The Rocks had Floated to the Top

Back in the olden days when my mom and brother were alive, we would sometimes go out to a farmer’s newly plowed field to look for artifacts. Native(ish) people wandered that area in Montana for thousands of years, so it was inevitable that when a farmer plowed his land, some artifacts would surface. There was always a competition over our whose “find” was better. My brother found the BEST find — a grandmother rock.

So what was it? It was a big white rock — not all that big, maybe 10 inches in diameter — with a line cut down the middle and small holes on each side of the line. According to my mom, the holes were how the grandmother kept track of the number of her grandchildren. I once tried to ask, “How did she drill holes in that hard rock?” but mom just said I shouldn’t put my brother down. OH well. I knew it wasn’t impossible; I just didn’t know how it was done. It’s crazy how hard it is for us to understand each other.

Once my mom and I took off together to glean a plowed hillside. The farmers didn’t mind. We had the miniature poodle, Ralph the Brave and Good who was one of the GREAT dogs. That little guy would go on four mile walks with me every noon-time when my mom took her nap. We three were on a hillside that looked down across the beauty of south central Montana. We were somewhere between Billings and Hardin. A train whistle blew in the distance. Trees lined a creek bed in the bottom land. The Pryor Mountains were just where they were supposed to be and my mom and I had a good time. (‼️)

That very locale and the plains around it were settings for the 1992 film Far and Away. Yep. Not Oklahoma at all, but the high plains of south central Montana. You can read about the making of Far and Away here.

We walked along the hillside, heads bowed, studying the dirt, while Ralph ran around. It was a beautiful day and I made my big find.

Extra points for anyone who identifies it. It’s about 6 inches long and a little over 3 inches at the widest point. Hint: it’s not a hammer or anything like that. Also, don’t think too much.

Featured photo: my mom’s 70th birthday party at the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe. I don’t really have any good featured photo for this post.

Hell’s Half Acre in Actuality and in Metaphor

I don’t have a bucket list. When I first heard of the idea of making a list of stuff I absolutely wanted to do before I died, I was a little confused. Who has that much certainty that they can KNOW before they do something what they want to do next? “Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough. Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades. Forever and forever when I move.” (Alfred Lord Tennisball, “Ulysses”)

I don’t even know what’s going to happen on a simple trip to pick up my groceries or to visit Del Norte. The major journeys I’ve taken in pursuit of a particular outcome never panned out the way they were supposed to, either. That and the actual reward of a journey might not be clear for decades. Lord Tennisball was completely right when he wrote, “…margin fades forever and forever when I move.” I just don’t ever get there, wherever I’m going so how can I have a bucket list?

There’s a town in Wyoming by the name of Chugwater. Back in the 50’s when family road trips took us from Denver to Montana we often stopped there for gas. There was a drugstore there with great ice cream, but that’s a blog post for another day when the prompt is “ice cream.” My dad wanted a shortcut to Hell’s Half Acre (now that’s a line deserving of some meditation!) and the guy pumping gas said, “Nope. You can’t get there from here.”

My dad started to laugh and thanked the guy. “You can never get there from here,” my dad said in the car, and laughed again. I’m not sure what my dad thought was so funny or even meant by “you can never get there from here.” He might have just meant in Wyoming which can be a difficult place to travel in. 

But…I think when you stand at a gas station in Chugwater, Wyoming, you’re not the person who left home at an ungodly early hour that morning with two cranky kids. The journey — or part of a journey — has transformed you. The person asking the question won’t be the same person who arrives at Hell’s Half Acre. The journey ITSELF might have physical obstacles like washed out roads or car wrecks. You might see something along the way that captures your attention and you decide to forget Hell’s Half Acre altogether. Who knows? 

Life is constantly transforming us, that “arch leading to the untraveled world.” 

We got to Hell’s Half Acre an hour or so later, after backtracking substantially (and using more gas). So what is it? Researching it this morning so I could tell you, I learned a lot. In the interval since I was last there (1957 or so) it’s gone through some changes itself. 

I thought it was pretty big for a half-acre so I challenged my mom on that. “Oh honey, it’s just a name.”

Adults are/were seriously confusing.

I’ve thought of that trip pretty often, even including the story in a reader I made for my international students. Our destinations and our destinies are not the same thing. We can’t get anywhere from here, so what’s the point of a bucket list? How could I possibly know where the Martha of tomorrow absolutely MUST go before she kicks the bucket? 

