Biggest Ball of String

Our road trip adventures, quirky roadside attractions, generally in the United States or Canada (and with occasional travel off the mainland into Hawaii, Alaska, Caribbean and Europe – so far)

Great Falls, and then! Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jog!

Can you believe it? this is the last post in this particular segment – the end of the original “Biggest Ball of StriSceneryng Tour.”  Not that I’m done writing.  Next, we are moving on to one of our trips to Michigan.

Technically, we could’ve driven home from Butte, but 1) my cousin and her husband had come to visit us there, so we wanted to leave Butte leisurely, and not on a specific schedule, and 2) we didn’t want our road trip to be over!  So, we meandered to Great Falls, which is only 2 1/2 hours from Butte! (By the way, this is the point where we sadly had to say “see you soon” to Brian and Taunya and crew, as they headed back towards Seattle.)

Besides, we’d never really spent any time in Great Falls, but aLOT of Canadians go to Great Falls to shop, especially for school supplies, etc., making a weekend getaway of it. (Great Falls is less than 2 hours from the US/Canada border, and about 5 1/2 hours from Calgary.)

Sacajawea, baby, and Lewis and ClarkOnce upon a time, the first people who lived in the Great Falls area were, of course, Native Americans.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition went through 1805/1806, but the area wasn’t “founded” until 1883, when a businessman, named Paris Gibson, was in the area and recognized the potential for building an industrial city near “the great falls” – which would provide power by hydroelectricity.   (When  Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) first saw it in 1805, he said the Great Falls were the grandest thing he’d ever seen!)

By 1887, 1200 people lived there.  By October, 1887, the Great Northern Railway arrived. (The Steamboat had arrived in 1859, by way of the Missouri River, which runs through.  Apparently, THE Great Falls was as far as the Steamboats could go, anyway, because it was impossible to “portage” them… “Portage”, in case it’s not a familiar term to you, means “The carrying of a boat or its cargo between two navigable waters” as per… all on-line dictionaries.)   And, by 1888, Great Falls was incorporated.

As hinted, Great Falls was named for THE Great Falls of the Missouri River. These are a series of 5 waterfalls, which include Black Eagle Falls, Colter Falls, Rainbow Falls, Crooked Falls (a.k.a. Horseshoe Falls), and The Great Falls.  The Great Falls is the highest, at 87 feet (26.5 meters), although, apparently, most of its water is diverted to Ryan Dam, for hydroelectric power. (The Ryan Dam is 1336 feet (407 meters) long and 61 feet (19 meters) high.  Because of all of the hydroelectric dams (5), the city of Great Falls has been called “Electric City.”)
Crossing the MissouriSame bridge

Speaking of Lewis and Clark… you might be recall, we talked about them in my blog of January 6, 2013, about Lewis and Clark Caverns.  Interestingly,  Meriwether Lewis and William Clark never actually went to the Caverns, but they DID go to Great Falls. (The Lewis & Clark Expedition was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson – see blog December 11, 2012 (Mount Rushmore) for some summarized details about Jefferson!)

The Expedition (Also known as the Corps of Discovery Expedition) stretched from St. Louis, Missouri (blog Nov. 20, 2012 about St. Louis) to Fort Clatsop, where the Columbia Basin empties into the Pacific Ocean…. there ~ and back again!

National Geographic did a series on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and their on-line introductionLewis and Clark explains: “In 1803 Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s Corps of Discovery to find a water route to the Pacific and explore the uncharted West. He believed woolly mammoths, erupting volcanoes, and a mountain of pure salt awaited them.

What they found was no less mind-boggling: some 300 species unknown to science, nearly 50 Indian tribes, and the Rockies. ”  (The “Journey Log” is REALLY interesting!!

On occasion, especially as we travel through and to various Montana destinations, we pass or follow the Lewis & Clark Trail.

Great Falls is the home of one of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, and gets 5* reviews on Tripadvisor. One review says: “I was absolutely blown away. I’ve been to other Lewis & Clark sites and this is nothing like any of them. You walk through the exhibits that take you through the entire journey and attempt to give you a feeling of what they were experiencing.”
( (

Lewis and Clark on the Lower Columbia by Charles Russell (1905)Great Falls also is famous for being the home of Charles M. Russell – famous Old West artist. Born in St. Louis in 1864, he moved to Montana when he was 16, to work on a ranch.  He finally settled in Great Falls, after he was married, in 1896, and stayed there, until he died in 1926. (According to Wikipedia,” On the day of Russell’s funeral in 1926, all the children in Great Falls were released from school to watch the funeral procession. Russell’s coffin was displayed in a glass sided coach, pulled by four black horses.”)  Visit the CM Russell Museum for more information.

Besides CM Russell, others who have called Great Falls “home” include (apparently) Charley Pride (best known as a country western singer), Walter Breuning (was once the oldest known man in the world – 1896-2011), a lot of professional athletes, AND the shortest river in the world – the Roe River, which is 201 feet long….(not sure if that record has been “beaten” or not – apparently Guiness Book of World Records stopped have “shortest river” as a category in 2006.)Margarita

Also, many movies have been filmed here, including The Untouchables (1987) and A River Runs Through it (1992).

Despite the many interesting things to do in Great Falls, and its fascinating history – we were really just concerned that it was our last chance to eat yummy (hopefully) delicious Mexican food before we crossed the border!

AND we did!

We had delicious enchiladas and chili relleno at El Comedor, and let’s not forget to mention the mmmmmmmargaritas!!!
enchilada Chili Relleno

We had a nice, peaceful drive home the next day – it was a beautiful surprise to see the flax blooming beside the canola, with seas of blue and yellow.  And that’s it! Home sweet home!!
CanolaCanola and flax

Never done – I will be talking about something-Calgary on Wednesday, and then on to Michigan!

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Butte, Montana

Lucille Ball (who was from Jamestown, New York) chose to tell people she was from Butte, Montana.. of all theLucille_Ball_by_Koyuki_Shirai places she could choose.  Apparently, this was to “seem more middle America.”  Of course she would do something so random,  and choose a  such a random place!

Why? why? why would she choose Butte? Well, let’s just see what kind of fascinating place Butte was/is…

FIRST of all, it’s pronounced “Beee-oot”, not “Butt”.  Most people know this and are just being sassy, but.. just in case some don’t…

(A “butte”, for those who actually don’t know, means “A hill that rises abruptly from the surrounding area and has sloping sides and a  flat top.”  Considering the landscape, it’s a perfect name! Of course, when I look for a picture to support that, I can’t find a single one…maybe it’s because there’s buttes the whole way there, and then mountains and rocks, once you arrive…)

A butteTHIS particular Butte was once a famous (infamous?) mining town.  It’s best know for its copper mining, but did you know that they first discovered gold there? That’s what actually brought prospectors to the area, in 1864, the year after the gold strike in Virginia City (see blog January 2, 2013).

