LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Speaking Of Trails: The Yellowstone Surveying Expeditions Of The Late 19th Century

Yellowstone.  There aren’t many more words in the American lexicon that conjure such powerful images of Western history and geography.

The Yellowstone River courses through much of the giant state of Montana, and its confluence with the mighty Missouri River is in extreme northwestern North Dakota, near Forts Union and Buford.  I’ve visited both, on multiple occasions, and urge everyone to do so when in the area.

As one drives west through Montana, from Glendive onward, the highway follows the Yellowstone River, and it is easy to allow thoughts to harken back to the earliest days of exploration, as well as the lifeways of the native inhabitants. Not only does the river provide water for Montanans, it also is a mecca for camping and fishing.

Gentle reader, recall that trails have been much on my mind in these past months and today I want to write a few words about the Yellowstone Surveying Expeditions of the late 19th century.

One of the best articles that I read was in “North Dakota History: Journal of the Northern Plains,” volume 70, no. 3, 2003 “Thomas L. Rosser and the Yellowstone Surveying Expedition of 1873” by M. John Lubetkin. The article opens in Fort Rice, Dakota Territory, Friday, June 20, 1873.

Lubetkin writes:

“For the sixth time in three years the army was escorting a party of Northern Pacific Railroad (NP) surveyors into the Yellowstone valley. Because of Sioux hostility to the railroad, the U.S. Army’s support was massive. The hard-drinking Col. David Sloane Stanley commanded the expedition, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer the cavalry, and Thomas Lafayette Rosser, an unrepentant ex-Confederate major general, led the surveyors. …The tensions between these three would soon break into open conflict.” (page 2)

I learned from this article that the first expeditions in 1872 were considered failures because the mapping was not completed due to conflict with the area Native Americans. The first expedition left from Fort Ellis (near today’s Bozeman, Mont.).

Another very interesting article about the 1874 expedition is found in volume 8 of the “Contributions to the Historical Society of Montana” (pages 105-126). The author of this article proclaims that it is “one of the most interesting episodes of the history of Montana.” This article goes into great detail about the adventures and woes of the party.

The “North Dakota Historical Quarterly,” volume 10, page 3, contains the diary of Ferdinand A. Van Ostrand, a man serving in 1871 under Gen. Stanley. “Monday-March 27 (1871). Left Ft. Sully in company with Gen. Stanley….saw plenty antelope. Last twelve miles — roads bad — snow. … Big company.”

The historical accounts are rich with this kind of detail because diaries such as this have been preserved in various archives, to not mention the copious information that is detailed in military records. Much of Lubetkin’s article is due to his access to the diary and letters of Thomas L. Rosser.

“(A) storm caught the surveyors some twelve miles west of present-day Glen Ullin, on the top of a gentle hill sloping west towards a stream later named Hailstone Creek, commemorating the incident that was about to happen. ‘Suddenly,’ a cavalryman wrote, ‘about sunset the sky became overcast with thick heavy clouds which assumed a greenish hue and caused all surrounding objects to have a most ghastly appearance.’ In minutes they were in the center of a hailstorm, later described in a letter written by Montgomery C. Meigs. As the storm became particularly violent, three bolts of lightning suddenly hit the ground nearby, and the men and animals were bombarded by chunks of ice at least the size of large marbles.” Lubetkin, page 6.  Present day travelers can visit this place as it is the site of a modern rest area along Interstate 94.

David S. Stanley’s “Report on the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873” is reprinted in “Personal Memoirs of General David S. Stanley” (Gaithersburg, MD: Old Soldier Books, 1987) if you’d like to read more about this fascinating time period in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, I look forward to my next drive along the Yellowstone River, with perhaps a visit (I’ve been there dozens of times) to Yellowstone National Park.  It is on our “list” to get the YNP in the winter. Someday we will.”

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — American Legion Baseball: Grand Forks Vs. Dickinson

The Grand Forks Royals and the Dickinson Roughriders split a North Dakota Class AA American Legion baseball doubleheader Thursday night at Kraft Memorial Field in Grand Forks. The Royals won the opener 5-0, behind Brock Reller’s five-hit shutout. The Roughriders took the nightcap 4-2. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Red Oak House Garden Notes No. 24

Three-quarter of an inch of rain in a wondrous thunderstorm this morning (Wednesday) started the day off right here at Red Oak House. For the second day in a row, it will be cool enough for us to leave the windows open all day.

