even though we all know we could likely still see snow again before school is out.
But on Saturday, the weather held, and for the first time in recent memory, the weather cooperated with us on Memorial Day weekend. Allowing the unofficial start of summer to officially kick us off right, eating ice cream while donning our flip-flops and shorts.
I would like to think we’ve evolved slightly since the miners partied on Little Bessie.
But several days later, we’re still cleaning up the street. I found an empty beer can in my mailbox today, there are balloon animals and a bra stuck high in the trees at one house, and my dogs still have gurgling bellies from all the food they found, or stole from small children.
We might be a bit more civilized, but one thing is for certain — Little Bessie can still show the town a good time.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.