However, the miners ran into so much silver while searching for gold, extracting the gold was very difficult!

In 1868, the miners’ focus officially switched to silver. The silver market peaked in 1887, but crashed in 1893, thanks to the “Silver Panic of 1893”, which was a severe economic depression, that has something to do with railroads and gold and silver and banks and inflation. (I think I got the gist of it, but if you want to know more, you will have to do your own research.)

In the meantime – the miners had found copper while they had been searching for gold in the 1870’s…  after a delay, trying to adjust in the turn in the economy, the focus was turned to copper mining.  It was really right on time.

Up until the late 1880’s, copper had only been used for pots and pans, roofing material and other odds anButte sceneryd ends.  However, with the popularity of electricity, came the need for copper for electricity’s wires.  Everyone wanted it! Street lights, electricity in the homes…

In 1882, a man named Marcus Daly discovered a deposit that contained up to 35% copper.  (This earned the hill – Butte Hill – the title of “The Richest Hill on Earth.”)  By 1898, Butte was the biggest supplier of copper, supplying 41% of the copper for the entire world!!

A smelter was built nearby (30 miles) in a newly constructed city, called Anaconda.  (Smelting is a process of heating ore in order to extract precious metals.)

The World Wars further increased the need for copper (apparently, it was included in all of the bullets), and Butte was considered one of the most prosperous cities in the United States. By the late 1920’s, the Anaconda Mining Company was apparently the fourth largest company in the world!!

In the 1950’s, to reduce costs oBerkeley Pitf underground mining, the Anaconda Mining Company started open strip mining – which basically meant that they just removed the ground above, rather than tunnelling through it, which is what you can see evidence of today, and for which Butte is most well-known, nowadays. 

You can visit the Berkeley Pit ($2 to visit the viewing platform.)
The website confirms that the pit is 7000 feet (2134 meters) long, 5600 feet (1707 meters) wide, and 1600 feet (488 meters) deep. 

The smelter itself was demolished in 1981, but the Anaconda Smelter Stack is still standing.  (I’ve searched through all of my pictures – somehow, I don’t have one. That’s the problem with the days of “film” (which shows how long Washington Monumentago I went through Anaconda) – pictures are hidden in a massive jumble of other pictures, and I can’t find even one.)

The smelter stack is 585 feet tall. To put that into perspective, Wikipedia explains that the Washington Monument could actually fit inside of it!!

The Pit was closed in 1982. The pumps were turned off and started to fill with water. (Somewhere I read that it’s about 1000 feet full, so far…but I forget the date that that report was written…) The water, mixed with all of the minerals, is toxic (sigh) so that’s a new thing that has to be fixed, and there’s a plan… there’s a strategy in place… they are working on it.

It’s interesting – I think we visited there (the first time) probably shortly after the mine had shut down.  At that time (from my memory), they hadn’t really done a lot of restoration on the town, and many surrounding houses were buried in the dirt that had been taken from the mine area. I remember it being a very sad and dirty place.

Perhaps they were in their mourning period (or I’m remembering wrong), because this past trip, it was a nice little city (2010 census confirms the population around 34,000), clean, with a lively downtown area.  (Although a different kind of “lively” than from once upon a time – when it included an entire “red-light district”…. you can tour the brothel (this brothel was still active until 1982!!!) …we haven’t taken the tour, but it’s an option! Wikipedia says that “In its heyday…it was one of the largest and most notorious copper boomtowns…home to hundreds of saloons and a famous red-light district.”  “Notorious” seems like an appropriate word.)

You can take a trolley tour around the city and it’ll take you around to the historical sites, including the Berkeley PiMontana sceneryt viewing area (which, according to this website) is the only stop. But, they will pass the Copper King Mansion, the Dumas Brothel Museum, and some other places that seem very interesting, that I didn’t write about, like the Mai Wah Museum and the National Landmark Historic District.

Another tour which seems REALLY Interesting is a tour of Butte’s Underground City. (I didn’t know it existed until my brother told me, and we’d already passed through – it’s on my “to-do” list for next time.) (Tripadvisor reviews are all 5*.)

(Apparently, Butte’s Underground City tour is similar to the Moose Jaw Underground Tours, which we also missed, but talk about in my September 29, 2012 blog.)

Part of the Underground tour apparently includes a below-ground city jail, where Evel Knieval spent some time…which segues nicely into my segment on him!

Speaking of “notorious”, “famous” and “infamous”, the famous dare-devil, Evel Knieval was born in Butte, in October 1938.  There is a an annual celebration each summer ~ the Evel Knievel Days.  On the second day, there is a moment of silence for the entire Knievel clan, ending with 5 daredevils jumping over 19 trucks, all at the same time! AND with 50 foot flames shooting up through the trucks! YIKES!

Evel Knievel started racing around Butte on his bicycle at a very young age, laying a foundation for his future career as a motorcycle riding daredevil.Butte scenery

After he was an adult, and had to be more responsible, he got a job at the Anaconda Mining Company, but was eventually fired because he “made the earth mover do a motorcycle-type wheelie and drove it into Butte’s main power line.”

After tries at desk jobs (something about insurance), and some smaller motorcycle shows (his first public show involved jumping over a 20 foot box of rattlesnakes and 2 mountain lions.  Though mildly successful, it wasn’t enough to support his family.)

His first big show was January 1966, in California, and was a huge success! His career was launched!

He is super famous for setting all kinds of records in his life time – He also set a World Record for jumping 19 cars, in February 1971.  In February 1973, he set the Record for jumping 50 stacked cars!!  His motorcycle is now in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. AND he is in the Guiness Book of World Records for surviving having the most bones broken in a lifetime (including several concussions)!

Pasty shopMany little boys had Evel Knievel toys, action figures and accessories. Even Peter remembers having an Evel Knievel motorcycle toy. He was an icon, representing a very specific time period. If you don’t remember him in his red, white and blue jumpsuit, with stars and stripes – you have to Google for some images!!!  A 1970’s icon.

In November 2007, he died of pulmonary disease, and is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery, in Butte.

He was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Sturgis Hall of Fame in 2011. (For more on Sturgis, please see my December 18, 2012 blog.)