Vegetable harvest has begun in earnest and Jim has frozen many bags already.

Last night, we had what we call “nothing from the store supper.” The first new potatoes, beans, broccoli and walleye. Who needs a restaurant?

As you can see from the plate above, we’ve begun to eat our heirloom tomatoes. These are bloody butchers. The jungle promises much more tomato bliss to come.

Other blooming plants make our garden a real oasis of tranquility in the midst of a bustling city.

On a different note, this song I’ve been listening to on Jackson Browne Solo Acoustic is running through my head:

“Everyman”:

Everybody I talk to is ready to leave

With the light of the morning

They’ve seen the end coming down

Long enough to believe

That they’ve heard their last warning

Standing alone

Each has his own ticket in his hand

And as the evening descends

I sit thinking ’bout Everyman

Seems like I’ve always been

Looking for some other place

To get it together

Where with a few of my friends

I could give up the race

And maybe find something better

But all my fine dreams

Well thought out schemes

To gain the motherland

Have all eventually come down

To waiting for Everyman

Waiting here for Everyman

Make it on your own if you think you can

If you see somewhere to go I understand

Waiting here for Everyman

Don’t ask me if he’ll show, baby I don’t know

In different lighting, Wide Wide World daylily, shows off different hues so why not one more photo? It’s my blog after all.

Time for Manhattans in the shade of the front patio.  Cheers!

PAULA MEHMEL: Shoot the Rapids — Without Reservations

Something happened to me today that has I’ve never done before while traveling. I made my reservation for the wrong day.

In a European calendar, the days begins with Monday not Sunday. When making reservations I have always caught this fact but must have been tired when booking the Pension Gina in Gorlitz, Germany, because I made it one day later than I’d meant.

I received an email from the proprietor yesterday asking me to call 30 minutes before we arrived as he did not live on the premises and this morning, I responded that I would and looked forward to seeing him today.

I called and when we arrived Frank, the proprietor, said there was a problem. The reservation was for tomorrow. And the pension was fully booked for tonight. I got the wifi password and checked it out, and he was correct, and the mistake was 100 percent my fault.

However, Frank did not leave me in the lurch. Instead, he made a call to a friend and when that was fruitless, he told me to get in the car with him as we headed out to find a place for us.

He told the boys to stay at the pension and watch TV, which I translated. Frank does not speak a word of English.

We drove to the city center to the information booth and to another hotel booking place. Both were closed.

We then drove to visit a friend of his who had a hotel, and there, too, there was no room at the inn. But the woman who owned it and all of the guests at the bar pitched in to help, suggesting places we could stay, to no avail. Who knew Gorlitz was so popular?

Even as they discussed where to stay, Frank was concerned about costs for me. He kept saying places were too expensive.

Finally, we returned to the pension, he took the phone book, and I logged on to Trivago to see what we could find. Finally, we found a place for three, although Frank was still concerned about the price.

Then he called — and negotiated down for me — getting me what he said was a more fair price.

We went outside, and he told me to follow him, as he led us to our new hotel in his car.

When I tried to pay him for the night I won’t be using tomorrow, Frank declined. Insistently. Then he hugged me and went on his way.

I was dumbstruck by the entire event.

I made a mistake. Frank would be losing money on my account. Yet he took time out of his schedule — well over an hour — drove me around, made many phone calls, showed concern for my well-0being and made sure I had a place to stay at a reasonable price.

This came from a complete stranger who showed to me what true hospitality really means.

One of the reasons I love to travel is that you get to see different cultures and peoples, and you get to show the best of who you are and what you represent.

Today, a man who grew up in Communist East Germany and spoke no English whatsoever, became the greatest ambassador for Germany I could ever have hoped to see.

And I struggled hard to not be the “ugly American.” I owned my mistake and offered to pay for it. I communicated with him in his own language. And I was effusive with my thankfulness and gratitude. I was in the wrong, and my new friend, Frank, made everything right.