I guess it might have been in China that I first got a glimmering of the real (to me) meaning of travel which is, in simple terms, “go with the flow.” Even taking off on my bike, self-directed and independent, didn’t mean I’d ever get where I thought I was going. And, with the government pretty much in charge of me? Even then I couldn’t know. It was a university car that took me to the bank by Shamian Island, but it had nothing to do with the grandfather and his son who stopped me on my way and tried to sell me a baby. 

Still the idea didn’t really hit home until I was on a train  returning to Milan from Venice. At first I shared a compartment with a young couple who were obviously in love. Venice is renowned as a romantic city and it’s full of luv’. The couple got off at Pescheria, and I was alone. I dozed off, my head against the window. The conductor came by to look at my ticket and gently woke me up. He came back later and sat down with me. He wanted to chat which was great. 

It had been a hard trip in which my dreams hadn’t come true and I hadn’t been able to get to the metaphorical Hell’s Half Acre. I would be returning to the states in two days. I’d wandered around Milan for 10 days with a broken heart, angry and confused. BUT I was staying with kind, sympathetic people, and I had an incredible Italian city to get to know. Most of that hadn’t sunk in, but as we talked something happened. 

“Do you like Milan? Most foreigners don’t like Milan.”

“I like it very much.”

“What do you like about it?” It was the conductor’s home town.

“I…” We were speaking Italian. What I wanted to say might be beyond my ability to say it. 

“Say it in English,” he said, seeing I was struggling.

“No, no, I can do this. I can say it in Italian. Wait.” I took another minute and assembled my thoughts. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized I had had a GREAT time in that city. I hadn’t realized that I loved it and I hadn’t perceived all it had shown me about art, history and myself. “OK,” I said. “I love the mix of the classical and the modern energies. They live together in Milan.”

“Wow,” he said. “What do you do? You’re not an ordinary person.”

“I’m an ordinary person.”

“No. Ordinary people do not say ‘mix of the classical and the modern energies.”

I would get out of the train at a station built by Mussolini. I would get on one of the fastest and most modern subways in the world. I would get out at a gate built by the Romans. 

I never did get to “Hell’s Half Acre” on that trip. Maybe it would have been wonderful, but it wouldn’t have been that journey. So, no bucket lists for me. 

Hell’s Half Acre photo by By Carpenter, Kenneth – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Featured Photo: Wyoming Sign: Howenstein115</a> – <span class=”int-own-work” lang=”en”>Own work</span>, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Hell’s Half Acre from Wikipedia — whoever wrote this was GOOD!!

Hell’s Half Acre is a large scarp located about 40 miles (64 km) west of Casper, Wyoming on US 20/26.[2] Encompassing 320 acres (1.3 km2), this geologic oddity is composed of deep ravines, caves, rock formations and hard-packed eroded earth. Hell’s Half Acre was used as the location for the fictional planet of Klendathu in the movie Starship Troopers.

The location was known as “The Devil’s Kitchen”, “The Pits of Hades”, and “The Baby Grand Canyon” until a cowhand appeared and thought he was at Hell’s Half Acre, an area southwest of Casper full of alkali and bogs.

Native American tribes used the ravines to drive bison to their death during their hunts.

As of December 2005, the roadside restaurant and motel/campground sitting atop the ravine were closed. The motel and the abandoned restaurant have since been torn down.[3][4] The area is fenced off and there is no public access to the cliff edge nor the valley itself, but there is an interpretive sign west of the former restaurant. As of July, 2021, the fencing was still in place, but two gates in the fence were open, allowing vehicular access to a large gravel lot (with potholes) and a closer view of the topography.

Anger Destroys Things

Bear doesn’t have a temper. If she is challenged, she just calmly and with resolute good humor goes after the challenger. It’s something to see but also something I don’t WANT to see. I’ve had dogs who DID get angry. Not pretty.

As a kid I was told had a “bad” temper, and I was often in trouble for losing it. Of course, as a kid, I couldn’t figure THAT out; how, if I LOST my temper, did I still have it???

I seem, also, to have developed the gift of defusing other peoples’ temper tantrums. I don’t know HOW I got THAT unless it was growing up with two angry people and just standing my ground — always with the knowledge that I didn’t really have to STAY there, but if I left, sooner or later I would have to come back because I lived there.

