Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Meet the kitty who lives in the woods

When the "average person" (whatever that is) thinks of mountain lions, South Dakota probably is among the last states where an individual would go to hunt one. Never-the-less, there is a population in Dakota and a hunting season has been in existence since 2005. Most mountain lions are found in the Black Hills on the western side of the state, but, periodically, one will develop a case of wanderlust and follow the rivers wherever they lead. That evidently is how this one arrived at and chose to settle down in "my yard" on the eastern side of Dakota. This guy looks pretty big and was captured on film feasting on a dead buck forty or fifty yards from the house using an inexpensive trail camera.

For the record, mountain lions also are known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts. Mountain lions are the fourth-largest cat species in the world, behind tigers, lions and jaguars. They can stand up to 35 inches tall or nearly three feet at the shoulder. Some individuals can be as much as nine feet long when including their tail. Males can weigh up to 220 pounds and average around 150; females typically weigh between 60 and 140 pounds, averaging around 120. They range from Canada to South America and can adapt to any terrain.

Mountain lions are fascinating "critters" .... as are ballet and Native American dancers .... weird world we live in .... for sure, baby .... someday, maybe, I will understand it .... but, for now, I will just drift along through it trying to enjoy it ....

Sunday, February 16, 2020

So many mysteries, so little time to solve

This is one view of some of the land I lived on in Dakota and the house atop the hill. It is the last house on the only road through the area and is bordered on two sides by miles of state and federal woodland and is sort of a paradise to me. The first video, by the way, is about the Indian concept of Nature and religion (sort of one and the same) and the second is social activist, musician, Oscar-winning composer Buffy Sainte-Marie singing her song about going home, which, in her case, is both a physical place and to the Native American "old ways" ....
The henge in the woods
I have written a few things about this place in the past, noting especially how there scarcely is a flat area in the two acres I mowed among the seven I owned. This twilight photograph, taken a couple of weeks ago, is a good illustration of the terrain in general.
I also have noted that south from the house is the Missouri River, less than a mile away, and across the river is Nebraska, with the view of it going on for a number of miles until vanishing away with the curvature of the earth.
I also have noted that the wife and daughter of the family which built the house were murdered by a prison escapee while living in another house a few hundred yards away. The killer was captured the same day by an agent of the state Division of Criminal Investigation during an intense manhunt. The agent later told me he had his rifle sights trained on the killer, who was armed with guns he had stolen from the house, and now wished he had pulled the trigger.
Shifting sideways, a few days ago while refreshing my memory about another venture I re-read this material from the Meriwether Lewis and William Clark "Corps of Discovery Expedition" which passed by here on the Missouri River in 1804 and again in 1806.
Lewis and Clark and ten men walked from the Missouri to "Spirit Mound" near the Vermillion River and made the ascent. The Sioux, Omaha and Otoe tribes told of spirits who inhabited the site and attacked anyone who approached the hill.  On August 24, 1804, the day before expedition reached the mouth of the Vermillion River, which they called the White Stone River, Clark wrote:
"Capt Lewis and my Self Concluded to visit a High Hill Situated in an emence Plain three Leagues N. 20° W. from the mouth of White Stone river, this hill appear to be of a Conic form and by all the different Nations in this quater is Supposed to be a place of Deavels or that they are in human form with remarkable large heads and about 18 inches high; that they are very watchfull and ar armed with Sharp arrows with which they can kill at a great distance; they are said to kill all persons who are so hardy as to attemp to approach the hill; they state the tradition informs them than many indians have suffered by these little people and among others that three Mahas Souix Ottoes and other neibghouring nations believe this fable that no consideration is suffiecient to induce them to approach this hill."
The only things the Lewis & Clark troupe encountered were vast numbers of bison and large flocks of birds -- a virtual Eden ....
Back on point: No, this house is not atop "Spirit Mound," but, within the realm of probability, the "henge" of stones partially visible in the near-foreground was a religious or ceremonial project of the same Indians. Relatively large stones form a circle which has a distinct entryway and two larger stones at the approximate center. Most of the stones were covered by snow when this photograph was taken. By large, most would require two individuals or some manner of conveyance to move them.
The first (and only) written reference I have found of them dates to the 1920s when a deer hunter mentioned the "circle of big stones" in a newspaper article. He had no idea where the stones came from or how long they had been there, but speculated they were of Native American origin. I have spoken to members of the Yankton Sioux tribe seeking information, but no one will admit to any knowledge of the stone circle.
I did do a flimsy archaeological survey of the immediate area, but only found .50 caliber slugs. It seems the area was used by Army Air Force fighter pilots to practice strafing runs during World War II.
The house and the seven acres continue to be owned by the "Framonite  Clan," so as time and money and health and interests dictate, I can resume my inquiry whenever the mood strikes me ....