At one point in the middle of all of our communication, I accidentally called Frank “du” rather than “Sie,” the more intimate use of the word “you” in German, is rude to use for anyone but a dear friend or family member.

As soon as I said it, I immediately backtracked and apologized, and Frank said “du is OK. We are friends now.

We all make mistakes when we travel, but I was lucky today. My mistake gave me the image of a humble innkeeper who truly went the extra mile when there was no room at the inn.

And I’m pretty sure there is a sermon somewhere in this story.

Oh, and should any of my readers ever visit Gorlitz please stay at the Pension Gina. Tell Frank Paula sent you. And make sure you make the reservation for the right day.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — A Medora Weekend

A visit to Medora, N.D., can be memorable. Grand Forks photographer Russ Hons was there this past weekend, taking in the Medora Musical, a Tigirlily concert and the awesome sights of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Here are just a few of the images that caught his eye. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Hell-Bent On DIY? Read This First

Once upon a time, there was a man named Tom. Tom wasn’t a mechanic. He wasn’t a repairman. He did, however, try to repair or fix things without reading the “How to do it” manuals.

I am that Tom, and here is the result of my latest project.

Years ago, we purchased an early manufactured 12-foot Sunfish sailboat. My wife and kids loved to sail, but I learned the hard way why I won’t.

Here’s why. Our great former neighbors, Walt and Charlene Balmer, invited us to their cottage for the weekend. They had a sailboat, and my wife talked me into going for a ride with Walt in command.

Out we went to the middle of the lake … and then the wind stopped blowing. My personal supply of hot air could not provide sufficient energy.

A few hours later, when we finally made it to shore, my wife was slightly bronzed. I looked like a boiled lobster. It took many moons for the various layers of burned skin to peel off and heal, and for the next few days, I couldn’t do anything but suffer and swear. It was a good thing I wasn’t on the judicial bench by that time, or I tell you, there would have been some naughty sentences imposed on scofflaws.

Despite all that, when we purchased our own cottage years later, we bought the Sunfish in question. I confess, we allowed the Sunfish to deteriorate. Not being any kind of expert in fiberglass repair, I retired it to a place behind our bunkhouse, where it sat for years.

One fine day, I called a guy who said he repaired fiberglass boats. He gave me an estimate, and I delivered the boat to his shop. I gave my wife a photo of that little sailboat for Christmas, along with a promise that it would be ready in the spring. She was overjoyed.

Two years later — yeah, I said two years later — I called the man and asked WTH was wrong? Instead of being decent about it, he quickly replied, “If you don’t like the delay, come get your boat.” He offered no explanation or excuses, just plain sarcasm … something I am familiar with.

I told him to go … play with himself and drove right over to get the boat. It went straight back behind the bunkhouse, where it again sat for another seven or eight years, housing many crawling bugs and critters.

Last summer, while I was cutting the grass behind the building, I turned the sailer over and took a look. I thought, “WTH, I’ll bet I can fix the cracks in the bottom.” I got the supplies, read the instructions on how to mix the fiberglass and hardener, then proceeded to place it over the fiberglass matting and smoothed (kind of smoothed) it over.

After the repairs hardened, I turned the boat over. While the top was pocked and ugly, my wife happily jumped aboard and took off for an afternoon of fun. It actually worked pretty well. But then the season ended. A month ago, the real problem developed.

I looked at the top and the missing edging strips and thought, “Sure, I can repair, replace and paint this.” That is exactly what I did.

I bought the brightest red fiberglass paint that credit could buy, along with another supply of Fiberglas and hardener. I sanded, scraped and sanded again after applying the fiberglass patches. Then, on went two coats of primer and two coats of the red paint. Add the white bumper trim around the whole boat, and, for a do-it-yourselfer, I thought it looked pretty darn good.

Maureen, my wife, took it out on its maiden voyage, around and back. Then we parked it on shore.

My son, Ron, came down last weekend. After some prompting from his mom, he took the red rocket out for a spin. (That’s not its official name, you understand; we haven’t picked that yet.) He sailed it around a bend and out of sight, then seemed to stay out for a very long. He finally returned — frustrated and laughing at the same time.