I’ve been the victim of the rages of others, too, and that’s a dark and horrible thing. It’s bad in and of itself, but then the rager has to figure out a way to back-track from that which can result in the victim being blamed. “You MADE me do that. Why do you make me so angry?” I should offer an online course on how people gaslight…

All this has left some permanent damage. This past Saturday when I was at the store I got to experience some of that. I’ve alluded to the Evil X here several times. Well…

Last week, when I was at the store, my groceries were brought out by a tall, gray haired, blue-eyed, good-looking white guy with a nice smile. I immediately found myself in “fight or flight” mode. He was too much like the Evil X in appearance. “OK, I thought, that can’t happen twice.” But it did. This past Saturday the store texted me to let me know they were running about an hour late. I went at the NEW appointed time. I was sitting in my car, waiting and this man knocked on my window. I thought he had my groceries, but no. He just recognized me from last time.

“Hi there!” he wanted to chat. I told him that they were late with the groceries. Of course, I thought he KNEW, and that’s why he was there, but no; he was rounding up shopping carts, not bringing out groceries.

“I’ll run in and see if yours is ready.” He did and came back with my order. “Is it everything?”

“Well, no gruyere, but we knew that.” I laughed. I just wanted out of there so bad.

“I’ll go see if there’s any in the store.”

“No, no it’s OK. Thank you!”

This man did a nice thing for me and I was terrified. I felt icky and weird and couldn’t wait to get home to my dogs and the Big Empty.

Our anger leaves scars on other people. I think it’s important (lesson learned) to feel our anger, to figure out where it’s coming from, and whether or not we can do anything ABOUT the source of our anger. I have friends who will provoke a fight because they need emotional catharsis. I get that and usually I just call them on it. I no longer anger easily as (I guess) I did as a child. What’s the point? It doesn’t usually fix anything and it’s a lousy way to communicate anything but itself.

And that poor white guy at the store? Well, his existence might be the straw that broke my resolution to pick up my groceries rather than go inside the store. Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I have no idea, and I don’t think I need to find out. I’m just a little sad that past experiences prevent me from appreciating an act of kindness.

A Really GREAT Day

Yesterday I called Elizabeth and invited her to go with me to see the renovations and new exhibits at the Rio Grande County Museum. She was up for it, so off we went. I hadn’t been yearning to go to the museum at all, but once I was there?

Only three other people were there besides the two of us which, for me, was good. Lyndsie and Kathleen have been working on the museum for the past six months, digitizing the collection, ripping out old carpets and putting down more durable and modern floors. The changes were great. One of the changes is turning the former director’s office into a small library for people who want to do research. All the books (and it’s a lot of books!) are there. The gift shop has been reorganized and I was thrilled to see my little notecards displayed beautifully. “Wow,” I said, “You made my day. I feel like a million dollars seeing this!” By then I’d exhausted my portfolio of appropriate cliches.

“Well, you should, ” said Lyndsie.

Then I asked when the stage coach was coming and she said, “It’s here!” and led us to it. I was thrilled to see it. It’s a great stagecoach with good stories.

It happened that Elizabeth’s and my next stop was an exhibit of Indian artifacts. As I looked at the display, and listened to a local archeologist talk to a couple of other people, I looked at the display and there, beautifully displayed were…

My mom’s moccasins.

I was so happy to see them. I gave them to the museum four years ago because I love them, they’re beautiful, and I didn’t want the day to come when I shirk off my mortal coil and they end up in a thrift shop or the landfill. When I gave them to the museum, I couldn’t see they had much relevance to Rio Grande County. The Crow don’t and never have lived down here. My mom may or may not ever have seen Del Norte, but I figured, at least there they would not end up dumped even if they never saw the light of day.

Crow Moccasins, Rio Grande County Museum, Del Norte CO
Native American artifact display, Rio Grande County Museum

My friend Louise, the director at the time said, “But you live here now. They belong here.” OK with me. I personally feel that with some larger or smaller differences, the story of the American west is ONE story. The sod and log home my born was born in was replicated all across the frontier. The stagecoach in the museum? Another one just like it appears in a 19th century painting of Mt. Shasta, CA.

So there they were. My heart was in my throat. I said, “Those are my mom’s moccasins.”

The archeologist said, “What?”

“Those. Those were my mom’s.” It wasn’t clear that I’d given them to the museum. I wasn’t very articulate. I did, finally, manage to say that I’d given them to the museum.

