Two Herds – Act 2

The second herd that I visited last week is pretty much the opposite of what I described in Act 1.  They are visited often.  In fact, when I first began driving by McCullough Peaks HMA I could see 2 vehicles plus an atv out on the two tracks , and I wasn’t planning on stopping.  When I got further up the road and saw some horses without anyone around, I did decide to drive back and see them.

While there are some wilder horses in McCullough, most are pretty calm around humans.  Even though I have only visited there for a few years, it definitely seems to me that they have changed a lot as a herd and are less wild than when I first visited.  There is a badlands area, but the horses are usually in the wide open with just grass and sage as a backdrop if you don’t catch them at water.  In the desert during the day, any distance is going have the heat waves cause soft pictures and you won’t be able to get a sharp focus. Don’t go in the heat of the day and expect really crisp shots from afar.

DSC_3691

Even though some are mostly calm around humans, there is a right way and a wrong way to interact with the horses.  The first thing to do with friendlier horses is to let them see you so that you don’t startle them. Once you have done this do not just walk right at them or into them.  I saw someone do this at Pryor Mountain a few years ago and while the horses didn’t run you could definitely see them change their pattern and try moving away from the person.  Let the horses be the ones to walk closer to you on their terms.  In this case, I moved around the horses in a large circle to get on the right side for the sun first.  In the first picture you will see the harsh contrast on the horse.  If the body is exposed right, the back while be washed out.  If the back is toned down, the body will be dark and lose detail.    In the second the lighting is much more even.  The horse was still a decent distance away for these, but I wanted to stress how much of a difference getting the sun in the right spot can make.

DSC_3692 DSC_3702

Even with the sun on the right side, when it is higher in the sky you will still get shadows from the horses head if it isn’t turned just right.  This can require patience and waiting for a certain pose. It isn’t bad in the next shot, but you will notice more shadow on the front of the horse.

DSC_3747

 

The horses could watch me as I slowly made the arc around them to get the sun on the correct side. Instead of pushing in close to them, I just watched and eventually they decided to move by me.  They could have gone the other way, but I was lucky and they chose my way to move.  The one horse I can definitely identify from this group is Indian Paintbrush (last 2 in this set), but I think another one is Woya.  That would most likely make the bay Hudson Bay.  I think this is Moon Pie’s band, but finding pictures of them isn’t easy.

DSC_3750 DSC_3754 DSC_3758 DSC_3766 DSC_3778 DSC_3781 DSC_3787 DSC_3799 DSC_3800

 

Also hanging out with this band was the only horse that did seem bothered by me being around, but he wanted to follow the rest so he made his way by me.  He stopped long enough to make some faces.  I am pretty sure this is Booker Rose.

DSC_3803 DSC_3805

 

I am not sure if the other horses in the area were one band, or some smaller ones that happened to be close to each other.  Utah and Shakira were together for sure.

DSC_3818 DSC_3829

 

The next horse was most likely with them, but I don’t know for sure. I am including 2 pictures because it illustrates why I usually pick the shots with the horse looking at me even though most of the time they are eating.  In the first picture, you can tell there is a blaze, but not much detail.  In the second, you can tell that it isn’t just a straight star/blaze, but has a more unique pattern that should help with someone confirming the identity of the horse.  Neither of these pictures does a great job, but I will often wait until the horse is clear of any sagebrush so that feet can clearly be seen for socks/stockings/coronets.  This isn’t as easy as even grass can block the view, but usually with multiple pictures you can find shots of different feet and piece together the whole story.DSC_3831

DSC_3823

 

The reason I am not sure if the horse was with Utah and Shikira is that it was also as close to the next horse and interacted at one point ( the following picture was part of that), but this horse would not be Siska or Garth.  The only horses I could find pictures of close to it are either Major or Bridger, but I really don’t know.

DSC_3837

 

The last horse is actually the first horse I posted.  He seemed to be more of a bachelor, and I don’t know who he is.