It seems that the longer he was out, the clumsier the handling became. It was getting really bad by the time he heard swishing sounds, maybe from the hull. The boat seemed to be getting bow-heavy, too, so he moved out of the tiny cockpit toward the back of the sailer. When he made his move, the damned sailboat moved, too —straight up into the air, dumping him on his keester wondering what had just happened. Then the main sail broke and collapsed.

Another boat happened to be nearby, and the folks on board boat were as startled as Ron himself. Suspected cause: water in the hull.

After the boat leveled, Ron eventually made it back by using the sail as a jib. Luckily for him, unlike me on my own maiden voyage years before, he had previously covered all exposed parts in sunscreen.

It took a long time to drain the hull — yeah, that one I’d “fixed” — as it was completely full of water. After it was empty, we tipped it over, and sure enough, there were some hairline cracks … exactly where my “repairs” had been.

So now I’m off to find something to put across the middle bottom of the boat to really seal it and make it seaworthy. There’s a product called KeelGuard that that might do the job. It’s a good thing I’m retired with time on my hands. The adventure continues. I’ll let you know sometime how the final repair turns out.

This article is dedicated to all you do-it-yourselfer who start strong but end up wondering: Should you hired a professional after all? You know the answer now. Amen.

NANCY EDMONDS HANSON: After Thought — Grilling Nothing Burgers

If you have an appetite for news, you know what’s on the menu this month: Nothing burgers.

They’re sizzling hot this summer. Cooked up in the realm of casual excuses, the nothing burger has been on the lips of Republican apologists ever since journalists began salivating over tantalizing whiffs of the meatiest political scandal since Richard “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon.

Hungry newshounds have been doggedly sniffing out the juicy evidence for more than a year now. They’re drooling over hints, and now much more, that the current occupants of the White House have a distinctly Russian flavor. As they turn up the heat, the evidence that started out rare is headed for well-done.

“Nothing burger” — that’s how the president’s defenders are dismissing growing evidence the Family Trump and their sycophants welcomed covert digital assistance from Russia to score their jaw-dropping victory. When Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was grilled about what Donald Trump Jr. had been cooking up with the Russians, he proclaimed it “a big nothing burger.”

Shades of “where’s the beef”! Not since Fritz Mondale’s run back in 1984 have we heard ground meat (or the absence thereof) served up so often in prime-time news. Back then, a classic Wendy’s TV commercial supplied what became the catchphrase of the campaign when a tiny female curmudgeon stared at an oversized but barren bun, demanding to know where the meaty part of her lunch had gone.

The phrase “nothing burger,” though — oddly girlish and coy — required some tracking down. Was it Valley Girl dialect from the 1980s? A remnant of stylish jabber from the TV comedy “Sex and the City”? It sounds familiar … but where did it come from?

Nothing burgers, it turns out, had lurked on the back burner for 65 years when Kellyanne and Reince and their troop of defenders served it up in its current context. Hollywood’s pioneering movie critic and gossip columnist Louella Parsons tossed it off in 1952, describing a minor performance in the sense of “much ado about nothing.” She was inspired, perhaps, by one of the hot trends of her day. California was falling in love with beef on a bun as the fabled McDonald brothers launched their burger chain with golden arches right in her backyard.

Helen Gurley Brown, though, deserves co-credit. You remember her, don’t you … the legendary editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, flagship voice of the female sexual revolution? Helen made the catchphrase her own. It first appeared in her book “Sex and the Single Girl,” a tome that shook the civilized world, just a little, back in the swingin’ Sixties. She tossed it in into her sassy magazine columns, too, along with the other term she coined, “mouseburger.” Both were handy to disparage all that was bland and unremarkable, be it too-innocuous accessories or a too-submissive outlook.

Like other terms that explode as sassy slang, then inch toward respectability, nothing burgers have crept into the English language’s chaotic, messy cupboard. They’ve even breached the ramparts of the sober, noble Oxford Dictionary with an official definition: “something that is or turns out to be insignificant or lacking in substance.”

Proper English or not, Reince may still rue the day he added nothing burgers to the menu, as grilling over the Russian scandal drags his team over the coals. But then again, they sound like just the thing when you’re going to have to eat your words.

