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.

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photo courtesy Ahnya Ivie

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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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”

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courtesy Ahnya Ivie

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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

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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.

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Spring Break 1 – Surprise!

The beginning of spring break this year definitely did not go according to plan.  My daughter and I left a little after school on Thursday with the plan of watching the boys first round basketball game at 9 in Casper and then camping somewhere in the area and doing something fun on Friday until the played again at 9 Friday night.  While I hadn’t expeced it, they had won the regional championship and it wasn’t until late Thursday that I heard the team they played that night had beat them twice.

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After a third defeat to Rocky Mountain (Surprise 1- I think we had better athletes/players, but they had a better team), I wasn’t sure if we would watch the game Friday or not.  We went to camp for the night in Stewart Creek.  I don’t know why I think of it as near Casper, because it is a lot closer to Rawlins, but it seemed better than going up Casper Mountain with a chance of snow.

When we awoke Friday there was some snow, but it wasn’t too bad.  It was a little worse when we started back Mineral Exploration Road, so we decided to go back along 287 and to Casper.  We did locate a few horses and hiked out to see them briefly.  The pictures did not turn out great with the conditions, but it is good enough to recognize who they are if anyone knows the Stewart Creek names.

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After a stop at Martin’s Cove where Ahnya got a necklace after going through the LDS run historic site, I asked her if she wanted to go to the game, go see more horses at Green Mountain or go to Fort Laramie and get a junior ranger badge.  She chose Fort Laramie, so we made our way back past Casper (with a short stop to fish the Platte) and south-east.  We didn’t arrive at Fort Laramie until around 3:30. Surprise 2 is that it wasn’t a single fort like I had often imagined, but there were over 20 buildings or foundations there.  There was a picture of the original log-style fort that I had imagined, but there was a lot more to see and do than we had planned.  You could go inside almost all of the rebuilt structures and look at displays through plexiglass doorways. We toured the buildings until after 5, and then had dinner at the picnic area.  

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Since the visitor’s center closed at 4:30 and Ahnya couldn’t get her badge until Saturday,we decided to camp at Guernsey State Park.  Except for the geese that lived in that area (10,000 or so the ranger said), we had the place to ourselves.

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Saturday began with more unpleansant surprises.  First, as we left Guernsey State Park and headed toward Guernsey, I uncharacteristically didn’t pay attention to the signs.  I always stay at the speed limit and think it is not ok to chose which laws you think are “ok” to break and which should be followed.  Yes there was sun in my eyes, etc; and I didn’t see the sign to slow down, but that is my fault for not paying closer attention.  On top of that, I couldn’t find my new insurance card in my glove compartment.  Fortunately, I was given a warning, but I still don’t like the fact that I hadn’t been going the speed limit to begn with.  I can already see one day when Ahnya is 16, “Remember when you got pulled over…”.  Of course, my little angel won’t ever be one to talk back, but I’ve heard stories…

It was still a little before the Fort opened, so we stopped by a historic bridge.

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Ahnya not only got her bad at the Fort, but since we had stayed at Guernsey the ranger gave us a coin that they offer between the Fort and the State Park.

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Our next stop before heading home Saturday night was to be Scotts Bluff.  We turned East and around Torrington started to hear a weird noise.  We knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t find anything.  There isn’t much in Torrington, and the noise was infrequent, so we decided to try and get to the larger town of Scotts Bluff where there were more mechanics listed.  We didn’t make it.  The noise got worse and I could tell it was something with the left front tire, which felt a little hot and loose.  I thought maybe the brake was catching.  We made short limps into the town of Morrill, where I saw a tire shop open.  The mechanic wasn’t in, but after driving it just 10 yards for one of th workers he knew the hub was out.  We tried calling a bunhc of places in Scotts Bluff, but none of them had mechanics in on Saturday.  They said Monday would be the earliest.

