We met with the Ravenswood, we talked about Lavinia Rose and her father Jedediah, we mentioned in passing the eccentric owner of the shop Eureka Mining Supplies and Assay Office. Are there any other characters worth talking about in the town of Thunder Mesa? Quite a few to be honest. Like the undertaker J. Nutterville, a tall, slim and elegant man or his protégés from the Boot Hill Cemetery. But while little is known about them, there is a way to discover quite a few inhabitants of Thunder Mesa that do have a strong story and the best way to discover those is to visit... the restaurants.

So, as has become customary in this series about Frontierland, let's once again start with gold. Gold was discovered in 1853 at Big Thunder Mountain. The year that followed, the beautiful Diamond Lil charmed one of the employees of the mine to get her private tour of the facilities. While visiting the mine she bumped into a huge rock, that was, in reality, a huge golden nugget. The nugget did not pertain to her, of course, but to the company that operated the mine. But in 1855, in a poker game that became legendary, Diamond Lil won the Lucky Nugget. From there on she never stopped earning money and the proceeds allowed her to build The Lucky Nugget Saloon that opened its doors in 1858. It is said that many years later Sarah Bernardt would perform on its stage and Mark Twain would visit it to read some of his works.

When she hit pay-dirt Diamond Lil decided to start travelling and the first place she went to was Paris, where she visited the Moulin Rouge and met her fiancé, Pierre Paradis.

One of the patrons of The Lucky Nugget seems to have been the Reverend Jared Bates who died on the 6th of August 1862 and whose grave can be found in Boot Hill. He appears to have been very popular with the girls of the Saloon, Brigitte, Caroline, Lotte, Anna, Lulu, Fifi and Sue, who offered him his gravestone with the inscription "His flock shall sorely miss him." An other customer of note is a hunter who, having consumed too much liquor in the Saloon, shot by mistake on November 13,1865 Diamond Lil's pet bobcat Tiger, that very same bobcat that had eaten a squirrel at "breakfast time". Wandering through the woods drunk, he was himself consumed at "tea time" by a bear. Diamond Lil posted a bounty on the bear's head, which put the saga to a rest 20 years later, on November 13, 1885. Their four tombs can also be found in Boot Hill.

While we are close to it, let's explore quickly the richest of all of Thunder Mesa's restaurants, The Silver Spur Steakhouse. It is obviously situated on the wealthiest side of Thunder Mesa, close to the Ravenswood Manor. One interesting detail about it is that when the park opened the restaurant contained some real masterpieces by Edward Borein, Charles Russell, Albert Bierstadt that had been lent by an American collector. Unfortunately they were replaced by copies in 1994, as grease was penetrating through the glass showcases, a process which over time could have damaged the priceless originals.

On the complete opposite side of the town, one will find a place that creates a total contrast with the Silver Spur Steakhouse on more that one count. The Last Chance Cafe. It is the place where the outlaws meet, as run down as the Silver Spur is posh. Some of the names on the "wanted" signs that cover its walls are well known to us, they are those of the Imagineers of Frontierland. An other, interesting titbit is the fact that while the Lucky Nugget is an homage to gold and the Silver Spur an homage to silver, the Last Chance Cafe offers a reference to the third seminal metal of the West through its counter made of hammered copper. Which is not a coincidence.

Now there was a point where the gold rush lost its edge and when the town of Thunder Mesa started to settle down. That was the last chapter of the story and the moment when the Cottonwood Creek Ranch and the Cowboy Cookout were born. The Cowboy Cookout furniture came from Amish country. None of the chairs are alike, none of the tables have the same colour. According to the mythology they were donated by the country folks.

And if that was not enough to ensure the complete realism of the place and make us imagine the remaining characters of our story, the Imagineers added one last detail that makes all the different: since the restaurant is supposed to have been built quite a few years ago, its southern facade is way more affected and dried up by the sun. So the Imagineers did scrap the paint on the southern side and did add up some on the parts that were more protected from the effects of bad weather.

Which is how, stroke by stroke the story of Thunder Mesa and its true characters came to life.

Before I conclude this piece, here are a few more details you may not have noticed. Did you know that :

The name 'Lucky Nugget', is the name of the saloon that can be found in the 1967 Disney film 'The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin'.

The stage of the Lucky Nugget is an exact copy of The Golden Horseshoe Revue at Disneyland in California. The only difference is that in the U.S. it is painted in white.

In the background, during the Lucky Nugget show, there's a signpost showing the direction of a little gallic village! This is as clear a reference as the Imagineers could make to the competing French theme park based on the character of Asterix.

Let me conclude by recommending several sites that -- along with JimHillMedia -- do a lot to further serious knowledge of Disney history. First, dlp-guidebook.de that focuses on Disneyland Paris. I would especially suggest reading the articles by Andrea "MickeyFantasmic" Monti, regrouped under the title "The F Files." Second is The Ultimate Book Network, updated by Didier Ghez and already mentioned in the past by Jim Korkis, which is clearly the best reference about existing and upcoming books about Disney from all around the world.