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Bismarck To Deadwood And Back (But Not On The Stagecoach)

Trails have been much on my mind this year, and I’ll be writing more about trails in upcoming blogs.

This past weekend, I drove to the Black Hills to visit a friend who lives near Hill City, S.D., roughly following the Bismarck to Deadwood Stage Trail, although in my case in a Toyota. I had most of the day to make the drive, so I stopped whenever the spirit moved me, and I wasn’t greatly concerned about taking the fastest route.

If you zoom in on the photo to the right, this beautiful roadside sign, south of Mandan, N.D., gives the brief synopsis of the history of the trail. This was my first of many stops.

When I was a child, my mother and aunt used to point out to me the remnant tracks from the Medora to Deadwood Stage Trail, as we drove back and forth from Slope County to Rapid City, S.D.  I come by my fascination with trails (and with history in general) honestly, from these two grand ladies. My mother took her children to hundreds of museums and historic sites and old forts and such, while my father fished. She was interested in these places and, in her wisdom, she knew that we would benefit from these visits as well. I think we did, immeasurably.

I am deeply a Western girl. In the course of my life, other than a stint in Nashville, Tenn., for graduate school and a few years in Okinawa, I’ve always lived in the American West. TheWest is where my soul feels most centered.

When my husband and I searched for a house, we looked at dozens in Mandan, hoping to remain “in the West.” But alas, the house we knew was the best fit for us was in Bismarck, so we capitulated. Nonetheless, we are just a half-mile on the east side of the Missouri River, so I think the argument is strong that we are still in the western part of the United States. Certainly, we are west of the 100th meridian. So that is settled.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “westward I go free.”

We find that we also tend to do most of our traveling in the western portion of the U.S. or Canada. Sometimes we have to simply resolve to go east, to see family and sites in the East we want to see and to fulfill our goal of visiting all of the national parks.

Back to my adventure. I hardly needed a map for traveling this landscape, as I know it so well. But since I did venture on some new ground, I consulted Google Maps a time or two. As I drove along, I crossed well-known rivers, the Cannonball, the Grand and the Moreau.

Near the South Dakota border, I began to see lark buntings. On the seat next to me, I had a box of CDs to listen to and snacks. Memories flooded back to me of trips to the Black Hills in our family Ford LTD, listening to the Carpenters on an eight-track tape, singing along to pass the time. Today it was “Abbey Road,” Roseanne Cash and the Dixie Chick’s “Wide Open Spaces.”

The landscape changed from agricultural to native prairie, and east of Faith, S.D., I spotted this year’s first (for me) upland sandpiper. The sere landscape was a testament to the severe drought the Great Plains is experiencing. How wonderful it was to be in a car, alone, driving across the big open, with the knowledge that at the end of the day, I’d be with a good friend.

Here and there, the landscape was dotted with hay bales, cows and harvested winter wheat, but mostly there was grass and blue sky. On the margins of the highway were sunflowers and milkweed (the main food source for butterflies).  I have a deep attachment to sunflowers as my earliest memory is from when I was about 3 or 4 and on a Slope County scoria road, traveling to my maternal grandparents’ ranch. The roadsides were thick with them. No doubt I was hanging my head out the window, excited to see my Grandma Lily. My memory is of a tunnel of sunflowers.

I traveled through many small South Dakota towns.

After an ice cream break at Howes Store, I continued on by White Owl.

Near here I saw some pronghorn antelope. Finally, Bear Butte came into view, on the margins on the distant Black Hills. Bear Butte (supposedly its earlier name was “Bare Butte” due to the lack of vegetation on its slopes) is an iconic landmark in this area.

I’ve hiked to the top of Bear Butte a couple of times and recommend it. Please be respectful to the Native’s culture, as this is considered a sacred area. Some accounts report that Crazy Horses’ body was taken here by his family after his assassination at Fort Robinson by Gen. George Crook’s soldiers. It has been the site of many very large Native American gatherings.

