LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Operation Snowbound’

“Operation Snowbound: Life Behind the Blizzards of 1949,” by David W. Mills. North Dakota State University Press, c2018 (260 pages, photos)

How’s this for timing? I finished this interesting new book, one of the many excellent books being produced by North Dakota State University Press, just as the biggest winter storm of the season is upon us.

This is the story, as described in the subtitle, of the 1949 blizzards that nearly paralyzed a portion of the United States, specifically the northern Plains and the intermountain west, including North Dakota.

The writer and historian, David W. Mills, tells this vivid tale using a rich array of source material, dotting the story with vignettes of individuals who had to cope with the effects of these storms, and the many heroes who played their role in the response. The accompanying photographs enrich the text.

“By the end of January, the devastation was staggering. The western United States had suffered through one of the worst winters on record with at least another month to go. Roads blocked with mountains of snow prevented travel throughout Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Snow isolated farms, ranches or entire communities for weeks at a time. Livestock losses were staggering, but the extent of the catastrophe remained uncertain until the snows melted and the carnage lay bare.” (pg. 211)

I learned a great deal about a chapter in North Dakota history about which I’d known almost nothing, and I’m eager to share this book with my mother, who would have lived through this ordeal in Slope County, and to hear her personal stories. That is the magic of books and history, well told. This book falls into that niche and I tip my hat to the author and the folks at the NDSU Press.

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — I Wish For A Friend

The mailman brought me a small package this week, book-sized, postmarked and with a return address from the town in which I grew up, Hettinger, N.D.

Well, it was obviously a book, and I love it when people send me books, so I opened it immediately. It was indeed a book, a very special book, with a letter tucked neatly into its pages, which said:

“I don’t know if you remember me, but I was in high school the same time you were. … We moved back to Hettinger about three years ago and have been getting the Bismarck Tribune. A few weeks ago, I read the article about the Red Oak Tree in your yard. … I had just finished the children’s book “The Wishing Tree” for my grandchildren. It’s about a red oak tree. I’m sending it to you because I thought you might like it for your grandchildren, and maybe your tree is a wishing tree, too.”

Isn’t that wonderful, and just truly amazing?

Her name in high school was Valerie Lindquist, and I think she was a year ahead of me in school. Her brother, Ron, and I used to play sandlot baseball. He was a year younger than me, I think. We all moved away from Hettinger after high school, and our paths have not crossed since, more than 50 years.

The book is titled “wishtree,” one word, small letters and written by the noted children’s author Katherine Applegate, who’s had a number of children’s books on the New York Times best-seller list. This is a good one. And it’s beautifully illustrated by children’s book illustrator Charles Santoso. You’ll like the art, too.

It’s a delightful story about Red, the talking Red Oak tree. Actually, it’s a story BY Red, the talking Red Oak tree, a story of Red’s history, told by Red himself, a wise 200-year-old resident tree in a small town somewhere in America.

But Red is not just a tree, he tells us. He’s a home, a community. At any given time, his branches, leaves, roots and hollows are home to all manner of wild critters, all friends — crows, salt-and-pepper chickadees, raccoons, foxes, opossums, mice, skunks, porcupines, woodpeckers …

The book tells the story of Red’s newest friend, a little girl named Samar, whose Muslim family has moved into the neighborhood, and is shunned by the other residents.

Late at night, Samar would come to visit Red, to snuggle up against his sturdy roots, and soon all the residents of Red’s leaves, branches, hollows, and roots came to know her as a friend.

Let Red describe her for you:

Samar has the look of someone who has seen too much. Someone who wants the world to quiet itself.

She moved with her parents into one of the houses I shade, a tiny blue house with a sagging porch and a tidy garden. She is perhaps ten years old or so, with wary eyes and a shy smile.

Samar’s New Friends.
Samar’s New Friends.

Samar would venture out in her pajamas and robe and sit beneath me on an old blanket, spattered with moonlight. Her silence was so complete, her gentleness so apparent, that the residents would crawl from their nests of thistledown and dandelion fluff to join her. They seemed to accept her as one of their own.  