Friday, February 14, 2020

Oh, baby .... Happy Valentine's Day

This post is sort of a joke .... then, again .... on the chance some of you have not yet bought a Valentine's Day gift for your sweetie, this might be the perfect solution.
I periodically cruise the internet checking out places I think might be interesting to set up camp. (That is Framology  for reside / live / establish domicile.) While doing so this week, I stumbled upon a "castle" in the woods which is located about three miles or a ten-minute drive from my present stomping grounds. Here is a portion of the advertisement accompanying the photograph:
"Want to live like the king or queen of Dakota County? This completely updated, castle-inspired home sits on an extremely private lot, nearly three acres in size. It's close to both downtowns, the airport and new Viking facility. The gourmet kitchen has three pantries, Italian-white quartzite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a sub-zero fridge and a Wolf gas stove.  As you can expect, the home is complete with a massive great room with wood beam ceilings, two family rooms, main floor library and a formal dining room. The incredible master suite has a large closet and one and a half bathrooms. Your guests will love the home theatre and the home gym. The homeowner will enjoy the heated driveway, the security entrance and the seven-car garage."
Obviously, this photograph was taken during the summer months. The "castle" also boasts five bedrooms, five full- and two half-baths and was built in 1985. It has been owned by an airline executive. The initial selling price was about three million, and later dropped to a mere two million. I am not sure if it still is on the market and not curious (or interested) enough to find out, but I am sure almost anything is for sale if the price is right.
By the way, the videos are not jokes. One is rock music legend Patti Smith singing, "Free Money," and the other is meant to show wolves really are not the "bad guys." Comments are blocked, for no particular reason other than that is my mood of the moment ....


Monday, February 3, 2020

Sort of a ghost story

No, this is not Edgar Allan Poe's "House of Usher" nor is it the "House on Haunted Hill," although this stately, old mansion does have a few things in common with the 1839 short story and the 1959 film. Madness, dark secrets and spirts of long-dead individuals seem to be associated with all three places.
This house is a residence in Dakota and was the site of a recent holiday "get-together." The photograph was taken when arriving and walking toward the house to enter it. This house currently is occupied by a divorced man and his two teenage daughters. A few years ago, sensing a deepening, inner anxiety gathering in his wife, the husband asked her what she would like for an anniversary present. Without hesitating, she replied: "The biggest, oldest house in town for me to refashion any way I want." The next day, she began her search and this house soon became the light at the end of her tunnel. A few weeks later, papers were signed and her wish was granted ....
The house has an interesting history. It was constructed in the early 20th Century for a riverboat captain upon his retirement. A few years after moving into it, the old captain was found dead in his bedroom. His blood-stained clothes made it evident he had been murdered. The killer was never found.
Being a bachelor, the elderly captain's family had the house and its contents sold. Over the next century, several occupants told stories of seeing the old captain roaming the house in the dead of night. Two more known deaths occurred in the structure, one an accident and the other a suicide. Town gossip was that the entire story of both incidents was never made public.
About three years and a few hundred thousand dollars later for age-appropriate renovation of the "oldest, biggest house in town" purchased as an anniversary-gift to a wife, she announced her wish for her next anniversary present -- a divorce from her husband and for him to retain custody of their two daughters. The wife was granted this wish, as well ....
It seems there should be a moral -- or two .... or three -- to the story of this house, does it not?

Friday, January 31, 2020

Poem 1923 + Photograph 2020

What are 97 years? Less than the blink of an eye ....