One lodge that has been built for motorcycle mania. Sturgis sprawl is evident in all directions
One lodge that has been built for motorcycle mania. Sturgis sprawl is evident in all directions

On this particular day, I did not take the time to stop at Bear Butte but rather drove along the Belle Fourche River, where I spotted some red-headed woodpeckers in the cottonwoods. Instead, I stopped in Sturgis, on the edge of the Black Hills, for gas. Sturgis is the site of the world-famous motorcycle rally, held in August, and the evidence of this is everywhere.

As I drove, I thought of many trips that I took as a teenager to the Black Hills. Rapid City was the metro area to which we traveled because my parents would go to the Base Exchange at Ellsworth Air Force Base for supplies, and my older sister’s orthodontist was in Rapid City. In fact, until I was in college, I only traveled twice from Slope County to Bismarck. I was born at Ellsworth AFB so returning to this area is, for me, something of a homecoming.

While ranching in Slope County, we’d also take visiting family to the Black Hills, as it is the major tourism destination, and my father LOVES to fish! Our Luther League group would plan an annual trip to Terry Peak (the Catholic kids would go, too) and although I’ve not downhill skied for almost 30 years, I became quite a good skier and always looked forward to trips to Terry Peak.

Finally, as I drove toward Deadwood, I saw my first official signpost for the Black Hills National Forest. A roadside sign for “Custer’s Crossing” caused me to make a screeching stop. Alas, there is nothing left but the base of the sign. This sign described the time when Custer traveled from Fort Lincoln (near present-day Mandan) to the Black Hills in an 1874 expedition, following along much of what would later become the Bismarck to Deadwood Stage Trail.There are many excellent books about this expedition.  One book I particularly like is “Exploring with Custer,” which contains period photographs taken during the expedition alongside current photographs of the same areas.

Next, I drove past Trout Haven and am flooded with many childhood memories. When we would drive past the promotional signs for this place, we would beg my road warrior father to stop. Surely, we hoped, such a place would be of interest to him as there would be “fishing.” Eventually, we understood that my father was far above this sort of fishing and was bound for the mountain streams and lakes. Mostly we were desperate for him to stop and let us use the bathroom and stretch our legs.

It would be a bonus to experience these tourist traps, advertised all around us. Yet, to this day, I’ve never done anything but drive right by Trout Haven.  I was due at Valerie’s place.  I crossed Box Elder Creek and proceeded onward.

My friend, Valerie Naylor, is the retired superintendent of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. One of her homes is near Pactola Dam. She actually has a cabin and a cottage. Pine Cone Cabin and Prairie Creek Cottage, to be specific, where she lives with her Beagle, Jetta, and her cats, Spirit and Diablo.

When I got out of the car, the scent of pine on this warm summer day filled my senses. It was 92 degrees in Sturgis, but this high in the mountains it was down to 86 degrees.The Smokey the Bear sign at Pactola Dam informed me that the fire danger was “Very High.”

Valerie greeted me, and we headed out to haul water to the cattle boarding on her land.

Next up was to Hill City for a matinee, an indie film called “Lakota Girls,” where we joined Meg. The film was shown in a makeshift theater on the second floor of a former bar and restaurant, the Chute Rooster. The filmmakers and several of the stars were in attendance. Val likes movies, and so do I.

Soon enough, it was time for a good night’s sleep among the pines.

Day Two started with French press coffee and quiet enjoyment, followed by an foray to Friendship Tower on nearby Roosevelt Peak, something that was on my “list of things I’d not yet done in the Black Hills.”

A short walk along the talus slope past the descriptive signs brought us to the stonework tower, built as an effort spearheaded by Seth Bullock in tribute to his friend, Theodore Roosevelt.

Somewhere along the trail to Friendship Tower, I mentioned to Valerie that I’d never been to Crooks Tower. Because I said I’d like to show my elderly father a picture of said visit, we agreed that this was a priority and hatched a plan for Day Two.

Crooks Tower, elevation 7,137 feet, is the highest point in Lawrence County, S.D. The tower is no longer there. You need a Black Hills National Forest map to find it (even better, buy a Crooks Tower quad map). I don’t know if the name of the high point is derived from the existence of the tower or if it was simply called this as an honor to Gen. Crook. There is more information available here.  If you google Crooks Tower, you’ll find even more information, and some time in the future I’m going to deep deeper into the historical periodical literature to see what I might find.