DSC_3836

Advertisements

Two herds – Act 1

It is with some trepidation that I write this blog.  I do feel fortunate to be able to visit so many beautiful places and horses easily like I am able to do living in Wyoming.  At the same time, I enjoy having the outdoors to myself.  As more people realize what is out there and visit it increases knowledge and support to protect the places and animals I love to visit.  Yet, still, I want it all to myself.  
I am going to write about two herds, and the major differences between visiting them.  The first is probably one of my favorites for a variety of reasons.  One is that I never run across anyone else while visiting it.  Part of this could be due to their remoteness.  It is 30 miles from the East to the boundary on probably the most “friendly” dirt/gravel road.  I usually prefer comig down from the North but don’t think it is any less distance.  

It is not the distance that keeps me from visiting the herd more.  I have become quite fond of desert areas to escape as I have visited them more.  Arriving late Thursday night, I set camp up on my favorite knob toward the bottom of Fenton Pass Road.  Out in the desert like this you can see so much of the sky.  I didn’t set my tripod up, but took a few pictures with the camera open to 30 seconds lying on its back on the ground.  I don’t think pictures can convey the awe of staring up at a fully open sky filled with stars and galaxies at distances that are hard to comprehend.

DSC_3557

Probably the reason that I like this herd so much is that this herd is still so wild compared to most of the horses that I visit.  That is also why I do not visit them as much.  I feel that if I visit too much it will either make them become acclimated to me and humans, or if they don’t it will stress them as they move away from me.  These horses must be approached differently than other horses due to their wildness.  I was fortunate on this trip that I was able to locate them first thing in the morning from my camp and they weren’t near as far as normal to hike to.  Unlike the horses in the second act, where I would normally let them see me and then circle around or just stand and let them approach me, I knew that I needed to move along ridges and valleys where I would not be seen, and would not be able to get very close.

A third reason that I love this herd is that the landscape around them is so colorful and geologically interesting that viewing the horses from farther off and getting more landscape shots of them in the environment is a good thing.  You won’t see any close-ups of single horses in this array of photos as you will in act 2, but this isn’t a band where I know of any/many named horses and known band groups that people follow anyway.  I have been lucky to get closer pictures now and then, but this trip you can enjoy more gorup shots, although close enough to identify horses for anyone that does visit them or know any names.

 DSC_3571 DSC_3579 DSC_3584 DSC_3587 DSC_3590 DSC_3591 DSC_3592

DSC_3594 DSC_3596 DSC_3597 DSC_3603 DSC_3615 DSC_3620 DSC_3625 DSC_3635

DSC_3645I don’t think the horses ever really saw me, but the wind was blowing toward them.  Winds can be tricky in this area as they swirl and will seem to blow in different directions in one canyon compared ot the next.  I think that the horse in the bottom left of the next picture smelled me.  It may have seen me too, but I have seen them ignore antelope moving around.  I don’t think that enough of my head looked over for it to know I was human and not an antelope or other animal, so my experience tells me that it was smell.  While I do not have a picture of it, I also saw its nose in the air, as if sniffing to place my scent.

DSC_3649With that detection of my scent a small band decided to move out of the area.

DSC_3654When one group decides there is something to make them leave, they all decide it is time to leave.

DSC_3660 DSC_3661 DSC_3656 DSC_3658

DSC_3671

The grass in the area looked very green, and fairly thick and long for late July.

DSC_3667

 

I did not see any other horses in the area and did not want to bother the main herd again. I found a cool little arch on this trip, and saw the usual birds and antelope.

DSC_3676 DSC_3679 DSC_3682While deciding whether to cross a wash due to the sand ( they turn to mud/quicksand when wet, but can be just as tricky with deep sand when dry), I found some interesting rocks.  They seem very light for their size, and have interesting features and formations that make me think they are something formed from lava.  Or a few look like dung.  If you know more about them, please let me know.