If this were a fairy tale, I would tell you there was something magical about Samar. That she cast a spell on the animals, perhaps. Animals don’t just leave their nests and burrows willingly. They are afraid of people, with good reason.

But this isn’t a fairy tale, and there was no spell.

And then we learn that Red is a Wishtree.

Wishtrees have a long and honorable history, going back centuries. There are many in Ireland, where they are usually hawthorns or the occasional ash tree. But you can find wishtrees all over the world.

For the most part, people are kind when they visit me. They seem to understand that a tight knot might keep me from growing the way I need to grow. They are gentle with my new leaves, careful with my exposed roots.

After people write their hope on a rag or piece of paper, they tie it onto one of my branches. Usually they whisper the wish aloud.

It’s traditional to wish on the first of May, but people stop by throughout the year.

My, oh my, the things I have heard:

I wish for a flying skateboard.

I wish for a world without war.

I wish for a week without clouds.

I wish for the world’s biggest candy bar

I wish for an A on my geography test.

I wish Ms. Gentonini weren’t so grumpy in the morning.

I wish my gerbil could talk.

I wish my dad could get better.                             

I wish I weren’t hungry sometimes.

I wish I weren’t so lonely.

I wish I knew what to wish for.

So many wishes. Grand and goofy, selfish and sweet.

It’s an honor, all the hopes bestowed upon my tired old limbs.

Although by the end of May Day, I look like someone dumped a huge basket of trash on top of me.

And then Red tells us the story of Samar.

One night, not long ago, Samar came out to visit. It was two in the morning. Late, even for her.

She had been crying. Her cheeks were damp. She leaned against me, and her tears were like hot rain.

In her hand was a small piece of cloth. Pink, with little dots. Something was written on it.

A wish. The first wish I’d seen in months.

I wasn’t surprised she knew about the wishtree tradition. I’m kind of a local celebrity.

Samar reached up, gently pulled down my lowest branch, and tied the fabric in a loose knot.

“I wish,” she whispered, “for a friend.”

I’m not going to tell you the rest of the story, other than it is timely. I want you to read it yourself. And then read it to your children and grandchildren.

It’s a magical story, and it was the magic of my having grown up in a small North Dakota town, where these kind of things happen, that brought me this story, from an old acquaintance who read a story about our big, state champion Red Oak tree, and thought I would like this book.

Well, she was right. I wish that she will come and visit us, and our tree, on May Day, or any other day. I want to get reacquainted with this thoughtful person who was kind enough to send this book.

And as for our North Dakota State Champion Red Oak tree, well, I suppose it needs a name, and I suppose Red is as good as any. Actually, the book’s Red tells us that all Red Oak trees are named Red. So that’s it, I guess. If you don’t know about our tree, you can read about it here.

If I thought it was a Wishing Tree, I, too, would probably wish for a new friend. Actually, that wish has already been granted. Thank you, Valerie Lindquist Braun.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life’

“Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life,” by Edward O. Wilson (Liveright Pub., 2016, 259 pages, illustrations).

In between watching the Winter Olympics these past weeks — wasn’t that fun! — I read this interesting book by the great Edward O. Wilson, one I purchased last summer and tucked aside for winter reading. The endorsement we heard last year from Paul Simon during a Billings, Mont., concert was added incentive to read this.

Wilson, who has published 30 other books, makes his case in enormously readable prose. He details the biodiversity that is being lost in these times and what might be done to save it:

“Leaders in biodiversity research and conservation have long understood that the surviving wildlands of the world are not art museums. They are not gardens to be arranged and tended for our delectation. They are not recreation centers or harborers of natural resources or sanatoriums or undeveloped sites of business opportunities — of any kind. The wildlands and the bulk of Earth’s biodiversity protected within them are another world from the one humanity is throwing together pell-mell. What do we receive from them? The stabilization of the global environment they provide and their very existence are the gifts they give to us. We are their stewards, not their owners.” (pgs. 84-85)

I am a big admirer of Wilson’s book “Biophilia,” published in 1984. He received the Pulitzer Prize two times for other works of nonfiction. You can learn more about him here and by watching the excellent PBS film about his life, “Of Ants and Men.”