“They’re Crow moccasins. The beadwork is supposed to be a wild rose the kind that grow along the Little Bighorn.” And all over, but…

“I didn’t know that,” said the archeologist. How could he? “I knew they were Native American.”

“My mom was a teacher on the Crow Reservation in Montana.”

I was so happy to see them, I don’t remember ever feeling that way. My mom was a complicated and, for me, difficult person. She didn’t really like me but I liked her — sort of a model for my future love life, ha ha. I loved that she was a teacher on the Crow reservation. I loved her stories about that time in her life, WW II, she was still in school. Teacher training then involved one year studying, the next year teaching, and so on for eight years. She had good friends among the Crow some of whom I met in 1968 when I went to Crow on a church mission trip.

And THAT trip gave me one of the happiest days of my life even though I ended up in terrible trouble. I thought it was cool that we were there with the Indians; my mom’s stories had primed me. The leaders of the mission trip were not of a similar mind. But I made friends with a Crow kid and we took off one day on horseback and rode along the river for a couple of hours. For that I was punished in the classic style of those times; the promised trip to Yellowstone was cancelled. NO one got to go because of what I had done. OH well…

So, the moccasins. What a wonderful thing.

My mom when she was teaching at Crow Agency. She’s wearing a Coups pin. I wrote about that here…

Random, Vacuous, Quotedium Update

Yesterday, in honor of the ground not being frozen, I did clean up in the yard I share with the dogs. What a mess!!! I learned something about my dogs, too. I hope you’re sitting down…

They bury their rawhides. 🤣

Bear’s masterpiece hole is now so large she can hide in it… I guess her plan is to emerge in Tianjin or something. Akbash dogs are born diggers… Bear has three holes in my yard. Two in the last places the snow melts and her masterpiece between two lilac bushes. They are her hobby…

Elise took on the challenge of my down sweater and ultralight parka and carried it off with aplomb.

The featured photo is my Aunt Martha, me and my mom dressed up for Easter services at First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. It’s 1967. We’re all wearing orchids. My mom is wearing a pink linen dress and a navy spring coat, I’m wearing a green linen suit, and my aunt is wearing a yellow double knit suit. The photo is a Polaroid.

As should be clear by now, I have nothing at all to say… Happy Easter from me, Bear and Teddy

Quotedium Update 97.2.ix

Had a great time yesterday with my visitors though I think I probably talked more than my share. OH well… They were good stories. Michael says I should write them, but I don’t know. Lois brought me a little picture that was done by my brother in years gone by. I guess that set me off.

I don’t often tell people the stories of my brother’s sad and destructive life, but somehow, I cut loose yesterday. Lois was a friend of my brother back in their high school days, and I met her because of my bro. When he died, a friend of his and I made a page for him on Facebook and Lois popped up. She held a wake for him. I didn’t meet her in real life until two years later! From time-to-time we thank Kirk for that. Listening to my babbling, I saw that of all the things my brother was, maybe top of the list was that he was a tortured soul.

Otherwise Teddy and I took a walk in the morning — my first in two weeks. The wind was blowing unbelievably hard and even little low-to-the-ground Teddy was looking for shelter which he got by walking behind me. We only walked half a mile because more would have been masochistic. The featured photo is a photo of the wind.

I hung out with Lois and Michael the rest of the day. They came over with their two sweet dogs whom Bear knows well but Teddy had met only once. Teddy’s manners with guests are still abysmal, so I leashed him. Lois took a family portrait.

We ate supper at our favorite local Mexican restaurant (yum) and then headed out to the Refuge hoping to catch whatever cranes might still be there. I heard cranes during our morning walk, so I know there are still quite a few. No luck with cranes, but great luck with the alpenglow on Mt. Blanca and sighting a large herd of elk deep in the meadow. Here’s Lois’ photo of Mt. Blanca last evening.

The thing I’ve learned about the San Luis Valley is that you might not see what you set out to see, but you will see something that will inspire wonderment.

I’m tired today, but very happy not to be sick any more. It’s the best.

The OTHER best yesterday is the indictment of TFG.