20140728_132011 20140728_132330 20140728_132315 20140728_132250 20140728_132231

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Creek, Crooks Mountain and ..wherever

I decided to try a new route home from Adobe Town, and took the Wamsutter-Crooks haul road.  I was not sure what I would find for the road, but it was in excellent condition.  Even with a thunderstorm toward the northeast, I was not worried.  It had a good base and was practically a highway by Wyoming backroads standards.  I camped near the Mineral X road intersection and continued North in the morning.

I am not sure where any of the boundaries for HMA’s are in this area.  The map on the BLM site is a very broad map which doesn’t show details.  Several of the HMA’s border each other and the horses can travel between them.  I am hoping that one day they release a map with detailed borders, but until then I may place horses in some of the wrong HMA’s.  The first bands I saw were right near the intersection of Hadsell Road, which I am pretty sure puts them in Lost Creek HMA.  With the clouds, the light was still low when I began but picked up by the later pictures.  Most of this post will be horse pictures, with only a litle commentary after this to introduce where each set was taken.

DSC_3154 DSC_3157 DSC_3159 DSC_3165 DSC_3170 DSC_3174 DSC_3175 DSC_3177 DSC_3181 DSC_3185 DSC_3188 DSC_3189 DSC_3192 DSC_3193DSC_3199 DSC_3206 DSC_3209 DSC_3214 DSC_3215 DSC_3216 DSC_3225 DSC_3227 DSC_3142 DSC_3150 DSC_3228 DSC_3231 DSC_3235 DSC_3236 DSC_3241 DSC_3243 DSC_3251

A little further up the road I came across a band being dogged by a bachelor.  I can’t remember now exactly where I was, but I am pretty sure I was north of Lost Creek, but not to Crooks yet and east of Antelope Hills.  I am not even sure this group was inside an HMA boundary, but they were wild.  The bachelor that was following is the beautiful tobiano.

DSC_3263 DSC_3264 DSC_3268 DSC_3269 DSC_3271 DSC_3296 DSC_3260

 

As I approached Crooks, there were some horses to the East side of the road.  There is fence there and I believe it may be private, but some of the horses look like the may have been wild at one time, or maybe still are because the fence looked spotty and passable in places.

DSC_3306 DSC_3308 DSC_3310

 

While there were more horses a little further north and east on the hill, I decided to focus on the group west of the road inside the fence that I believe marks the boundary for Crooks Mountain.  I walked down the ridge and took some pictures of Romeo and everyone else down below unnoticed.  I normally would have stayed on the ridge and observed for a long time, but I could see a rainbow to the West.  This prompted me to move for two reasons.  One, if I could quietly get down the hill and east of Romeo and the other horses, then I could get pictures of them with the rainbow behind.  Second, a rainbow to the west meant rain was coming my way, and I knew I would have to try and get back to the FJ before it reached or got bad so my camera didn’t get wet.  Of course the horses saw me, so I only got a pair of pictures with the edge of the rainbow and Romeo and the horses all moved away.  Maybe I should have waited on the ridge, but sometimes you have to make a decision and it doesn’t always work like you planned.

DSC_3313 DSC_3315 DSC_3316 DSC_3317 DSC_3321 DSC_3323 DSC_3324 DSC_3327 DSC_3328

 

I did run to the top of Green Mountain before running home, but it was covered in fog too thick to get any pictures.  Coming down on the West loop I did see 6 horses, 3 on the left of a fence and 3 to the right.  I do not know if either or both sets were wild.

DSC_3345 DSC_3337

Adobe Town

While I had a grand plan of visiting every Wyoming HMA in 2 weeks last summer, it never happened. This June, I finally made it down to Adobe Town for the first time.  It was evening by the time I arrived in Baggs.  I had light as I started in, but lost it before actually reaching the HMA.  While the town of Baggs has very spotty cell service for anyone but Union Cellular subscribers, with my booster I actually had a good signal out in the desert and was able to do my navigating on this trip using google maps .