To get there, one drives through tiny Rochford, S.D. Although Val has lived in or near the Black Hills for many years, she’d never been there, an added bonus. It is 29.3 miles from the turnoff to Rochford on Highway 385 to the summit of Crooks Peak.

One last stop in Rochford at the tongue-in-cheek “Small of America,” and it was time to say goodbye to Val and point the Toyota in the direction of North Dakota.

In Nemo, I had a very good mushroom and Swiss burger and then drove on as per Val’s directions in scenic Vonacker Canyon, where I saw a western tanager.

As I left Sturgis, I remembered a sign I’d spotted on the way through two days before for the Fort Meade Museum and thought “no time like the present” — drove right up to it, paid $5 and learned more about the fort I’d driven by hundreds of times in my life.

The members of the 1874 Custer Expedition camped near Bear Butte, the first encampment of the U.S. in the area. In 1878, Camp Sturgis was established near present Fort Meade, with the final site being several miles south of there, on the edge of present day Sturgis and was officially founded on Aug. 28, 1878.

The fort is beautifully preserved, and the museum is located in the old Command HQ building, which was erected in 1905. The fort is now used by the National Guard for a training site and is a VA Medical Center. The doctors and other medical staff rent many of the houses. You can learn much more about historic Fort Meade here.

Although I did not have time to visit the cemetery, I paid silent homage to a family friend, Ron Hilden, buried here. Judge Hilden conducted our wedding ceremony and is much missed.

I’m also interested in Fort Meade because it was to here that Gen. Crook and his troops, in the late autumn of 1876, came at the end of what is known as his “starvation march.” They were in pursuit of the Native Americans dispersing after that summer’s Battle of the Little Bighorn. After being forced to kill and eat their horses, they limped into the fort.

If you travel to the Black Hills, pick up one of these ubiquitous maps.

A thunderstorm was forming over the area, hopefully bringing some badly needed rain. I finally got serious about heading homeward, taking the route directly past Bear Butte where I intersected with another Bismarck to Deadwood Stage Trail sign, this one describing death ON the Bismarck trail (rather than “of”). I’m so grateful to the people who’ve erected these signs everywhere.

While I should probably have stuck to the most direct northeast route, I wanted to surprise my husband with something, given that I was so close by. So, I headed west again, to U.S. Highway 85. My friend, Clay Jenkinson, in his book “Message on the Wind,” calls this area “the sacred corridor,” and I completely agree.

My purpose was to stop at the Crow Buttes Mercantile to pick up their world-famous bacon. It is, after all, approaching BLT season at our house. Six pounds of that naughty treat was my surprise to Jim.

At Buffalo, I headed east again, driving into the Custer National Forest and the Slim Buttes. Gen. Crook’s Starvation March (also known as “Horsemeat March”) took him through the Slim Buttes, where skirmishes were fought with the Native Americans. Here he captured the chief American Horse and is shown in a famous photograph with one of the guidons (triangular-shaped flag) of Custer’s troops (from the July 1876 battle).

As I completed my drive back to Bismarck, my thoughts were filled with so many happy memories of camping, fishing and hiking in the Black Hills, and of so many drives through “the sacred corridor.” I crossed the Missouri River and was happy to be home again, 742 miles later. Thanks, Val!

MICHAEL BOGERT: Photo Gallery — A Boat Ride And Hike To Remember

A weekend boat ride and a hike opens up a world of life to Grand Forks photographer Michael Bogert.

JIM THIELMAN: Happiest Cat Ever Born Dies

On a peaceful, moonlit, October night in 1999, Bob the Remarkable Cat coiled around a gravely ill feral kitten. Bob was in little better shape. His long tail was a mysterious stub and a gash decorated his left side. Threads of gangrene had begun weaving through him.

A dust of stars scattered when dawn broke on the outskirts of Detroit Lakes, Minn. Bob, 4 months, uncurled. The kitten was dead, and fate was thinking about slipping a Mickey to Bob.

Exhausted from a timely surgery and in the clasp of a strange new life, Bob slept in a sedan’s back seat during the entire 200-mile drive to his new home in Long Lake, Minn.