Wandering Mind…

The dogs are wondering what happened to my vividness, and so am I. Seems like this dumb cold is two steps forward and one step back — but that’s still progress. I also wonder at this point if it is a cold, with the inaccuracy of home Covid tests being the stuff of legend. And then I think, “Yeah, but all you can do in either case is wait it out.” Still it’s pretty amazing what our bodies do to get rid of something that doesn’t belong. This is war.

In my recent talk with the bot — ChatGPT — over writing a piece of dystopian fiction in which corporations and their machines take over the world and ultimately destroy human life, I wanted to talk to it about whether anything in nature — such as humans — could ever create something that was completely OUT of nature or if anything humans made would, in some way, always come to resemble natural forms and processes in the way complicated highway systems looking like — and operate like — an animal’s circulatory system.

It was up for the idea because it’s a bot, and it’s programmed to be up for the ideas humans bring to it. I suggested that even the machines of the future would ultimately evolve into something reminiscent of their human creators and that even the fact that the machines had killed all the humans was a very human behavior. The bot took this under advisement and didn’t throw out the idea because, well, it couldn’t.

That’s a story I’m unlikely to write. I have read and enjoyed science fiction since I was a kid, but it’s not my thing to produce. Putting the jig-saw puzzle of the future together in fiction doesn’t interest me as much as the jig-saw puzzle of the past. I guess the closest I will ever come to writing science fiction would be the Saga of Lamont and Dude which seems to have petered out after several hundred posts and Lamont dying and coming back as an albatross.

Speaking of the jig-saw puzzle of the past, this photo of my grandma came up today in my Facebook memories.

In this photo she seems to be filling a barrel from a well. The two draught horses will pull it back to the house so my grandma can (my mom told me) do her laundry.

Anyway, that’s how my mom explained it to me, but when I enlarge it, I am not sure. The photo is some 90 years old, and its events are already so distant to me that I, her granddaughter, have “no idea what’s going on.” You have wonder about the car — whose car is it? I know it wasn’t my grandparents’ car. Neither of them ever drove. What’s it doing there?

It looks like this was once a pretty nice farm — big, beautiful barn, not that old, nice tight, hen house. But there are fenceposts with no fences and boards lying around everywhere. Why? Some look to be impromtud walkways over seasonal mud, but that’s just a guess. There’s a wagon parked against the hen house. Even putting a story together around this one picture would be pretty difficult. I know where, though. The high plains of south-central Montana.

So, if my mom was right — and I suspect she was because she lived this — the fact that I won’t have a fully functional laundry room until week after next is no big hardship.

P.S. What I know about this photo for sure: The photo was taken during the depression. It was a drought and dustbowl in Montana but to a lesser extent than in Oklahoma and other places. I think high winds happened a lot, too (and still do). I suspect the farm was semi-abandoned, maybe taken back by the bank???? My grandfather was a tenant farmer, and he could’ve been working it (poorly) for whoever owned it. Their house on that place was half-log, half-sod. Awful. They were extremely poor.

Top o’ the Mornin’! ☘️

It’s finally happened. I’m OVER winter. Done, finished. It’s a sadistic whore, and I’m not playing any more. 3 inches over night. Whoopdeeedo. “Too little too late, Sweet Cheeks,” I said to it as I looked out the window and you know what IT said?

“It’s not about you,” said the snow on the lilac bushes.

The nerve…

Still, after our not–all–that–great saunter at the golf course yesterday, Bear was a happy dog.

“It’s about Bear,” said the snow on the deck.

“Shut up snow.”

“Yeah? Well YOU shut up. I challenge you to find something quieter than I am,” said all the snow everywhere.

I was half-hoping yesterday we’d at least see the tracks of some ungulates, but no luck. It would have been difficult, though, since we were out there while the snow was falling AND melting. I am not sure Bear found tracks with her nose, but she may have. She’s very quiet about her discoveries.

In St. Patrick’s Day news, yesterday I was cleaning out emails and I found a treasure. Back in the day, my cousin Linda set up my Aunt Jo and Uncle Hank with a computer and an aol account. They wanted to use it, but the learning curve was steep. When I went to Montana for Christmas in 2000, I spent a lot of time teaching them because, 1) that was part of my job in CA and 2) it snowed all the time.