When in Butte, try the foods for which they are famous!  Three restaurants were featured on Man Vs. Food, on the Travel Channel. One such place was Joe’s Pasty Shop.  (This is “PASS-TEE”, not “PAY-STEE”, because, as they explain “Pay-stees are for strippers.”) Pasties are basically meat pies, served with gravy, and brought over during the Gold/Silver/Copper rushes, by prospectors from Europe.  (I ordered mine with gravy on the side, but I think it’s probably important to have gravy served right on it – for the sake of regulating the dryness of the Pasty…)
Pasty gravy on side Pasty

(Apparently, Pasties were introduced to the Butte area, during its hey-day, when so many people from around the world (Cornwall, in particular) were coming to Butte for work.)

There’s so much more to talk about, but I’ve decided to stop my blog here… just too much…

Sunday, we’ll be in Great Falls.

OH! ONE MORE THING BEFORE I GO!!! I canNOT believe I almost forgot this!! The Ringing Rocks!! I haven’t seen them yet (a hike is required and we are normally running out of time by this point in our trip), but if you can go see them, go see them!!  (Google “Ringing Rocks Montana.”)  Next time we are there, we are GOING! (Will be this coming September, hopefully.)

References (because there were too many to list during the blog).

History and statistics:

Evel Knievel:

Attractions and tourism:


Lewis and Clark Caverns (near Whitehall, MT)

The pink pictures are LED lit – this is the actual color of the formations

The first time I went to Lewis & Clark Caverns was 1983. (Google map). Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know. This ages me…. but I was a kid…does that count?

The next time I went was 2010, with Peter.  And then, we went again this year.…considering that, apparently, stalactites grow between 1/4″ and 1″ every century, and stalagmites pretty much get the “left over” drippings from the stalactites, not much has changed from 1983 to 2012, and certainly not between 2010 and 2012.  (See more information regarding stalgmites, stalactites and other cave formations, in my previous blog, December 15, 2012, regarding “Black Hills Miscellany”.)

Still, we’ll probably go again, before the next century comes around. Besides, the tour guides mix things up a bit, and have different jokes, and of course, there’s the other people in on tour.

We had a really nice group this year, and were with good friends, BUT, the 2010 tour was BY FAR the most entertaining group!

We had been travelling with 2 other couples (it was a great road trip, through Montana, Wyoming, and North Dakota) and most of those adventures will be told later!   But, one of the people (Jim, you know who you are!) is like the bad kid in class – super funny, too much energy, makes the class giggly and then makes the entire class miss recess.  Despite the fact that we were all adults, it did cross my mind that we maybe wouldn’t get to have a tour. 

Also in our group were 3 men (teenager-ish acting, but “of age”) who were so extremely hung-over that they were likely still drunk. Good natured, but happy to get into the caves and away from sunlight. (They were disappointed to find out that they couldn’t take their Gatorade in the Cavern – only water allowed.)

And FINALLY (not including various other people on the tour that I don’t remember), there were Clay and Jennifer, who are GREAT adventurers! (We reminisced about them many times throughout the tour this year.)  We had thought that they were travelling with the Drunk Boys because, at one particularly narrow place of the tour, one of the drunk boys hid in a crevice and when Jennifer came by (in the dark), he grabbed her and “GRAAAAAR”ed.

I’m certain he regretted it instantly, but the rest of us were completely impressed  (and in hysterics) when Jennifer beat him to a pulp. (And later, we were shocked to find out that they all did not actually know eachother.)

(Note to people who are claustrophobic – there are low and narrow places – one of the girls with us is claustrophobic, though, and she did make it, and was happy she’d gone…there were “moments” that she was …less…happy, though)

OK! It’s unlikely that such a group of characters will converge at the same time, again, and you should be able to enjoy the tour as a tour!

The Lewis & Clark State Park is the first and oldest State Park in Montana and open year-round. However, the Cavern is only open to tours from May 1 to September 30, and from 9:00-4:30 May 1 to June 14th, and August 20 to September 30, and from 9-6:30 from May 15 to August 19.  (Double check before you go, just in case anything changes – also, check the entrance fee – right now, it’s listed at $10 for adults, and $5 for children).

First, there’s a walk (on a path) that is uphill for about 3/4 of a mile. (under the Top 10 things to do in Montana) calls the walk “leisurely”, but take water, use the benches if you need them, and don’t forget your inhaler if you need that!!!

The Cavern has stairs and paths throughout.  Bring a sweater maybe, and good walking shoes – flip flops are a bad idea.  (Also, if you do have claustrophobia, but it’s minor, and you think you can do it, there are a couple of “turn around” spots along the way, so you can test yourself and see, before you totally commit.)

The tour takes about 2 hours, and at one point, 300 feet below ground, there’s a marker identifying that you are 5280 feet (one even mile) above sea-level! There is some stooping (or crawling, depending on how you want to navigate), sliding, turning and twisting. (I’m only telling you this in case you have any health condition that might prevent you from going – but if you can go,

DO go! It’s WORTH IT!)

On a side note, we still visit with Clay and Jenn (thank you, Facebook), but haven’t had any adventures together since then – well, at the same place, at the same time.  Soon, though, hopefully.

In the meantime, on Wednesday, we will be off to Butte!


Virginia City, Montana

Oh! I was so carried away with the Grizzly Encounter last blog, I completely didn’t mention that some great friends from Seattle met us in Bozeman, to go to the Grizzly Encounter – Brian, Taunya, and kids (Kelsey and Kade).

So, after we went to the Montana Grizzly Encounters, we headed off to Virginia City.  If you come from the east, like we d2115id, you will take Montana highway 287 (MT-287), and you will go east from Ennis., up and up and up!  (Apparently, Ennis is around 5000 feet (1524 meters) above sea level, but the high point of the road is over 6900 feet (2115 meters) above sea level, and you climb about 8 miles (12.87 kms).  You drop down a tiny bit, into Virginia City, which is at  5761 ft (1756 meters). (This, although fascinating in general, really matters when you are pulling a trailer!! And remember! What goes up, must come down – we almost melted our brakes on the way down the hill on the other side.)altitude

What would possess people to cross this divide on foot, by horse, or by horse and buggy? (or maybe mule and buggy?)

Dreams of gold (I learned that phrase in Italian – it’s “sogno d’ oro” and they use it to say “good night” – like “sweet dreams”.)

Miland's Shoe Store (?) Circa 1868

Those dreams of riches and grandeur and fame drove the gold rushes (including the Black Hills, the California, the Alaskan…etc.)