Fortunately, the mechanic at Horse Creek Tire was coming in to work on getting a tractor out.  He normally wouldn’t have been, but I was really lucky.  He was going to Scotts Bluff that evening and could get the part I needed from NAPA, and said he would fix it Sunday morning for me because he hoped someone would do the same for him if he was stuck.  If you are even near Morrill, Nebraska, give Horse Creek Tire your business if you need anything, because not everyone would do that for someone.  Also, if you need to stay in the area consider Oak Tree Inn.  They gave me a manager’s rate and wouldn’t even charge me the pet fee for Malaki.  While the surprise of the hub going out wasn’t nice, finding people that would be so nice to a stranger in need was such a pleasant surprise.  It makes me change my whole view on Nebraska, which before was limited to how long it took to get across and the clouds of manure.  I don’t know about the rest of the state, but Morrill has a nice little community.

After realizing that Sunday was the day to change the clocks (surprise), we got showered and waited.  He had my FJ done at 9:30, new time.  That was much earlier than I expected.  Ahnya and I still had time to go to Scotts Bluff. It was a fun little monument, especially since we are discussing erosion in my class when we resume after break.  Malaki was even allowed on one of the trails we did on the top.  We didn’t do the long one from the bottom because of time.

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We left Scotts Bluff around lunch, and decided we had time to swing by Agate Fossil Beds National Monument on the way home and get a third junior ranger badge.  I enjoy fossils and considered being an archeologist as a kid.  While there were a lot of fossils of Moropus (early Miocene horses), beardogs, dinohyus and a display of gifts from Red Cloud (with neat winter count drawings), the most interesting to me was the paleocaster fossils.  They looked like long spirals that originally were thought to be tap roots.  Eventually, a skeleton of a small mammal simlar to a beaver was found in one and the realized they were not roots but fossilized tunnels.  I always try to get across to my students that scientist make the best sense they can, but you always have to open to change as new facts are discovered.

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The water was no longer across the road near Lusk by the time we got there, so the rest of the trip was pleasantly uneventful.

 

Jeffrey City to Sweetwater station

According to my map most of the land to the South of the road between Jeffrey City and Sweetwater Station is BLM and part of the Crooks Mountain HMA.  I traveled by it twice on my trip but did not see a mustang in that area.  To the North of the road is also mostly BLM, with the exception of Ice Slough and a little patch, but it is not part of an HMA until the other side of Graham Road and the Sweetwater River.  I did see some beautiful horses North of the road, though.  I am not sure if they were in one of the private chunks, or if there was even a fence between the private and BLM, or if possibly someone had a grazing permit for the horses.

I am sure the fact they aren’t “wild” has turned some off, in the same way I met a family on the mountain last year that had probably seen 75+ beautiful horses but seemed disappointed because they had not seen Cloud.  We all have personal favorites, tastes and likes/dislikes so I am not saying there is anything wrong with her disappointment in not seeing her favorite horse she had come to see or people not really caring about pictures of non-wild horses. To give a happy ending to the mountain story,  I was able to find Cloud and it was nice to see the girl’s face light up.

Whatever the case may be, a beautiful horse is a beautiful horse to me.  True, not being “wild” they lose some of their mystique.  Unlike many domestics, these had every appearance of living life fairly similar to the wild mustangs.  There were bite marks on stallions.  It did not look like they ate anything but the forage they could find in the sage.  If they are “domestics” as the HMA map  would suggest, I would not be surprised to find out that some were former BLM wild mustangs that someone had adopted and was now letting live a life similar to what they had before,  the main exception being that they hung closer to the road and seemed more likely to run toward me than away when I stopped.

Without further adieu, some extremely striking horses from along 287/789 between Jeffrey City and Sweetwater Station.

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Long Haul

Two separate posts cover the stops at Assateague and LMP on my recent trip back home.  The rest will all be covered in this post.  One of the hardest parts about driving home to Pa is that it is so far, about 2000 miles and 30 hours.  If we plan a lot of stops to see things it takes a few days and we wouldn’t get much time at home.  Yet the prospects of driving 2 15 hour days don’t enthuse me either.  Usually we end up going shorter the first day or two and then 2 long days to reach the destination.
The first leg of our trip began after church Sunday and took us to the free Sage Creek campground in Badlands, with only 1 dinosaur sighting along the way.

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It was later in the evening when we go there, but we had time to walk down the road with Ahnya taking pictures of the flowers.