In reading this book, I also learned about the Biodiversity Heritage Library and the Encylopedia of Life, which seek to provide everyone with access to a plethora of information about life on Earth.

In his chapter on “Restoration,” Wilson’s words had particular resonance for me, an activist who has spent my life becoming more deeply acquainted with my landscape:

“For a large minority of conservation projects, some amount of restoration, meaning human intervention, is necessary. Each project is special unto itself. Each requires knowledge and love of the local environment shared by partnerships of scientists, activists, and political and economic leaders. To succeed, it needs every bit of their entrepreneurship, courage, and persistence.” (pg. 175)

Wilson is a professor emeritus at Harvard University and lives in Lexington, Mass. Treat yourself to this thoughtful book by this gentleman.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘The Prairie Post Office’

“The Prairie Post Office: Enlarging the Common Life in Rural North Dakota.” K. Amy Phillips and Steven R. Bolduc, history by Kevin Carvell. North Dakota State University Press, 2017, 102 pages, color photographs, maps and other illustrations.

Box 172, Rhame, N.D. That was my childhood address in Slope County. Our school bus driver was also our rural mail carrier, driving the route on gravel roads twice most days and once Saturdays. Our mailbox on the main road was mounted on a decorative iron piece that my father made in his GI Bill welding class in nearby Bowman, N.D. Somewhere I have a picture of my younger sister, age 4, standing on that mailbox.

What takes me down this particular memory lane is my recent reading of the beautiful and interesting book, “The Prairie Post Office,” published last year by the NDSU Press, sent to me in Bismarck via, what else but the mail.

This book describes in rich detail how the community post office is the linchpin of the rural town in which it is located. We all attend different churches and shop in different establishments (now frequently online). Many North Dakota towns do not have clinics or hospitals or even schools. But what many do have is a post office. It is what remains in the town as its beating heart. Here neighbors meet and chat. Here the diligent postal staff sees to it that everyone in their respective communities receive their mail, no matter its importance. And the potential loss of these rural post offices causes tectonic shocks to reverberate throughout these communities.

The book opens with a top-notch history of the postal service in Northern Dakota Territory and North Dakota by the inimitable Kevin Carvell, of Mott, N.D. Thereafter the chapters include highlights of the public service that the post offices fulfills and the social, economic and symbolic role of these places.

Each chapter is filled with photographs of the post offices and the people who keep them running, as well as citizens’ thoughts on their local post office’s importance. The layout is pleasing and the writing compelling — all the elements of the book make for a fine reading experience.

“As with areas elsewhere in the United State, rural North Dakota reflects the dynamics of change and continuity. … In our interviews, the prairie post office was referenced as representing and supporting this rural way of life. … Rural community members view the local post office as a symbol of social connectedness … important indicators of the community’s place in the body politic.” (pg. 85-6)

When I finished this book, I found I had a strong desire to see a picture of that old-fashioned metal door with Box 172 stamped on it. Sadly, I learned in a phone call to the current Rhame postmistress that progress had built a new building in Rhame and the old boxes were gone. Where she did not know. She remembered me though, and I knew who she was. This is the link that bonds us as North Dakotans, as Americans. Here is a photo from the book that took me down this memory lane.

When I was first married, we lived in rural Dunn County. One of the most thoughtful wedding gifts we received was a good old-fashioned mailbox, the kind one can buy at Menards or Ace Hardware.

Our routine, like every other citizen in the state, was to stop at that box each day and collect our mail. Oftentimes, we indulged in a long walk (about a mile, one way) to the mailbox. The elderly gentleman from whom we bought the place expressed shock at this, telling us that in the more than 50 years he lived there he never once even considered walking to the mailbox. In that time period, Jim took a part-time job as a rural mail carrier and often said that one really gets to know the neighbors by delivering their mail.

When we moved to Medora, we rented a post office box, and the post office there was definitely a hub of the town. Medora still has those old-fashioned metal PO box faces as it happens and a colorfully decorated exterior of the building, complete with a western theme.