A winter Eden in an alder swamp
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.
It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead
And last year's berries shining scarlet red.
It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feast
On some wild apple tree's young tender bark,
What well may prove the years' high girdle mark.
Pairing in all known paradises ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.
A feather hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o'clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life's while to wake and sport.
"A Winter Eden"
By Robert Frost
Written in 1923; published in 1928

Friday, January 24, 2020

Once upon a time never comes again

The United States Marine Corps War Memorial is dedicated in remembrance of Marine dead of all wars and their comrades of other services who fell fighting beside them. It was unveiled in 1954 on the birthday of the Corps -- November 10 -- and is located in Arlington Ridge Park adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. As a nineteen-year-old Marine, I took the train from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to Washington, D.C. A few of us walked and ran from the station to the monument, including across the nearly half-mile long Arlington Memorial Bridge which spans the Potomac River. Later on the same trip, three of us raced the 898 steps to the top of the Washington Monument .... it occurs to me we were all a bit crazy in those days and it is my understanding the steps are now closed to the public.

Semper Fidelis, baby ....

Once upon a time never comes again is true for individuals, but it can come again and again and again for organizations and, in a way, for families. I look backward in time to my ancestors and think about them .... I look forward in time to my descendants and wonder about them. The past is foggy, at best, and the future is "whatever will be, will be -- que sera, sera."
There never will be another January 24 in which I meet a Marine Corps captain and a gunnery sergeant in a hotel room, sign on the dotted line to enlist in the Corps and take the oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me ...." I was eighteen .... a few months out of high school .... hungry for adventure.
Thousands took that oath before me and thousands will tomorrow and tomorrow and the days after tomorrow, creating an ongoing bond of "for now permanency."
In all probability, the Marine Corps will drift into obscurity at some future time and no doubt fade from living memory, but having been a Marine provides a "sort of lastingness" in a world where even the planet will disappear eventually and offers a legacy and traditions to grip firmly and to hold dearly.
By the way, the hotel where I met the captain and the gunnery sergeant is long since torn down ....
Who was it who first said, "the price of life is death ...."
Yep .... but, in the meanwhile .... semper fi, baby ....

Saturday, January 11, 2020

The road home ....

"He knew his life was little and would be extinguished, and that only darkness was immense and everlasting. And he knew that he would die with defiance on his lips, and that the shout of his denial would ring with the last pulsing of his heart into the maw of all-engulfing night."
  Thomas Wolfe,  "You Can't Go Home Again"
The hill
Tom Wolfe was a writer of novels, dramas, short stories and novellas. One of his books was the novel, "You Can't Go Home Again," published in 1940, about two years after his death. Much of his work was autobiographical and impressionistic.
Seeing this ice-covered road brought the title of the novel immediately into my mind. This Dakota road was among my challenges to "get home again" for a few years. In winter, it often was a sheet of solid ice as it is in this photograph taken a few weeks ago. More than once the vehicle I was in slid down it, usually when going up it and failing to travel higher than the point where the road appears to end, sometimes turning completely around a few times, twice going off the road. There were occasions, when after a few failed attempts to reach the "summit," I parked at the bottom and walked up it, then another mile and one-half or so to my house.
A photograph might tell a thousand words, but these do not reveal the entire story of "my" hill. The second photo shows a bit of the twists and turns in the road as it approaches the hill. Try getting your vehicle up to a level of speed while managing to stay on the road rounding the those curves and the sixty-degree one at the base and then slip and  slide and fishtail and spin your way to the top.
And, the top of the hill is not even visible in the first photograph -- it goes on for another thirty yards, then has a ninety-degree uphill turn followed by another sixty-degree uphill turn before finally leveling out about a total of another hundred yards out of sight in the photo.
I made up my mind early on to think of reaching the top as a game and actually became quite adept at making the run -- and, enjoying the winter wonderland walk in the dark those instances I did not make it all the way. Sometimes my trek would be following the road, at other times cutting through the woodland .... what better way to find uninterrupted time for thinking? I also like to believe that years of driving on icy roads and my misspent youth racing cars on frozen lakes gave me and edge for handling this hill, too.
All this, of course, has little to do with the story of the protagonist in Wolfe's novel except for me to transfer the notion of going home from a mostly psychological to a primarily physical challenge. I will save the mostly psychological element for another day. By the way, the book is well worth reading, as are all of Wolfe's works ....

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Go ask Alice .... I think she'll know

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe .... all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain ...."
Segment of final speech
by the "replicant" Roy Batty
portrayed by Rutger Hauer
in the film "Blade Runner"

May 2020 be all you hope/want/wish it to be

"The Year" -- composed in 1910 by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
 What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
  The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
 We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
 We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
 We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
 We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year.

Something special ....