One side  thought that came to me on this trip was the debate on roads and energy exploration/exploitation, and how it is more complex than many make it out to be.  There are some that would contend that areas such as the one surrounding Adobe Town should be left alone with no energy exploration or gas wells.  There is a part of me that agrees with this and hates seeing gas wells and pipes.  I like “humanless” landscape and actually enjoy empty looking deserts more than most might.  At the same time, there are benefits to the energy industry and what they are doing there.  First, there is the obvious use of the energy they are harnessing that all of us use.  I have gas heat at my house, drive quite a bit to get to where I photograph and we all use electricity.  People can badmouth the energy industry and its “destruction” of the land, but don’t seem to mind what it provides.  What struck me more though was the access the gas roads provided to these places that otherwise wouldn’t be present.  Both in the Adobe Town area and my trip from Wamsutter to Jeffrey City on a haul road, energy industry roads took me to HMA’s that would not be accessible without them- roads that would be passable even with rain.  Even with these roads, I think I saw 1 vehicle that wasn’t a working vehicle, and only about 6 working vehicles in my backroad travels.  These are places that very few visit WITH roads.  If people aren’t even driving in to these places often now, what are the odds that they would hike in through the desert heat dozens of miles if the roads weren’t present.  This isn’t a “drill, baby, drill” blog,  just a sidebar on looking at things from multiple angles.

I camped on a road called “Apache Tears Trail” so that I could be out of the way from the “main” road.  As I made my way back to the road in the morning I saw my first small band of Adobe horses on the other side of the fence.  I am going to try and group most of the pictures by band and then include some individual shots.  Adobe Town is fairly famous, so I am hoping that someone out there knows the names of some of the horses and can help me out.  I have Pryors, quite a few of the McCullough down and Romeo’s band in Crooks, but don’t know even where to find names for most of the Wyoming HMA horses, so any help on any posts would be great.

DSC_2709 DSC_2687 DSC_2692 DSC_2682 DSC_2684

I  was glad to run across some grouse and hope that they continue to have a presence throughout the sageland of the West.

DSC_2717

 

The second group I saw was also a ways off, which is too bad because there were some beautiful horses in it.  Of course I could probably say that for every band I see.

DSC_2729 DSC_2736

 

With the third band, I finally had some closer horses.

DSC_2762 DSC_2750 DSC_2752 DSC_2755

 

I was beginning to think that all of the Adobe Town horses were scattered throughout the HMA in individual bands when I finally came across a larger group with a few bands in close proximity.  They were a little ways out and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get close, but as they often do a bachelor stallion came running in to check me out.

 

DSC_2782-001DSC_2787

This brought in a second stallion that I could never determine if he was another lone stallion or a loose part of one of the other bands.

DSC_2803 DSC_2805

 

The fourth group from Adobe Town was a small band of 3 that was the first I reached of this larger gathering.

DSC_2821 DSC_2819-001

 

 

While it is hard to place all of the horses that were in each band looking back now, I know the next 3 were another trio.

DSC_2963 DSC_2941 DSC_2957 DSC_2961 DSC_2962

 

 

From here it gets less sure as I saw some bands and then got more pictures of them later as they moved around.  The ones that are together are more obvious, but the individual or small group shots  aren’t.

DSC_2866 DSC_2827 DSC_2844 DSC_2862 DSC_2905 DSC_2902 DSC_2968 DSC_2966 DSC_2970

 

 

A lot of my shots that I post have the horses looking at me, but most of the time I watch the horses they are eating and ignoring me.  I jus personally tend to select out the shots with them looking because it usually gives a better view of any facial features for identification and the eating shots obstruct full view of them.  While there are a few herds that are very approachable, many of the HMA’s contain horses that my long (500 mm max) lens is needed.   With all of the horses, what works best is setting up and letting them move by you when they are comfortable.  Sometimes they will even lie down in front of you, which would seem to indicate they aren’t bothered by you and trust you.  This takes time and requires the repression of the first impulse to quickly move out and grab pictures.  I was watching these groups long enough that two antelope, which are usually very wary, even moved in.  One slept while the other ate closer and closer to me.  When it finally did notice me i made sure not to make any sudden movements or scare it and it slowly worked its way back to my right, allowing me to photograph it with the horses.