These days, here at Red Oak House, we have a red mailbox of Scandinavian origin mounted on the front of the house. I’ve seen these for sale at the Norwegian store at Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. I’m on a first-name basis with my mail carriers, sometimes handing them a popsicle on a hot August day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Read this book and I promise you many happy thoughts about your connection to the prairie post office, the glue of our communities. Thank you to the authors and to NDSU Press for capturing this in a charming book.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — The Wonder Of Birds

Thank goodness for winter, a time here at Red Oak House for us to catch up on reading.

About a year ago, I bought myself the book “The Wonder of Birds: What They Tell Us About Ourselves, the World, and a Better Future,” by Jim Robbins (Spiegel & Grau, c2017). I tucked it away, waiting for an opportune time to read it. This week was that time.

Robbins, a Helena, Mont., native, is an accomplished and respected writer. He has written for the New York Times for more than 35 years and for a variety of other magazines, covering environmental and science stories. He is also the author of the books: “The Man Who Planted Trees, Last Refuge: the Environmental Showdown in the American West,” and “A Symphony in the Brain.”

In this book, “The Wonder of Birds,” he wanders through a wide variety of locations, from wild places all around the world to a business that creates feather clothing and costumes of all varieties, the Mother Plucker Feather Co.

He writes of the transformative and healing powers of birds, something I can attest to from decades of birdwatching.

“Walking across the broad sweep of grassy prairie of northern Montana day after day is an immersion into a starkly beautiful landscape. On the days I hunt I become a predator, and the experience touches some deep and ancient part of my psyche, a calm, though vigilant, deeply felt energy, providing me with the stamina to hike mile after mile along creeks and down one-lane dirt roads, all but oblivious to distances covered or the hours passed, consumed only with thoughts about in which patch of chokecherry, cattails, or thick grass the birds might be hiding” (pg. 104).

My husband, Jim, recounts that he also has a greater ability to walk without tiring when in the wild than when he is at the YMCA, much like Robbins describes. Speaking for myself, I get bored walking around the track but can walk for miles on a hiking trail. The presence of the birds is a part of that.

Robbins meets with Cagan Sekercioglu, an associate professor of biology, who says, “Even if you just look for birds, you’ll see the best parts of the planet. Not just landscapes and biodiversity, but some of the last remaining interesting cultures.”(pg.115)

Illustrations copyright by DD Dowden, 2017.
Illustrations copyright by DD Dowden, 2017.

Each chapter begins with a lovely pen and ink illustration by DD Dowden. The chapter devoted to ravens and crows is particularly delightful.

Again, from the book:

“If we can learn how to move beyond the subconscious terror we all carry and the emotional numbing we take on to shield ourselves, if we can tap into the extraordinary power of birds and bottle this lightning, if we learn from our relationship with birds to fully understand our nervous system and the full range that we are capable of feeling and sensing in the world, we will find something inexhaustible and profound, even life-changing” (pg. 280).

In this, the “Year of the Bird,” this book was worth every penny and a delight to read. I give it my highest recommendation. If you Google the title, you will see that many other reviewers agree with me.

While you are at it, do check out this delightful issue of National Geographic magazine.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Father Sherman’s Magnum Opus: ‘Prairie Mosaic’

With every turn of a page in “Prairie Mosaic,” the reader will delve into the rich ethnic history of North Dakota. The Rev. William C. Sherman labored for many years to reveal an astonishing level of detail, down to the township level, and to tell the story of the state’s inhabitants.

“Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota,” originally published in 1983, has been published by the North Dakota State University Press in a fine second edition (2017, 151 pages, photographs, maps, tables, index), with an insightful new introduction by Dr. Thomas D. Isern of NDSU.

The Rev. William Sherman.
The Rev. William Sherman.

“In 1983 the Institute for Regional Studies, a little-known academic publisher headquartered at North Dakota State University, issued the title, “Prairie Mosaic: An Ethnic Atlas of Rural North Dakota,” by a little-known prairie scholar, William C. Sherman. Distribution was limited … Evident at the time was the dedication of the scholar behind the book, Father Bill Sherman, and the enormous amount of work that must have gone into the completion of the meticulous local complications and cartographic depictions of ethnic immigrant settlements on the northern Plains, as well as the author’s affectionate familiarity with the landscape and its people. Evident in hindsight, however, is how Sherman’s study took place — in the belated development of ethnic studies on the Plains, becoming a touchstone for a rising generation of scholars uncovering the region’s immigrant past.” (Isern, pg. ix of the Introduction)

The maps and their accompanying descriptions are the compilation of an enormous amount of detailed and tedious work entailing “the determination and proper placement of some 50,000 bits and pieces of data.” (Sherman, pg. 118) This landmark work takes the reader back to the settlement days and reveals the customs and traditions of these sturdy folk. The strongest undercurrent was the role of the various churches in forming community ties and perpetuating culture.