Apparently, in May 1863, a group of hopeful gold miners, who had encountered a series of misadventures (including being captured by warriors of the Crow Nation and missing an important rendezvous with a larger prospecting party) set up camp beside a stream they’d been following, on their way to the gold-mining camp – Bannack. (Bannack, by the way, had only been founded the year before, in 1862.  Google Maps says that, by foot, it’s about 71 more miles.)

Four of the six prospectors in the group went off to do some gold panning before dinner, and BillBuford Block (Wells Fargo Coffee House)? (1888, 1889) Fairweather and Henry Edgar stayed behind to take their turn doing chores in camp. Bill went to find a spot to picket the horses, and discovered instead – the mother lode!

The Virginia City website (maintained by the Virginia City Preservation Alliance) explains that “What Bill had discovered would prove to be one of the richest gold deposits in North America, and would be the seminal event in the history of Montana.”

Gold miners and prospectors came in droves – within weeks, thousands had arrived. At its peak, it was an actual city – a thriving, forward moving city of 30,000!  In 1865, in became the Capitol city of Montana Territory.

Through a string of political decisions, the name of the site was named Virginia, and ultimately, Virginia City.

mercantileDuring it’s heyday, the Report of the United States Assay Office estimates that at least $90,000,000 in gold had been mined between 1863 and 1889.  (According that report, that would’ve been approximately the modern-day equivalent of $40,000,000,000. (You can do your own math on what that is per ounce…)The Boardwalk

Being the thriving location that it was, electricity was brought in for lighting, in 1892 (which is pretty amazing, considering the first lightbulb was just invented in 1878 – by 1880, they had lightbulbs that would last about 1200 hours!).

The telephone service arrived in 1902, with 28 telephones. (Also, not too bad, when you consider that Alexander Graham Bell got his telephone to work in 1876….However, the Virginia City website tells us that Cell service didn’t arrive in Virginia City until June 2010…)

But! if you think that’s interesting, how about this: by 1865, they had camels that they used for freighting!

In 1944, the Historic Landmark Society was established by Charles & Sue Bovey, to save and restore Virginia City (and Nevada City). Then, the State of Montana purchased it and established the Montana Heritage Commission, in 1997.

Today, the City consists some wooden boardwalk sidewalks,  a saloon, a theater, some gift stores, historical buildings for viewing, and a population of approximately 132 people.

They have live theater at the Opera House – while we were there, they (the Virginia City Players) were performing a story about “Davy Crocket”. Opera HouseConcessionsOpera House seating

We, unfortunately, couldn’t stay through the evening to go to the theater, nor could we stay to do gold panning or garnet mining (that’s my subtle way of introducing Garnet mining into the conversation)…

BUT, we did stay long enough to experience the Bale of Hay Saloon.  The food was delicious, the owners were friendly and fun (two sisters who moved there from…I forget where…I want to say Colorado, but that might be wrong…), and the highlight of all highlights (for me, anyway) is that Daisy and Coco (our miniature dachshunds) got to come in, too! The Saloon even keeps water dishes for dogs at the end of the bar!
Coco at the tableDaisy & Coco

You can also take train rides between Virginia City and Nevada City (Nevada City is there right-next-door historical mining town), a stagecoach tour, a 1941 Fire Engine Tour, and various walking tours.
fire truck toursstagecoach tour

Taunya, Kelsey & Kade took the train ride, and we picked them up at the local ice cream shop on the way through – on our way to Lewis & Clark Caverns.

Sunday – Lewis and Clark Caverns!


Montana Grizzly Encounter, Bozeman MT

I feel that I have to start off by saying: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!!!Lucy's padded feet

Seriously! Bears look cute and fuzzy and have those padded little (gigantic) feet! They look cuddly – and we have those Teddy Bears (remember, as discussed in my blog about Mt. Rushmore December 11, 2012 – they are named after Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt).  You might think it’s crazy (because it IS!) but there has been history of people getting out of the car to stand beside bears on the side of the road for a picture. TERRIBLE IDEA!

When we were in Yellowstone last time, there was a grizzly running along the road, and a bunch of tourists outside of their cars, setting up tri-pods, to get pictures! (The ambulance was parked, running, with its lights on…just in case.)  STUPID!

I guess there are some who think maybe these bears, when babies, would make good pets or something, and then find out that when they grow up, that they are dangerous! and expensive! and they end up being mistreated, malnourished, and crammed into little cages.  What is WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!?????
MT Grizzly Encounter
Enter Casey Anderson – the Grizzly Bear rescuer!

These bears have all been born in (often inhumane) captivity. At the Grizzly Bear Encounters site, they have a cage that is the size of one of the cages.  So sad. Heartbreakingly sad.  BUT these have been rescued! And they live in a beautiful habitat that Casey built for the care of the Grizzlies, and education of the people ~ Montana Grizzly Encounters, just outside of Bozeman, Montana.

Currently, there are 5 Grizzlies in the enclosure – and a schedule regulating who’s out in the public eye at which time. (Apparently, they aren’t all pals… but apparently…some of them are!)

Brutus the Bear is Casey’s best friend, from all I’ve read.  Brutus even stood up for Casey as his “best man” at his wedding AND he’s had dinner, at the table, with the rest of the family!! (The best pictures are shown in the interview with National Geographic – in my opinion – and you absolutely have to go look at them!!!! More (and some of the same) can be seen at

Casey rescued Brutus when he was just a tiny little baby and they have been together ever since. Brutus Baby Brutuswas the size of a squirrel at the time, and now weighs about 800 pounds (363 kgs) and is almost 8 feet tall (2.36 meters).  (Brutus had a sibling that didn’t make it…)

Brutus is the “spokesperson” for Grizzly bears and has been featured (as I mentioned) in National Geographic, has appeared on the Oprah Show, and has had parts in education videos and two movies.

Two of the other bears are Sheena and Christi – they are twins and spent 15 years in a 6 foot by 4 foot cage. Reading this makes me cry.  I can’t talk about it.  They were 18 years old when they were adopted by Montana Grizzly Encounters and had to learn how to live in a “real” world, with space. They finally get to LIVE! live in a habitat for bears! Yes. I was right.Lucy I can’t talk about it.

Another pair are Jake and Maggi.  I don’t know anything about them. (There was information given about them when we were there visiting, but I don’t remember. I’m sorry.) They weren’t outside when we were there – and, I only had previously known about Brutus, and the website describing each bear is being updated with their details.  But, clearly, Jake & Maggi are compatible, or they wouldn’t be allowed out at the same time.

Finally, there’s Lucy.  Lucy was out when we were there, and she is the youngest and the newest. When we were there, she was still acclimatizing to her surroundings.