DSC_2887 DSC_2908 DSC_2927

 

I never made it to the heart of Adobe Town for the geology.  Most of what I saw was not that different than the badlands areas of fifteenmile.  Part of what blocked me from getting further in towards the roadless area is that once I left  the main gas routes I hit roads that did not seem very safe to travel either due to the washouts, or the sand.

DSC_2977 DSC_3031

 

In a great surprise, I found some burrowing owls.  I grabbed a quick shot or two before the adults moved further away and watched me.  While checking the local holes for the burrow they were using I found what appears to be a piece of petrified wood that may have agatized, but don’t know for sure yet.  There definitely appeared to be other pieces of petrified wood in the area.  I set up in the FJ and wiated, and waited, and waited…and finally the young owletes peeked out at me over the burrow edge.  I counted three, but there may have been more I could not see as they never fully came out before I decided to leave them alone.

DSC_2994 DSC_3006 DSC_3024 DSC_2978 DSC_2979

 

 

Driving back out I found four that I had not seen before.

DSC_3057 DSC_3047 DSC_3056

 

Far away from the rest of the horses, when I had figured I wouldn’t see an more, I came across a group of 2 and 3 (bachelors, I think).  They didn’t seem to mind me there, but the prairie dog did.

DSC_3074 DSC_3069 DSC_3073 DSC_3102 DSC_3093 DSC_3096 DSC_3099

 

While I did not take the route in that would have brought me to the main “Adobe Town” area for hiking and geology, I am glad that I went the way I did and saw the horses I was able to.  It was a good Birthday, with enough time to drive up to Wamsutter-Crooks Gap road to camp for the night.

DSC_3112

Baroil area

On my way down to visit Adobe Town I stopped in the Baroil area to see some of the wild horses there.  While hacking  a portal and deciding which road to go out from the town, the local security officer asked if I was lost.  I told him which road I was planning on going, and that the little fox I had just seen had distracted me. He told me that there were actually 3 kits that hung out in that area and played in the pipes, so before heading out the road he suggested I watched them play for a while.  It is amazing how some animals adapt to the human elements around them.  Yes, it did look like the one was laughing after making the other jump.

DSC_2494 DSC_2496 DSC_2505 DSC_2511 DSC_2486 DSC_2492

 

I am not sure if the horses I saw were part of the Stewart Creek HMA or Green Mountain.  The map is fairly basic and the descriptions worthless that I have found online.  I can’t remember if this is one where the horses could move between the two anyway.  There was one fairly large band with a Black Stallion in control.  I had worked my way up a draw and in the correct position ahead of them to catch the evening sun on the horses, but a cloud ruined that and made the pictures so-so for hte most part.

DSC_2553 DSC_2565 DSC_2579 DSC_2610 DSC_2625

 

Nearby was a satellite bachelor that seems to have some pretty harsh cheek damage.

DSC_2575 DSC_2585A small group of 3 also seemed to be moving along a little behind the main group.

DSC_2598 DSC_2655I could see a younger looking foal and more horses, but with the rain coming did not have time to go get closer to them.

