Thursday, February 27, 2020

A memory of grandpa on his birthday

Alice: "How long is forever?"
White Rabbit: "Sometimes, just one second."
--  Lewis Carroll,  "Alice in Wonderland"
My maternal grandfather was one of the two most influential men in my life throughout my boyhood. There is no photograph of him doing what he did in one of my favorite memories of him, so I selected this random shot of an empty rocking chair to symbolize him and his absence and my memory of him. His heart gave out when he was 69 years old.
The memory is one of him sitting in a rocking chair, reading, often smoking his pipe, with a glass of water or lemonade and a radio playing music on a stand next to him. In the winter, he would sit inside in what we called the "long room," often with his feet next to an old-fashioned, wood-burning cookstove. In the summer, he would sit outside, on the porch if it was raining or in the shade of a large, old tree on a sunny-hot and a humid day.
He was a voracious reader, a habit he gave to my mother, and from the two of them the custom passed along to me. Today is his birthday and I miss his presence ....

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?

Something special ....