Montana Grizzly Encounter’s Facebook page has a video of Lucy, right after her arrival – and SHE IS SO CUTE!!!!! (It’s posted on their page December 11, 2012.) SO CUTE!! GO LOOK!!!

All of my pictures are of Lucy, except the picture I borrowed of Casey and Brutus, the baby bear.

Please! Take time to look at all Montana Grizzly Encounters has done! Take time to Google and find other articles and more pictures.


( and

Wednesday, we will be continuing on to Virginia City, Montana.


The Battle of Little Bighorn (Crow Agency, Montana)

“It was a terrible battle…a hard battle because both sides were brave warriors.”  (Red Feather, Lakota)

The first time I went to The Battle of Little Bighorn (sometime in the 1980’s), it was called “Custer’s Last Stand.”

However, in 1991, Congress authorized the name of the area and National Monument to be changed from Custer Battlefield to Little Bighorn National Monument, signed into law by former President George W. Bush.  (Public Law 102-201: “The public interest will best be served by establishing a memorial…to honor and recognize the Indians who fought to preserve their land and culture.”)

An Indian Memorial was also designed to honor the Native American participation in Battle (before there was just the Memorial for the 7th Cavalry soldiers.) Indian Memorial

The description of the Indian Memorial in the National Park pamphlet is better than on-line (unless I am just looking in the wrong place) but it describes the Memorial this way:  “The circular earth and stone work is gently carved from the prairie…for many tribes, the circle is sacred and symbolic of the journey of life. A weeping wall symbolizes the tears of the Indian People and the suffering that resulted from their battle here on the Greasy Grass to retain their nomadic way of life. The interior walls commemorate the five tribes that fought there: Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow and Arikara.”   The Memorial’s  theme is “Peace through Unity”, and it was dedicated in June, 2003.7th Cavalry Memorial

Basically, this marks the location of a TERRIBLE battle (well, the same could be said about any battle, actually, couldn’t it?), which took place June 25 and 26, 1876 near the Little Bighorn River, in eastern Montana Territory, when General Alfred H. Terry sent Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer to the Rosebud and Little Bighorn area, to force the Indians back onto their reservations.

As we’ve previously briefly discussed (see Blog December 8th, about Crazy Horse), there was ALOT of anger and discontent, as treaties were made and broken, with the Native Americans, resulting in the Indians losing much of their sacred ground (every time something good was discovered on their land….like gold, in the Black Hills.)

The National Park Services information pamphlet describes that this conflict against the “relentless invasion of the white man” “reached its peak in the decade following the Civil War, when settlers resumed their vigorous westward movement. These western emigrants, possessing little or no understanding of the Indian way of life, showed slight regard for the sanctity of hunting grounds or the terms of former treaties.  The Indians’ resistance to those encroachments on their domain only served to intensify hostilities.”

In 1868, a treaty was signed by the US Government and the Lakota, Cheyenne and other tribes of the Great Plains, designating a large area as permanent Indian reservation., promising to protect the Indians “against the commission of all depredations by people of the United States.”

But…then… in 1874 someone struck Gold in the Black Hills, which was in the heart of the reservation AND the Lakota’s sacred ground, and their treaty was ignored and their protection was … gone?   So, in an effort to protect themselves and their land, the Lakota & Cheyenne left their reservation and raided settlements and travelers along the fringes of their land.

When they diCuster postcardd not comply with the order to return to their reservation, the army was called in.

Which gets us (eventually) to the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Once there, Custer divided his forces (of about 600 men, including officers) into three groups – one under his command, and the other two under Maj. Marcus Reno and one under Capt. Frederick Benteen. Benteen was to go to the South, and Custer and Reno were to go to the North. Custer and Reno then split up and Reno advanced down the valley

What they didn’t know, though, is that in the meantime, Chief Sitting Bull (who was already recognized as a strong and accomplished warrior, protecting his Lakota people, his culture, and his land, and who considered the US Army as an invasion of Lakota way of life) had formed an alliance with other neighboring tribes (the Cheyenne, Arapaho and other Agency Indians) – and so they had alot more warriors than the U.S. Army calculated.

A large force of Lakota warriors intercepted Reno, and Reno was eventually forced to retreat.  He was joined by Benteen, and after hearing heaving gunfire to the north, marched on to help Custer.

However, by the time they arrived, the firing at the “Custer battlefield” had stopped.  Reno and Benteen soon found themselves under attack, as well, and were forced to withdraw.

The battle continued – the army held their defenses, and the siege ended with the Indians withdrew.  (They withdrew, not because Benteen and Reno were winning, but because they heard that General Alfred H. Terry and Col. John Gibbon were coming; General Crook had been delayed in battle at Rosebud, by Crazy Horse (as previously discussed in the December 8 blog about Crazy Horse.)

The Battle was only 2 days long, but Custer and his entire company were killed (about 210 men),  Reno and Benteen lost about 53,  and about 100 Indians also died.

Mrs. Spotted Horn Bull (of the Lakota tribe) is quoted: “Since the Sioux first fought the men (white men) who are our friends now, they had not won so great a battle…so it was that the Sioux defeated Long Hair and his soldiers in the valley of the Greasy Grass River, which my people remember with regret, but without shame.”

Despite the overwhelming victory, this marked the beginning of the end of the Indian Wars, and Sitting Bull exiled to Canada. Later, due to hunger and cold, he eventually was forced to return to Fort Buford, Montana, and surrendered.

After spending time here and there at various Forts, he and his band were allowed to return to the Standing Rock Agency, in 1883.  From there, In 1884, Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation and joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (see my blog of November 27th, 2012 – “Nebraska, the Cornhusker State“).  He was with the show for 4 months, and then returned, again, to the Standing Rock Agency.

Because of Sitting Bull’s enthusiasm for his culture and people, by 1890, the government started to fear an uprising, and decided to have him arrested.  A group of Sioux rallied around him to prevent the arrest. A shoot-out followed and Sitting Bull was shot in the head…  an all too familiar story…

Back to the Little Bighorn Battlefield site:  You are allowed to tour around the Battlefield, but you must stay on the designated areas.

Markers are scattered around the site, and they are placed where bodies had fallen. The white markers represent soldiers and the brown markers represent Indian warriors.

There’s also a Visitors’ Center and the National Cemetery.   There is an entrance fee (at the time we were there, it was $10 per vehicle.)

You should go.


Sunday, we are going to be visiting
the Montana Grizzly Encounter,
in Bozeman, Montana.