DSC_2632

 

 

I know this is a brief post, but it will probably be about 2 weeks before I have time to do the rest of the photos from my central horse trip.  Here is a sneak peak

DSC_3025

 

of where you will see horses from when I can.
Adobe Town, quite a few bands

DSC_2803 DSC_2805 DSC_2819

Lost Creek or Antelope Hills ( again, not sure of boundaries.  Right near where Hadsell? road goes off of Crooks-Wamsutter. 5 or 6 bands here.
DSC_3206

Antelope Hills or Crooks- small band being dogged
DSC_3296

and Crooks Mountain for sure- with Romeo

DSC_3327

 

 

Grand Tetons

Despite it being summer and tourist season, Ahnya and I decided to take a trip to the Grand Tetons. At the beginning of the trip we camped at one of the campsites outside Yellowstone, I think “Big Game”, and awoke to bighorn sheep across the river on the hillside.  They were a little far for good pictures, but there were lambs to watch as we had breaklfast and got ready to travel.

 

 

DSC_2069

 

As we made our way toward Sylvan Pass, we saw some rams lounging next to the road.  One of them even stretched his neck to eat what he could without getting up.

DSC_2083 DSC_2090

 

Ahnya took some pictures of some pelicans as they swam in unison and did synchronized diving for food.(the following 2 courtesy of Ahnya)

DSC_0077 DSC_0083

 

We paused on our way downt he lakeshore to let Ahnya take a picture for her calendar she will make for Christmas.  She got a lot of good photos for it this trip, but the ones she tried here show one of the main reasons I upgraded cameras- dust always seems to get in the older D60 and show up on any shot with sky in it.  The top is my picture of her taking her pictures, one of which is the bottom shot with the dust squiggle in the middle.

DSC_2092 DSC_0129

 

 

The first animals we saw in Grand Teton were elk and antelope.  The mother antelope had 2 fawns with her, but we didn’t get any good pictures before they laid down.  While baby antelope can run fast soon after birth, it is easy to see (if you look hard)why the best defense for most young animals is just to hunker tight while the mother leads the predator away.

DSC_2093 DSC_2111

 

Instead of camping in the park where we new it would be more crowded, we decided to go back to the campground above Slide Lake.  Some of you may remember one of my favorite older pictures of the watefall just above the lake along the Gros Ventre.

waterfall into Gros Ventre

 

After a relaxing night with only one other couple at the campsite ( I recommend finding campsites near parks, but not in them, when possible), we were fortunate to find some cow elk trying to lead their calves across the river right near the waterfall.  It was one of the highlights of the trip.  It took a while, because the calves rightfully weren’t sure about the crossing.  The cows were getting pushed downstream some themselves, but were strong enough to get out before they hit the deadfall and rapid water.  One calf started across and almost got pulled into the trees and rapid water, but turned back and made it safely to its original shore.  The cows would need to swim back, expending more energy, to urge their calves to cross.  After a while, the cows moved the calves upstream a  little further and then they were able to make it out before the rapid water and trees.  As the elk were all making their way away from the opposite shore, a partial rainbow even came out.  You can see the elk on the opposite shore on the right side of the picture.  I think there is a little land/ranch for sale right near this and I would be forever grateful to anyone that wanted to buy it for me…

DSC_2133 DSC_2137 DSC_2169 DSC_2189 DSC_2195 DSC_2145 DSC_2159

 

After a quick stop at mormon row to see the coyote pups, which we came back to later, we ran down to Jackson to get gas and check to see if there were any swans at their winter spot on the elk refuge.  We did not find any swans here (saw some lying on a nest upriver), but I did grab a few shots of a ring-necked duck (aythya collaris) pair.

DSC_2225 DSC_2227

 

 

We then returned to Mormon Row and the pups.  They were so small that it was hard to get clear shots of them in the grass, but they are so cute.

