Raccoon Forks, which is located in a clearing not far from Valparaiso, Nebraska, is not an actual ghost town. No one lives there, and no one lived there in the past, though it may appear as if that could have been possible with buildings that include a bank, jail, saloon and other buildings considered requirements in Old West towns. The first hint visitors might have that this is not an actual ghost town is the pristine condition of the buildings--most ghost towns, even restored ghost towns, look old and faded.
The Blue River Regulators, a group of Nebraska Old West re-enactors, created Raccoon Forks by building one or two shops at a time, doing their best to maintain a sense of reality to the place, and any film maker will tell you that if you want to know the true nature of a time, as far as architecture, costume, language, and weaponry, consult the local re-enactor! The Blue River Regulators follow the history as best they can with cowboys, cowgirls, madams and their soiled doves, law enforcement, and even in the use of names, such as Yuma Kid and Cactus Jack. According to the Blue River Regulators website,
They also use the traditional Old West weaponry, with original and reproductions of Colts, Winchesters, and Remington rifles. They participate in re-enactments of Old West shootouts during their monthly meetings.
Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Have Gun, Will Travel are some of my personal favorite television shows, and these classics depicting life in the Old West also serve as the inspiration for the group and the construction of Raccoon Forks. Raccoon Forks is a small town as the Regulators only have about 40 members, but many Old West towns started small unless there was a gold strike.
The Blue Ridge Regulators are also members of The National Congress of Western Shootists, which is based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and is "dedicated to the historic preservation and re-enactment of the Old West" according to a recent article by World-Herald staff writer Cara Pesek. There are currently 20 similar groups in 13 U.S. states, but the Blue River Regulators are the only group in Nebraska. Nearly all of the members are hunters or gun enthusiasts in addition to being fans of the Old West and study traditional cowboy shooting methods before participating in shootouts.
I am still waiting for an answer to a request for an interview and will update when I receive more information. I'm not a hunter and do not practice with guns, but those of you who do might want to visit this fun little town. It is my understanding that safety classes are required prior to participation, though.
For more information you can visit the Blue River Regulators website or contact: Marshal John "Yuma Kid" Irons at email@example.com; or Deputy Marshal John "Cactus Jack" Butcher at desert_rat firstname.lastname@example.org.