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Devils Tower, Wyoming

stormOur next stop along the way, is Devils Tower, WY. This is the first National monument, decreed by  (guess who!) President Roosevelt,  in 1906. You need to stop in a town before (we stopped at Gillette WY our first couple of trips, coming from the west, and Sturgis this time, coming from the east) to stock up on groceries, etc. (There’s a little store at Devils Tower, if you forget something important.)Close Encounters

Devils Tower is the focal point of the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind“.

The KOA campground there is situated on the filming site and they show the movie pretty much every night. I was very excited! I was a little creeped out, too, to have the show on the side of the barn, Tower looming on the horizon with eerie glowing moonlight outlining it… it was really cold, though, that night, and I skipped the movie…

I always imagined we’d go back there, and see it next time. Peter loved it at Devils Tower, and since we were considering the entire road trip a “sample platter”, I had it in my mind that we’d come back.  And, we did! This was our third time there!  (The second time,  the movie was cancelled because of a ferocious rain and lightning storm.) This time, the showing was inside the restaurant…which I understand, but it was disappointing… life lesson to do something the first time around, and not assume you’ll get another chance.

Devils Tower is a huge outcropping – you drive along and think “shouldn’t I see it by now, if it’s really that big?” (Its 1267 feet above its surrounding terrain). But you drive and drive and drive (a worthwhile drive, though slightly off the beaten track) and suddenly someone in the car says “GASP! THERE IT IS!” And there it is! right there! out there in the middle of nothing!Devils TowerI guess it really was originally named something like “Bear Lodge” or “Bear House”, and was (is) a sacred place of the Lakota and other tribes. In 1875, an English-speaking person misinterpreted it and called it “Bad God’s Tower”, which eventually was shorted to “Devils Tower” (no apostrophe, due to a very official …geographical naming standard?). That’s what they say. It’s too late to change it, apparently, because tourists would no longer know how to find it…

In the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Richard Dreyfuss’ character made models of this mountain out of mashed potatoes and piles of mud from his yard.

In real life, there are some questions about its origin. What they know is that it’s made from phonolite porphyry…I looked that up and every site talks about Devils Tower.  It’s similar to granite, but lacks quartz.  The website says “Phonolite refers to the ringing of the rock when a small slab is struck, and its ability to reflect sound. Porphyry refers to its texture, large crystals of feldspar embedded in a mass of smaller crystals.” …which means: next time I go back (and there will be a next time), I’m going to ring the rocks!!  How come I didn’t know that before? I’m surprised I didn’t do it by accident already!

Fallen pieceSome wondered if this was a volcano that formed a mountain and then eroded away, leaving just the core.  However, it is more commonly accepted that it all happened underground, and later exposed by way of erosion. (This is my understanding, anyway).  The magma, as it cooled (underground), formed columns (from four to seven sides.)   These columns are bundled together, like a bundle of pencils, for a total summit area of approximately  1.5 acres (200 x 400 feet), and the base is about 1 mile around. (Keep in mind that each of columns are about 7 feet (2 meters) across at the base, and about 4 feet (1.2 meters) at the top.)

People are allowed to climb it year round (except June, due to religious ceremonies held by the Native Americans ~ considering history, maybe it’s a good idea to just think that they lent the Tower to the public for  the other 11 months of the year).

The first people to climb were two cowboys named William Rogers and W.L. Ripley, in 1893. Two years later, Ripley’s wife, Alice,A piece down became the first woman to make it to the summit. (Rogers & Ripley pounded wooden stakes into the cracks, making a ladder, and Alice used that same ladder to climb.)

Since then, many have climbed, and it normally takes 4-6 hours. (I really hope that people who don’t know what they are doing attempt it – it gives me vertigo just standing directly below it and looking up!!! There must be some sort of criteria to be allowed to climb…)  The fastest climb recorded, though, was by the late Todd Skinner  who climbed Devils Tower in 18 minutes in the 1980s!!!! I can’t even imagine that!! 18 MINUTES compared to 4-6 HOURS!!!!?

You can visit the Monument 24 hours a day, all year around. There is a fee ($10 for a car, $5 for a motorcycle), and some days are free to visit. (There are different fees for commercial tour vehicles.)

Oh goodness! I just Google-Earth’d it – THAT was worthwhile! It first takes you to the General Store, but follow the road around (that’s the best way – the best surprise – to see it!!)

Wednesday – Battle of Little Big Horn (previously mentioned in my blog about Crazy Horse, December 8, 2012.)


Sturgis – Home of the world famous Motorcycle Rally

Streets of SturgisWe drove through the Home of World Famous Motorcycle Rally on a day that there was, not only not a Rally, but nothing going on at all. There wasn’t even traffic.  THIS is actually a picture of the day we were there:

Since we don’t have bikes, and we’ve only just passed through, and there was nothing going on that day, I’m going to hand the blog over to a guest writer for the day – an expert visitor of the Famous Sturgis! I feel that it’ll be better represented by someone who’s experienced Sturgis in all of its splendor.

Please give your attention to Corrine!

Bike Week in Sturgis South Dakota, or as many say, “Mecca of Bike Rallies” is held every year the first full week of August ~ an event that was started by the Jackpine Gypsies in 1938 and registered as a State Rally in 1940.Roger and friends

Transport back to 1987 – our first year when attendance was about 75,000 bikes. 2 blocks of Main Street were lined with bikes and the streets filled with “Bikers” including the iconic Hells Angels mingling together in the common interest of biking.  We spent 3 days taking in the sounds (constant roar of motorcycle engines) the sights (the biker gear ranged from the ordinary leather to the 70-year-old grandmothers in tube tops and daisy dukes!) and of course the bikes (choppers/custom bikes and of course the old “Rat” bikes)Roger and Corrine Mount Rushmore

We came home with many stories of our awesome first time experience with plans already in place to attend next year.  We stayed by ourselves in a motel in Spearfish the first couple of years and then we found our home away from home at Kemps Kamp in Keystone – Home of Mount Rushmore. It is here we meet our family friend for our annual reunion.  We camped with a tent for many years, but have grown up to the comfort of a cabin with indoor plumbing.

Our most memorable year was 1996.  Our anniversary just happens to fall during bike week so for our 25th, the owners of the campground and our family friends gave us an anniversary celebration (even had a wedding cake!) with more people attending than we actually had at our wedding. It was a beautiful /loving event.

The year we could have skipped was 1990.  That was the year of Sturgis’ 50th Anniversary.  There were approximately one million people attending which equates to about 750,000 bikes.  Today, Sturgis is a town of about 6,500 residents, so in 1990 this town  became a major city!!