They got pretty OK using it. The typing was the hardest part, and they both knew that it was just going to take practice. Sitting at a computer wasn’t really their style, but they tried. I got into emailing them once a week and sometimes they answered with a letter. Sometimes they emailed me back, but not often. ☘️

> Date: Saturday, March 17, 2001, 10:11 AM
> Dear Martha Ann,
>      Time to let you know that we are
> still around. Jo has has been a bit 
> under the 
> weather lately.  I took her to the doctor yesterday
> hope that gets her going 
> again.
> We both wanted to wish you a Happy St Patricks day.
>      I finialy got around to building a
> table for my kitchen table top. 
> didn”t turn out to badly. will use it on the  patio
> that is if  we should 
> ever again have warmer weather.
>      Your aunt Martha is doing okay
> about the same. Your Aunt Jo isn:t as 
> fiesty as usual but says she still likes you and will check
> with you later.
>     Hank

When I was a little girl I lived with Uncle Hank and Aunt Jo for four months. Sometimes I’d get in trouble, and I would think they didn’t love me any more. My Aunt Jo figured that out and after she lectured or punished me she’d always say, “I still like you, Martha Ann” and she would hug me. It became our code for “I love you.” ☘️

The featured photo is St. Gall and the Bear. St. Gall is the patron saint of Switzerland. He was an Irishman who came across the channel with St. Columbanus. I first learned of him from How the Irish Saved Civilization, by Thomas Cahill. I expected How the Irish Saved Civilization to be a satire but it turned out to be legit history that set me on a life-changing course of discovery.

Oh, and as for me? Ancestry has recently let me know that my folks came from central Tipperary during “the starvin'”. I knew when; I didn’t know where so that was cool. My great granddad worked on ships in the Great Lakes where he met my French Canadian great-grandma from whom I inherited a droopy left eye. I can’t find their photos but here’s my dad looking like a Leprechaun. He got the droopy eye, too. In color he had black hair, a red beard and snow-shadow blue eyes. ☘️

Museum and Memory

Throughout my childhood I was dragged, grumbling sometimes, through many local museums. But in 2005 I woke up to their importance. And where? In the tiny village of Bubikon, Switzerland. The museum is a “castle” — a Commandery, a “Ritterhaus” — of the Knights Hospitaller from the 13th century. I saw it in the company of the resident historian who showed me everything. Fascinating. It is an amazing place in a very small village. The purpose of these places was — beyond housing and training knights — forming a buffer zone between warring lords. Nothing like a community of fighting men to keep the local enemy off your back. (Featured photo from the Swiss National Museum, the Ritterhaus in 1530 or so)

In many ways it’s similar to the Rio Grande County Museum in the fun-filled, scenic town of Del Norte, Colorado. The Ritterhaus at Bubikon is not on anyone’s tourist list, and to see the exhibits without a special guide you go to the snack shop and tell the woman running it that you’d like to see the exhibits. She’ll unlock it for you, and you’re free to wander around. My friend Lois and I did this. We went in the snack shop for lunch and then I tried to take Lois around the museum, but couldn’t. When I came back and asked when the museum opened, everyone (five people) in the snack shop looked at me in surprise. “What? An American came here to see THIS??? Ja, what about the Matterhorn??”

I’ve seen the same thing at “my” museum. Tourists from all over the world drive through Del Norte, and seeing that the museum has a public restroom and tourist advice, stop and ask for directions. Sometimes they want to see the exhibits. To save money, sometimes the lights in the back rooms are turned off, so there’s a rushing around to turn the lights on. Not quite as hardcore as locking the door, but…

Not too long ago a 100 year old woman, descended from original settlers in Del Norte, came back to celebrate her birthday. Many of her family’s possessions had been donated to the museum. She wanted to see them and be around them, so the museum had a party for her. Among the things that were done ahead of it was I was asked to translate some shipping documents and a will. I gave it a shot, but wasn’t at all sure I could do it so I marshaled the help of a historian friend in Zürich. The old lady was thrilled. She had never known what they said.

For the past few months “my” museum has been closed while the two people working there have digitally cataloged the collection. It’s been a lot of work and they’re almost — but not quite — finished. The museum is set to open next month. The stagecoach over which the museum has been in negotiation with the city where I live will be coming to the museum to stay at the end of April.