When I was growing up in Slope County, I would hear folks remark, “He is a Bohunk,” and it was explained to me that this was a slur for people of Bohemian origins, but I hadn’t since then given it much thought, until reading “Prairie Mosaic.” In Sherman’s book, a reader can see just where the people of different ethnic origin settled, including those of Native American origins. I was quite surprised to learn that a group of Japanese homesteaders laid claim to land in western Montrail County. I was also surprised to note that the valley of the Little Missouri River was predominantly inhabited by Anglo-Americans. There are dozens of these nuggets of information on every page of this book.

My only criticism would be that it is a shame that some of the photographs are without captions. Readers who are interested in this topic should also look at the excellent website Digital Horizons, housed at NDSU, “an online treasure house of thousands of images, documents, video and oral histories depicting life on the northern Plains from the late 1800s to today. Here you’ll find a fascinating snapshot of the lives, culture, and history of the people who shaped life on the prairies.”

Ron Vossler writes of “Prairie Mosaic”:

“To borrow an idea from anthropology, we can theorize (and hope) that just as ancient Asian trade centers flourished where different cultures rubbed together, places where caravans stopped and variegated races intermingled, so now in North Dakota, now that the spring mud and winter snow are no longer the impassable obstacles they once were, and the little Norways and little Germanys are no longer so isolated, and with people like William Sherman giving us research and ideas in volumes like this one, the same flowering will occure here: a transfer of the well-known work ethic to solving social problems, and encouraging intellectual endeavors and social relationships — carrying as great a load in our minds and our hearts as those early settlers once did on their backs.” (Book Review of “Prairie Mosaic” by Ron Vossler in North Dakota Quarterly, Spring, 1983)

The rich heritage of North Dakota holds much to be proud of, and everyone will delve deeper into this heritage by reading this book. To my mind, this book’s enjoyment would be increased by tucking it into a bag and taking it on a North Dakota road trip, stopping along the way frequently to read the stories of the earliest inhabitants from its pages. Add to the bag, the books “North Dakota Place Names” by Douglas A. Wick (Sweetgrass Communications, 1988) and “A Traveler’s Companion to North Dakota State Historic Sites” (third ed. SHSND 2014), along with a good atlas and experience a multilayered expedition, rather than an ordinary road trip. Oh, and be sure to sample authentic food along the way.

North Dakota’s landscape is a quilt of many colors that enriches all of our lives.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Jackie Morris And Robert Macfarlane

I have two new British friends, thanks to the magic of books (and Twitter). One is the writer, Robert Macfarlane, and the other is the artist Jackie Morris.

My friend, Ken, and I have a mutual appreciation of all of Macfarlane’s books. Macfarlane’s Twitter account is a delight as is his Word of the Day, from which I learn something daily, traveling in my mind to Europe on a regular basis. (Someday, I will go!) His books are bestsellers and have won many prizes. Macfarlane is a Cambridge professor and a walker, a collector of words. How lucky are his students?

It was through the gorgeous book “The Lost Words” that I learned about the artistry of Jackie Morris.

“With acrostic spell-poems by award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane and hand-painted illustration by Jackie Morris, this enchanting book captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages.” They “have made a thing of astonishing beauty.” — Alex Preston, Observer

Giddy with anticipation, I tore into a package I received in the mail yesterday from Great Britain. Inside was an exceptional children’s picture book by this extraordinary artist, “The Ice Bear,” a signed copy. “The Ice Bear” is a moving tale of a raven, a boy, and polar bears. In this article from The Guardian, Morris tells about the creation of the book.