DSC_0386

photo courtesy of Ahnya

DSC_2212 DSC_2236 DSC_2250 DSC_2265 DSC_2312 DSC_2332 DSC_2267

You might expect more pictures of the tetons, but it was cloudy and the tops were covered for most of our time there.  Ahnya did try some pictures with flowers in the foreground that illustrate the other main reason I am glad I upgraded, the D60 had trouble with contrast.  Yes, every camera will have some trouble and there are times where a split density filter will be needed, but the D7000 does a much better job of balancing straight out of the camera with no filters.  Notice in Ahnya’s one shot the sky is a nice deep blue and the clouds are right, but the flowers are dark.  In the other the flowers look fine, but the sky is blown out.  The last one is from the D7000 and needs some adjusting with contrast/darkness, but is much more manageable than what comes straight from the D60.

DSC_0213 DSC_0209 DSC_2342

 

We thought maybe there was a bear or something cool based on he number of cars we found at our next stop, but it was only a small bull elk.  We also found people mobbing an area with a small moose.  We were able to enjoy an antelope by ourselves on a back road.

DSC_2360 DSC_2382 DSC_2349 DSC_2353

 

We camped in Grand Teton for the night, and awoke the next morning to the beginnings of snow.  It was kind of fun for a while, but by the time we started to make our way back into Yellowstone it had become tedious.  I wasn’t that worried about Felicity Jane or my driving, but the tourists in non-4wd rentals that might not even live somewhere it snows were of some concern.

DSC_0784

photo courtesy Ahnya

DSC_0810

photo courtesy Ahnya

DSC_0780

photo courtesy Ahnya?

10498558_10204170123038649_2517561226403715020_o

The snow became less of a problem as the day progressed, and we finished our trip through Yellowstone on less snowy roads.  We saw plenty of baby bison, and even some bear cubs back through the trees.  They were too farr for any good shots, but blown up they can at least be seen well.

DSC_0917

photo courtesy Ahnya

DSC_2433 DSC_2394 DSC_2418 DSC_2412

 

We did not see any horses at McCullough that were close enough to photograph, but a bird landed close by while we were looking and we got our last pictures of the trip.

DSC_2446

 

 

July 4 and James 4

The next trip Ahnya and I took was to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and Pompeys Pillar. “Pomp” was the nickname for  Baptiste Charbonneau, Sacagawea’s son, that you can see on the dollar coin.

DSC_0254

photo courtesy Ahnya Ivie

DSC_0267

photo courtesy Ahnya Ivie – a little blurry but one of her favorite moments of this trip was getting a picture of them standing to fight.

DSC_0269

photo courtesy Ahnya Ivie — signature of Clark, some of the only physical evidence of the journey West left

DSC_0283

photo courtesy Ahnya Ivie — Long before the Lewsi and Clark journey “discovered” the West, Crow called this place Iishbiiammaache ( where the mountain lion lies/preys).

DSC_2037 DSC_2051

I only have a few pictures from that trip(and at least right now wordpress has switched how the post is made, and I hate it- save draft and edit through dashboard for anyone else finding this), but more thoughts. Other places that we/I have visited recently also tie in with Little Bighorn. We live really close to Fort Phil Kearny and while I have hunted the walk-in area near the Fetterman Monument, this year is the first that we visited the fort. We had learned quite a bit about Red Cloud in our visit to Agate Fossil Beds NM this spring, and also had been to Fort Laramie on that trip- which makes the ride of Portugee Phillips seem even more incredible. After all of these experiences, I also swung by Rosebud Battlefield State Park while ingressing one day.

DSC_2452

Within that context, the 4th of July brings a mix of emotions. First, I love America and feel lucky to live in it. Every Sunday I am freely able to go to church and enjoy fellowship, study God’s word and rejoice in song. At the same time, those that do not chose to are free to do with the day as they wish. That freedom is not present in every country. To go to something like Mount Rushmore, as Ahnya and I did late May, and not feel pride in America would be hard. They also recognize all of the veterans or currently active military at the presentation, which powerfully brings forth the reminder that “freedom isn’t free”