My mom’s birthday was yesterday and while I have very mixed feelings about that woman, I owe her a lot. I see it in my life every day. My love for rural places and my appreciation of history, those two very important things, came from my mom and they are major components of my life and personality. But maybe the biggest gift (besides life) that woman gave me is the gift of observation. I was a dreamy little girl, lost in my thoughts much of the time. My mom didn’t like that for some reason — I don’t know what. We — my family — might be wandering around in the world, and I wouldn’t be paying any attention to it. Sometimes her reminders to look at the world were accompanied by a slap. Sometimes by a voice filled with wonderment. Either way, I looked up. My life would be and would have been so much less if she hadn’t been serious about teaching me that, to “Look, Martha Ann!!” That included stopping at every local museum along the way on family road trips. Sometimes when I’m at the Rio Grande County Museum I can imagine my mom accompanying me and saying, “Why is that in a museum? I used that every day of my life growing up!”

That’s why I gave my mom’s Crow moccasins to the Rio Grande County Museum. It was my “Thanks mom. You’d have liked this museum,” even though the moccasins don’t have much to do with Rio Grande County or any part of Colorado; the Crow didn’t live here, but I do.

My mom in the early 1940s when she was teaching elementary school (one room school) on the Crow Indian Reservation. The pin she’s wearing — and in the photo — was made by the parent of one of her students. It’s a coups pin. Each hanging strand of beads is meant to represent a coups counted by the owner. I think, at this point in history, it is just jewelry. Interestingly, the cross on the pin is just like the cross of the Knights of St. John Hospitaller, the knights who lived at Bubikon. Pure coincidence and totally meaningless, but still cool.

Spare Change

The sun is shining in the Bark of Beyond and I’m hoping the wind stays away for just a little while. After my walk with Bear the other day, my face is chapped. Yesterday I just couldn’t deal with it, even though Teddy really really really deserved and wanted a walk. “Teddy, dude, my face hurts.” Happily he’s a dog and not a little brother so I got sympathy instead of, “Yeah, it hurts me.”


The lead up to the Crane Festival is progressing apace. There is a whole coterie of people who come to Monte Vista every year to see the cranes and this year — I’m seeing from the Crane Festival Facebook page — there’s a lot of excitement that the festival will be the WHOLE thing for the first time since 2019. I love that and I hate it, but in the grand scheme it’s really kind of wonderful.

A few years ago I bought a 13th century coin, a tiny, basically worthless, piece of metal from Verona during the time of Frederick II. A friend has recently gone to work at a coin shop and I wanted to show him the coin but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Turned out that — as is often the case — it was hiding in plain sight. It’s very cool, to me. Frederick II was the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Jerusalem and the King of Sicily. More important, his book on falconry is still the authoritative text. 🙂 It’s a coin from the Crusades and Verona at the time was a very interesting city. I love the thought that maybe this coin went on Crusade or bought pigments from a Verona pharmacist to paint a wall in the church of San Fermo. Who knows???

I’m not a coin collector, but some coins are cool.

Various people in my family have kind of collected coins, mostly from their travels, though my dad burdened me with proof sets (sigh). As I am the residual family for some of them, I have all their random collections. As I was looking for my Frederick II coin, I found a coin from South Africa that my Aunt Martha had acquired in her great and famous “Safari” back in the 1970s.

That safari was hell for all of us. She took innumerable slides of wild animals from the Jeep, tiny tiny tiny minuscule barely visible lions, elephants, rhinos and hippos; zebras, wildebeests and Cape buffalo. It’s amazing how small those African animals are in their natural habitat when they are so large in zoos, but there you go. And we watched these slides, 3 hours of torture.

“Aunt Martha! I can’t see anything!”
“You’re not LOOKING! LOOK!! Right THERE. The lion. Just LOOK!!!”

It got to be a joke in the family that if we weren’t nice to Aunt Martha, we’d have to watch her slides of Africa.

So there I was yesterday, looking for my 13th century coin and going through a tiny baggy with a note in it that said, “Canadian coins; basically worthless” in my aunt’s handwriting. I shook them out onto my bed and a couple fell on the floor. I picked them up and noticed one of them had a crane on the back. “Huh???” Naturally I wanted to know what KIND of crane it was. Then I learned that the coin is from South Africa, the crane is a blue crane, and it is South Africa’s national bird.

I think that’s pretty cool.

As for the prompt today — I pretty much have nothing. I’m sorry. The featured photo is a Barber dime from 1907 with the head of Liberty on it, another possession of my Aunt Martha and now me. My friend said the head is based on Michelangelo’s David. Some of these dimes are worth a lot of money. This one isn’t, but it’s still very cool and I wouldn’t sell it anyway.