“The Ice Bear” is now on our coffee table, next to Terry Tempest Williams’ “The Secret Language of Snow.”

If you Google either of these two talented folks, you will find many articles and interviews of interest. I particularly enjoyed his BBC interviews found here.

Yes, indeed, this wild prairie woman is an Anglophile. And my lifelong love of children’s literature is again nourished.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Prairie Storyteller Extraordinaire

Come away with me a few moments to the enchanting world of the late Paul Goble, artist and storyteller extraordinaire, my favorite children’s book author of all-time (admittedly there are many I love).

Like most college students, I had courses that I preferred above all others. Mine, taught by some exceptional professors, included Myths & Legends, Shakespeare, and, the best, Children’s Literature. Kiddy Lit was taught by the incomparable Kay Werremeyer, and she worked her students hard. But, of course, we all learned so much more than we would with a lackadaisical teacher.

A few years later, I was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and my friend, Pamela, and I would shop at several lovely bookstores in the area. I often gravitated to the children’s book section, and one of my purchases was the 1979 Caldecott award-winning “The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses” by Paul Goble. By that time, I had dreams of becoming a mother and sharing his books with my children. I still have that book and it became one of my daughter Chelsea’s favorites.

When I spotted the news of the publication of a Paul Goble biography (“Paul Goble: Storyteller” Gregory Bryan, South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2017), I ordered the book immediately. This past December, I finally found time to read it, and it is a delight.

“In a foreword written for Goble’s book ‘The Earth Made New,’ Joseph Medicine Crow, historian and spokesperson for the Crow National and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, recalled his distant childhood: ‘I was fortunate as a boy because so many storytellers were ready to educate the young. … In today’s world it is difficult to learn about the olden-day stories, so books (such as Goble’s) that preserve this wisdom have great value.’ During a career spanning more than 40 years, Goble published over 40 books, most of them sharing and preserving traditional American Indian wisdom. He has been honored with many awards, including the prestigious Caldecott Medal awarded annually in the United States for the most distinguished picture book for children.” (Bryan, pg. ix)

Goble was born and reared in England and was fascinated by Native American culture at a very young age, an interest his mother indulged. He visited the U.S. as a young man and then lived most of the rest of his long life in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He became close friends with many Native American storytellers and describes his works as “reimagining” the tales they would share with him, including those of Edgar Red Cloud, a great-grandson of the famous war chief, Red Cloud.

What I so much like many others love about his art is the detail of the birds and plants. I used these illustrations to teach my children about the beauty of the Great Plains. Every page was a masterpiece, packed with delights, and we would linger over every page, day after day. “In ‘Horse Raid,’ he began experimenting with the inclusion of plants and rocks, and occasionally, animals other than those involved in the story events. In ‘The Friendly Wolf,’ he took things further. Several insects, flocks of birds, and various animals were hidden among the many rocks and heavily flowered plants included in his art.” (Byran, pg. 71)

“Lone Bull’s Horse Raid” immediately attracted positive reviews. “In England, the Times Literary Supplement described it as ‘attractive and authentic,’ … children’s author Janet Yolen described the book as ‘visually stunning,’ calling it ‘an outstanding book to look at and an exciting one to read.’ Writing in the Wyoming Literary Roundup, Wyoming artist Gordon Wilson wrote that the book ‘revealed knowledge of and deep respect for American Indian tradition and history.'” (Bryan, pg. 67)

Although Goble at times dealt with criticism as an Anglo interpreting Native American legends, by and large, he was appreciated by the indigenous community and was honored by many invitations to join in their ceremonies.

His trademark red sun is another detail that children and other readers enjoy identifying. “Writing in the The Rapid City Journal, Bruce Milhans wrote, ‘Goble’s book is appropriate for all ages. The colorful images will interest children, but the paintings and their messages … will be most appreciated by mature minds that can understand their layers and meaning.'” (Byran, pg.128-29)

Whenever I would stop in the Prairie Edge store in Rapid City, S.D., I would go up the wooden stairs to see what new Goble books they might have. Slowly, I built a complete collection.