Rally Week

Traffic on the highway was like driving down a residential street for a good 5 miles from the 2 entrance/exits into town.  Main street ran the whole length of the town to accommodate all the bikes and people.  The down side – it took 1 hour to do anything (there were many a pee-pee dances going on in front of the numerous porta potties). The upside – the economy for a one hundred mile radius of the Rally was absolutely booming.

Having attended the Rally for more than 20 years, my husband and I now go to meet up with the many friends that we now  consider family, rather than the Rally itself. We don’t even make the trek into Sturgis from Keystone very often anymore; however it is always a joy when we bring a “Sturgis Newbie” to the Rally and watch their jaw drop in awe when we turn the corner onto Main Street – what a sight!!!!Crowded 2

Thank you, very much, to Corrine – she said she could’ve gone on and on about Sturgis! One thing I have determined, after reading her account and after seeing some of her pictures: When I DO go visit Sturgis during Rally Week and am the “Sturgis Newbie”, I think I would like her or her husband, Roger, to hold my hand…


Sunday, we’ll be visiting
Devils Tower, Wyoming!


The Ingalls Family and Black Hills Miscellany

Our goal was to get to Rapid City, SD, where we would stay, relax, and visit with some friends from once-upon-a-time.  We drove straight there, with no stops.

However, there were places to stop, especially if you are travelling with children, so this blog is going to be about places we missed.  If, by chance, we are ever back in this area again, we might even stop at a couple of the places… like… The Wind Cave.

is about 2.5 hours from Alliance NE North, or 45 mins South of Crazy Horse.  It is a sacred place for the Lakota Sioux, and has been known to them for centuries! It was found again by Jesse and Tom Bingham in 1881, when they heard the air whistling out of the cave. Apparently, the wind coming out of the cave blew Tom’s hat off his head, and later, the wind switched directions and sucked his hat into the cave. Flowstone

Wind Cave is one of the longest caves in the world (more than 100 miles/161 kms long) and the first cave to be designated a national park (in 1903, by Theodore Roosevelt, of course). The Limestone Cave is the 5th largest in the world,  and made up of a variety of cave formations, including

The Cave is still being explored, but you can take guided tours, even in the winter!  There are a variety of tour options, with different levels of strenuity (strenuousness?) – depending on length, stairs, accessibility.  Check their website for options and costs!

The National Park website says the best times to visit are early mornings or weekends, and that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the busiest…which…is weird, I think. I wonder why that is?

Mammoth On the way to the Wind Cave (from Alliance NE), you will pass the MAMMOTH SITE, at Hot Springs.  We actually did stop there (thanks to the sign on the road and the guise of “Big Ball of String” touring), and historically, scientifically, and paleontologically, I think THIS would be fascinating. But we were tired, and we wanted to get to Crazy Horse, etc., and visiting here was a last-minute idea… so when we got there, and it was a museum with guided tours, we just went in the front door into the lobby and into the gift shop, but not into the museum.

The Mammoth Site is the largest site in the world, and is still an active paleontological dig site (which you can tour).  According to the website, they have found (to date) 60 mammoth remains (57 Columbian and 3 woolly)!

This mammoth grave yard was discovered by accident in 1974, when an earth-mover unburied a set of bones, trying to excavate for a housing development.

Since then, as mentioned, 60 mammoths have been uncovered, but also (the website confirms) a “giant short-faced bear, camel, llama, prairie dog, wolf, fish, and numerous invertebrates.”

You can take a 30 minute guided tour year round, but they suggest you budget at least an hour, so you can also visit the dig site area on your own (rules about staying on the sidewalk).

30 minutes NORTH of the Wind Cave, take a sharp left at Flintstone Bedrock City onto Hwy US 16), and continue another 20 minutes West to JEWEL CAVES NATIONAL  MONUMENT, which is the second longest cave in the word, about 160 miles (257 km) of mapped passageways.drapery

Roosevelt made these caves a National Monument in 1908. It’s open year round, and also has a variety of tours, including a spelunking tour!

THIS Cave’s formations include:

For more information on visiting the Jewel Caves, visit the National Park’s website.  Even more information can be found at

Back the way we came, to FLINTSTONE’S BEDROCK CITY!

FlintstonesApparently, there is more than one “Bedrock City”, but this particular one happens to be the oldest (opened in 1966).  And, afterall, The Flintstones were a “modern stone age family”.   The “modern” Flintstones production was originally broadcast from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966… seems to be too coincidental, to be anything but true! Therefore, I’d surmise that THIS particular Bedrock City is the real Bedrock City! 😀

While visiting Fred & Barney (who are there for meet-and-greets during the summertime), you can eat Brontoburgers & Dino Dogs at The Flintstones™ Bedrock City Drive-in/Cafeteria, ride in the Flintstone’s Flintmobile, take the Iron Horse Train on a tour, and visit the little town of Bedrock City – see Fred & Wilma’s house, Barney & Betty’s house, the Jail House, the Hair Salon, and other sites around town!

I had hoped that the Camping Cabins were the Flintstone style house, but they are nice cedar cabins – sleeping cabins (has beds & mattresses, but you bring your own bedding; has heat & electricity but no water).  There’s also tenting areas and RV parking, with full hook-up.

For more information on rates, reservations and dates opened, please refer to

15 minutes north of Bedrock City is the Crazy Horse Memorial (discussed in my blog, December 8, 2012) and then another 1/2 hour northeast is Mount Rushmore National Memorial (discussed in my blog, December 11, 2012).

Just 10 minutes further is KEYSTONE. Keystone is a perfect little Western Town, and all I could remember from the first time through, was Ice Cream… wooden sidewalks.  It was REALLY busy at the time, full of children, bikers (Sturgis is nearby – will discuss in an upcoming blog), and motorhomes.

It turns out that Keystone is more than just ice cream and wooden sidewalks! It’s brimming with history! Brimming!Keystone

For one thing – did you know that Carrie Ingalls lived there as an adult? (OK, well…I didn’t know who Carrie was right off the bat, either, but! it turns out she is the younger sister of Mary & Laura – who are, of course, the “Little House on the Prairie” girls… and in case you thought that was fiction, the story is actually based on Laura’s childhood memories – an autobiographical memoir, presented as fiction.)

Carrie was born in August, 1870, in Montgomery County, Kansas, and in 1879, the whole family moved to South Dakota.  She moved to Keystone and had a career in the newspaper business, working at The Keystone Recorder and The Hill City Star.  In 1912, she married David N. Swanzey, who had two children, Mary and Harold. (David was a widower).