Bob shrugged off the twist and tear of his early days to spend the next 18 years as “the most laid-back cat I’ve ever seen,” a neighbor observed as Bob calmly watched fireworks flash overhead on one of Bob’s July 4 birthdays.

A solidly muscled orange and white tabby with dashing good looks, Bob delighted in beachcombing through wildlife-tumbled lakeshore brush or chewing kale that had floated to the kitchen floor.

Bob’s body died Monday,

Intestinal cancer was the cause, according to Harper Mingus, his friend of seven years.

With considerable swagger, talkative Bob was known to pad his white paws toward strangers and chat them up, often during his evening walks on the Luce Line Trail behind his home.

One afternoon, he visited a carpenter who was banging a hammer on a neighbor’s deck. Swathed in sunlight, Bob high-stepped toward the detonations.

“I’ve never seen a cat come up to a stranger with a hammer in his hand,” the man said.

Another time, Bob sent currents of communication through a cat-averse insurance salesman who said, “Bob gives cats a good name.”

Not that you want to win over too many insurance salesmen.

Bob’s stubby tail was a topic for all.

“Bob insisted that he had a short tail because when they were handing out tails he left the line to go back for another helping of personality,” Harper said.

“Bob told me that his endless thirst for people was because that short tail couldn’t hold much love, so he had to keep searching for more.”

“I suppose he really just didn’t want to talk about the tail.”

Bob alone knew what had happened.

Mistreatment seemed unlikely. Fearlessness of people had saved his life.

That was when Bob approached a stranger who was standing near a truck at a Detroit Lakes gas station. Bob verbalized his imperiled situation as, “Can you help me?” Young Bob didn’t hesitate when he heard, “Hop in.”

Bob soon arrived in Long Lake, where he cherished sisters, Alvy, Wilma and Croucher, each of whom preceded him in death, along with everyone else who has ever died.

Unlike his sisters, later to include Harper and Rikki, Bob resisted outdoor supervision.

“I caught a couple of birds. Mice. Pounced on one on a fall night when it was pitch black, and chased a rabbit toward a busy county road,” Bob said when interviewed for this obituary in 2013.

“The rabbit stopped in thick brush under a tall pine tree rather than cross the road, or I probably wouldn’t be here to tell you about it.”

As he tore deeper into his nine lives, it was decided that spring-loaded Bob needed a leash. Bob took subsequent walks in a harness. Soon, other neighborhood cats were seen on leashes.

“People would approach me and say, ‘Is that a dog?'” Bob said.

“Were they blind? But I guess I am loyal as any dog. That slowwitted guy with the leash and I are the best pals in the history of the universe.”

One evening, Bob taught the slow-witted guy that he was just humoring him about the harness.

Tied to a tree, a fuse was struck when Harley the neighboring Rhodesian ridgeback/pit bull mix galloped toward Bob with questionable intent.

Bob Houdinied out of his harness and flashed his snowy white paws up his deck steps and plastered his claws into the front-door screen 6 feet above the welcome mat.

Bob was chaser, chasee and savior. He not only had comforted that dying kitten in Detroit Lakes, Bob’s fidelity was on display when the independent, ailing Croucher Mingus was preparing to fly through the universe. He kept vigil at the foot of her bed during her last nights on earth.

The peaceable little fellow also stood over a motherless, baby squirrel struggling for life in the shade of a pine tree one bright Sunday afternoon until someone with opposable thumbs arrived to drive it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Weeks later, Bob received a letter informing him the squirrel was outside doing squirrel things.

Asked to reflect on his life, Bob said, “Every day was great. Soon as the stars faded into day I’d wedge my nose between the shades and window and hope to see the sun bouncing off the green of the grass. I ate that grass most every day in the summer.”

“Puked it up more often than not.”

“I’ve lived in two different centuries spanning three decades. By a lake. For a while with some white lab mice and a sugar glider. Most people don’t even know what a sugar glider is.

“You might think that I was a throwaway kitty who loved life because I got a second chance. But I was always a high-fiving ball of optimism. Surviving those early days just let more people see that I was the happiest cat ever born.”