It was deeply thrilling when librarian friends of mine told me he was coming to Dickinson, N.D. They arranged for Chelsea and me to dine with him, an evening I’ll never forget. He was a kind and soft-spoken gentleman, and it was a privilege to meet him. He graciously signed every single one of my books.

His books are enchanting, humorous (Iktomi), beautiful and enlightening. He also produced notecards and prints of his artwork. I have a print in our living room and a signed notecard in the library, on the shelf next to his books.

One of my prized possessions are two signed Goble originals, purchased at the Mount Rushmore gift store, a gift to me from a beloved mentor who knew how much I admired Goble’s work.

Goble donated most of his collection to the South Dakota Art Museum, and a visit there is on my to-do list.

“Goble’s strength as a writer was his ability to take traditional stories and make them interesting, comprehensible, and relevant to today’s young readers. He based his work on the stories of others, but he ‘felt able to embroider upon it.’ This ’embroidering’ was something children’s literature professor Jon Stott characterized as classic Goble: ‘Goble does not invent, he reinterprets; better still, he gives new life to the old stories using his knowledge of the old ways.'” (Bryan, pg. 168)

His friend Kevin Locke “dismisses the idea of restricting people according to race. ‘I think there is narrow-mindedness everywhere, unfortunately,’ he says. ‘You can’t fight darkness with darkness. You just have to shine the light on it.’ He also says ‘I’m a firm believer that the human spirit transcends race, nationality, ethnicity, and color so that, even though Paul is from England originally, surely the artistic heritage of this area (the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and the Great Plains) was the vehicle through which his spirit could truly soar and he was able to express the spirit of the people of this area through his artwork.'” (Bryan, pg. 179)

As you will see from my final photograph below, much of the credit for the fact that I raised a girl who loves wild horses goes to the inimitable Paul Goble.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Owl Moon

Last night, I was still awake at midnight and upon hearing the noise of fireworks, put down my book and looked out the windows. The luminous full moon on the white, almost blue, landscape brought to mind one of my favorite children’s books “Owl Moon,” by Jane Yolen.

It is a wondrous story of a father taking his little girl out in the deep snow on the night of a full moon and as they walked in the woods, they hooted for owls.

This was also a favorite of my daughters and when it came time for them to choose which of the children’s book collection I would keep, it was one they chose, along with “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Owl Babies” and a few others. (When I had my yard sale and advertised children’s books, lots of people came for that very reason. It was painful to give these up.)

The moonlight was so bright that I could see shadows of the tree branches in the snow. Sadly, no owls in my yard.

Treat yourself to this video reading of “Owl Moon.”

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — ‘The Hour of Land’

“The Hour of Land: a Personal Topography of America’s National Parks,” Terry Tempest Williams (Sarah Crichton Book, 2016).

The National Park Service observed its centennial in 2016. During this year, writer Terry Tempest Williams published “The Hour of Land,” her personal journey and meditation on the national parks, essays written as she traveled the country visiting some of the iconic sites that so define this country.

“There are few contemporary nonfiction writers who can capture the essence of the American wilderness landscape as eloquently and intimately as Williams. Noted for writing about the American West, her distinctive prose style is capable of conveying a deep spiritual dimension within the physical setting. This is very much in evidence in her latest book, a broadly ambitious and deeply impassioned collection of essays on a select group of settings within the national park system.” — Kirkus Reviews.

Lillian with Terry Tempest Williams at Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, Summer 2016. (Photo by Jim Fuglie.)
Lillian with Terry Tempest Williams at Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit, Summer 2016. (Photo by Jim Fuglie.)

Williams, the writer of many books and a personal friend of mine, is one of the most eloquent voices writing about American lands in this time. One of the early chapters of this book features the previous Superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Valerie Naylor, and thus the challenges that are so familiar to readers of Wild Badlands. When Williams was a guest speaker at TRNP during the anniversary celebrations, the house was packed and her warm wisdom kept everyone enthralled.

When I am feeling discouraged about the challenges that the Bad Lands face, I often turn to her writing to ground me and give me courage and fortitude. Hers is an excellent voice to join with those of BCA, and this book is a gem I give my highest recommendation.

This book review was published in “Wild Badlands: Badlands Conservation Alliance Newsletter,” Autumn 2017, No. 42.