To bring my blogs full-circle: when Charles Rushmore (mentioned in my Dec. 11th blog) was on the expedition to choose a mountain to carve, and asked what the name of “that” mountain was, in my blog, I said “to be shmoozy, they told him that since the mountain didn’t have a name, they’d call it Mount Rushmore“… One of the men in that expedition was David Swanzey… and later, his son, Harold, would be one of the carvers of the Mountain.

Carrie died June 2, 1946, of complications from diabetes, in Keystone. She was 75.

By wonderful coincidence and surprise! Little House on the Prairie is on TV right now! An episode called “Remember Me” (1975).  Look at that! We do remember! Awwwww.

I had more to say about the Keystone area, but I now I have to watch Little House on the Prairie.  If you want to know more – there’s also a cave called Rushmore Cave, a Reptile Garden, and some waterslides, near Rapid City!  There’s more, too – just those are the things I wanted to talk about.

Wednesday, we’ll be talking about Sturgis – the Motorcycle Capital of the World.

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Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

Once Upon a Time, there was a mountain that looked like this: 6 Grandfathers

and it was called “Six Grandfathers” by the Lakota Sioux.

In 1885, it was renamed “Mount Rushmore” after a lawyer, from New York- Charles Rushmore. Mr. Rushmore was in the Blackhills area, helping people with their mining claims.  When he asked what the name of this mountain was, to be schmoozy*, they told him that since it didn’t have a name, they’d call it Mount Rushmore.

(*Since I don’t know how “schmoozy” translates, the dictionary says “To converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.”)

The giant sculpture was an idea dreamed up by Doan Robinson, who was a South Dakota State Historian. He originally wanted to have something sculptured into the section of the mountains called the Needles, but when he invited the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, out to examine the possibilities, Borglum determined that the granite of the Needles was of poor quality and that the spires weren’t strong enough (too thin) to support the sculptures, which were going to be of famous people, “parade of Indian leaders and American explorers who shaped the frontier.”  However, Borglum chose the four Presidents, to “elevate the memorial from a regional enterprise to a national cause”. (

 Construction began in August, 1927, and ended October 31, 1941. Although I can’t tell, I guess if you are “in the know”,  it’s obvious that the carving is not finished.  Mt. Rushmore

Anyway, a couple things happened: 1) Mr. Borglum passed away on March 6, 1941, and 2) World War II started and the government funding stopped.  Lincoln Borglum (Gutzon’s son) and crew continued working on the sculpture, until the money rand out, October 31.  At that time, Lincoln ended the project, and there it continues till today. (That is, other than it’s erosion rate of approximately 1 inch every 10,000 years.)

The Presidents are, from left to right: George Washington (1st president of the United States, commander of the Revolutionary War), Thomas Jefferson (3rd president, author of the Declaration of Independence ), Theodore Roosevelt (26th president, signed legislation to establish National Parks & Monuments, supported of the completion of the Panama Canal, and personal friend of Borglum’s), and Abraham Lincoln (16th president, and previously discussed in my blog on November 17, 2012, “Springfield IL and Abraham Lincoln“).MR PC

Some interesting facts about Mount Rushmore:

  • 5,725 feet (1,745m) high in elevation
  • each head is about 60 feet (18 meters) high (approximately the height of a 6-story building – or to compare, The Great Sphinx in Egypt is just over 66 feet tall
  • the eyes are 11 feet wide each, and the pupil of each eye is a 12 inch shaft, giving the illusion of a sparkle
  • the noses are 20 feet long (except Washington’s, whose nose is 21 feet)
  • the mouth is 18 feet wide.
  • Lincoln’s mole is 16 inches across (almost the size of a basketball hoop’s diameter)

Additional details about the Presidents’ accomplishments include:

* Coincidentally, he’s the only president who didn’t live in Washington D.C.;
* that’s his real hair! he never wore a powdered wig;
* when he was born, the Julian calendar was being used, so his birthdate was February 11, 1731 – however, in 1752, the Gregorian calendar was adopted, and he opted to acknowledge his birthdate as the equivalent date of February 22, 1732 (and why wouldn’t he? that made him a year younger!);
* he raised and loved hound dogs, some of which he named True Love, Sweet Lips, Vulcan, Madame Moose, and Drunkard;
* he supposedly once owned of the largest whiskey distiller in Virginia;
* he joined the British Royal Navy when he was 14 years old…

* He was known for the Louisiana Purchase, which pretty much doubled the land size of the United States;
* he commissioned the Lewis & Clark Expedition (topics for future discussions);
* he wrote his own epitaph for his tombstone, and didn’t include that he’d been President;
* from France, he brought back a recipe for vanilla ice cream, which is now in the Library of Congress (here, supposedly, is the recipe)…

* He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for helping negotiate a peace treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War;
* he officially named the President’s House, “the White House” in 1901;
* he was the first President to ever fly in an airplane – in 1910, he flew in one of the Wright Brothers’ planes, for 4 minutes;
* rumor has it that he skinny-dipped in the Potomac River (apparently this discussion is in his Autobiography, in which he states, “If we swam the Potomac, we usually took off our clothes.”) He isn’t the first President to do so, either;
* even though he hated being called “Teddy”, he lent his name to a toy bear, thus the Teddy Bear was born! BEST LEGACY EVER!!

* He was the tallest President at 6’4 (7 feet tall with his stovepipe hat on – which, by the way, he apparently used as a filing cabinet);
* an 11 year old girl wrote him a letter, recommending that he grow a beard – he did, becoming the first President with a beard;
* he was the first President photographed at his inauguration (John Wilkes Booth is actually in the background of the picture);
* a man named Edwin Booth once saved Abe’s son Robert’s life, by pulling him to safety after he’d fallen – Edwin was John Wilkes Booth’s older brother;
* he’s the only President that holds a patent – he invented a device for keeping boats buoyant in shallow water;
* he only had about 18 months of formal education – the rest was self-taught;
* he had a pet turkey named Jack

I had the privilege of meeting a man named Don “Nick” Clifford while at Mount Rushmore. He was one of the workers on Mount Rushmore from 1938-1940.

Nick was born in 1921 and grew up in the little town of Keystone. He and his 4 siblings started working at an early age to help their mother support their family.   Starting at age 7, he delivered the local paper, chopped firewood, and milked cows. By age 14, he managed the local pool hall – cleaning, running errands, selling concessions, and racking pool balls.  When he was 17 years old, he was recruited by Lincoln Borglum in 1938, to come to work at Mount Rushmore, primarily because Lincoln wanted him on their company baseball team ~ and the rest is history!

 Nick Clifford Q&A

Sunday, we’ll be en route to Rapid City, SD.

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