DSC_0042

courtesy Ahnya Ivie

DSC_0059 DSC_0064

Last year I wrote about the power of being at Arlington, and Little Bighorn also has a national cemetary, as well as markers spread throughout the park where soldiers and warriors died during the battle.  I am not sure if it has always been that way, but the park showcases the events leading up to Little Bighorn and losses by both sides.  To quote Corb Lund from the song “horse soldier, horse soldier” (unofficial-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u04KA8eYwBg )

I’s with Custer and the 7th in 76 or 77
Scalped at Little Big Horn by the Sioux
And the tears and devastation of a once proud warrior nation
This I know cause I was riding with them too

DSC_2022

 

There lies the mixed emotions.  After fighting the tyranny of Britain and penning ‘self-evident’ words that “all men are created equal”, it took four-score and seven years and a war that almost tore our nation apart to even put an end to slavery- and the process to equality moved slowly even from that point.  100 years after our freedom we were still treating the native american tribes as inferior and using “manifest destiny” to take what we wanted.

There is nothing that we can do to change our history, both the proud and the shameful.  The point of this post is not to wallow in the myriad of autorcities that our country has been a part of.   With each of those, there are also American heroes that spoke up and fought against it.  We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it and make sure that we do not allow those actions to repeat themselves.  We also need to take these past actions into account when understanding why everyone does not view July 4th, or America, the same as us.  Another song that can highlight some of these feelings would be Don Edwards “The Freedom Song”.   I will put a link to it, but can’t find a good version on youtube. I like the sound of my version better, and the babies have nothing to do with the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQn4lvASfSI&index=14&list=PLieRi_lSPlRrNv42rBfAQo7Yiqd1ocac0 .   You can google search the lyrics if interested.

It’s not just America that has a spotted past, either.  In the history of any people you will be able to find oppresion or war.  It is not like all of the native american tribes lived peacefully side-by-side before colonization.  England, and much of Europe, held many colonies long after the american revolution.  Going back through time you can find conquest after conquest.  So why is life on Eart like this?  James explains it clearly in James 4 -“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from yourdesires for pleasure that war in your members?”   I love the way that James extends the personal war we have in ourselves (between living for ourselves and worldly desires and living for God and others) to the confrontations that exist on Earth.   The short book of James covers all the way from wars(4), to rich oppression(5), to showing favortism for personal gain(2), to controlling our tongue .The whole book is a study in how actions speak louder than words and prompts self-reflection on motivations (James 1:22-25).

To end with a few more song quotes “I’m proud to be an Amercian, where at least I know I’m free.  And  I won’t forget the men who dies, who gave that right to me.And I’d gladly stand up,Next to you and defend her still today.’Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q65KZIqay4E .  While they may not have always “established justice” or “promoted the general welfare” due to human weakness, I do believe that our forefathers had the correct ideas and were thinking outside of themselves and of the nation.  The attitude “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” was prevalent and follows the idea of James – are you doing for your own immediate benefit, or for something greater.  (There was a time in our past when men would move to where the work was with ideas such as CCC instead of sitting at home and expecting a check- but that’s a whole  other issue) . If your pride in America is based on these ideals and the desire to extend this freedom to all, then I am with you.  If you use American “pride” to hold others down and justify mistreatment as has been done in the past, then I can not agree.   Pride as a source of strength is great, but pride as an excuse or weapon is not.  From No Use For A Name “I refuse to build the wall by adding my own bricks that separate us all”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxvnFh6l_H0

You see, being an American and being Christian makes me no better than anyone else in and of itself.   “There is good and bad, in everyone”(Stevie Wonder).  Being an American makes me fortunate and free, not better. Being saved is something that was a gift only by grace, which also provides me freedom(Romans 8:2).  But grace comes through faith (Ephesians 2:8) and faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).  Fortunately for me, I was born in a free country to a family that taught me the word.

So take a moment to reflect on your life.  Are there things you are doing that hurt others?  Are there things you aren’t doing that can benefit others?  What can you do for your country?    Are you doing His will?

1 John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.