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She then noticed something that I didn’t know we had around here so i took some pictures too, dung beetles.

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We woke up to a beautiful sunrise around 5

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While the Sage Creek area of the Badlands is fairly green and flowered, which may make wonder why they are called badlands, there are still large washes with steep banks running through.  Monday we got to drive by a small section of the more true badlands and see some bison.

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Photo courtesy of Ahnya Ivie

Monday night we stayed at Great River Bluffs State Park on the East border of Minnesota.  The plants there were larger than most of ours grow in the desert, and we got a view of the Mississippi River.

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( by Ahnya)

ImageImageFrom there we drove all the way to my parents in Pa on Tuesday.

Coming back was similar.  After a tick-filled stay at Pokomoke State Park, which was pretty, Tuesday night, we had a short trip Wednesday.  The Cheasapeake Bay bridge-tunnel was a marvel in itself.

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“The bridge–tunnel originally combined 12 miles (19 km) of trestle, two 1-mile-long (1.6 km) tunnels, four artificial islands, two high-level bridges, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) of causeway, and 5.5 miles (8.9 km) of approach roads—crossing the Chesapeake Bay and preserving traffic on the Thimble Shoals and Chesapeake shipping channels” (wikipedia)

Ahnya asked how they built it and I don’t know for sure, but it is a triumph of engineering ( and according to wikipedia labelled one of the 7 engineering wonders of the modern world).  When we went under the bay at the second tunnel a Navy ship that looked like a destroyer to me passed right over us.

We stopped by Legacy for a couple of hours ( see the previous post) and then made it that evening to a camp along the New River in West Virginia.

While catching and releasing even more fireflies ( we don’t have them here), Ahnya found a less pretty friend.

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Thursday morning I woke to the sound of reveille being played on two banjos.  Ahnya was still asleep, so I walked out to take some pictures of the falls on my own.  While taking my first pictures of the falls,  two guys asked if I wanted to see what a night of fishing gets you and proceeded to show me a cooler full of catfish.  The one ( let’s call him cousin-brother-uncle Jim Bob) mentioned getting a citation while vacationing last year, so I assume there was something fishy about either how they caught them, their license or the amount they had.

Yes, I admit I may have made fun of West Virginia, but I spent part of my adolescence in Pennsylvania, so it is an old habit.  It wasn’t until I moved away that I realized that the Pa stereotypes of WV were the pot calling the kettle black- or maybe more appropriately the redneck calling the hillbilly…well, usually inbred.  Funny thing is that the X-files with inbreeding took place in Pa.

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Then began the marathon drive with relatively no pictures.  Thursday we drove from the New Fork in west Virginia along 64. We got heavy rain through Charleston, but St. Louis was better than I thought to drive through.  Just as we headed north in Kansas City we hit an even worse storm.  There was some running groundwater in spots and at one point I saw a truck going south and above me ( divided highway) hit what must have been a huge puddle as it sent a wall of water about 20 feet high that crashed down on my vehicle.  I made it through and couldn’t find a place to camp until 2 AM at a neat state park in southwestern Iowa with calling owls ( long or short-eared, I think)

With just a stop at Cabela’s and a drive-by of the Nebraska holding facility we were able to make it home to Sheridan Friday night.  I swear Nebraska seemed as long a drive as the whole WV to KC was.  I wish I could stop at more places along the way and stay longer at some, but I am blessed to be able to see as much of the country as I did with a safe trip.

Ahnya’s May trip

One of the best things about my trips to Yellowstone and the Pryors is that my daughter is often with me growing up with a love of nature.  She has my old D60 so that she can be just as much a part of the photography as I am.  She does have a wide 18-105, so she can’t get very close shots outside of some of the wild horses, but for her it is more about holding it steady and learning how to set up where you won’t disturb the animals and letting them move in a manner they are comfortable.  I did let her try the 300 for a few bear shots, but it was a little heavier for her.  I look forward to each trip we get to take.  Here are Ahnya’s pictures from the last trip we had.

 

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Discipline and devotion

Would I say I saw a plethora of sights in DC?  A what?  A plethora.  Oh yes, I saw a plethora. (Adjusted from a movie – name it).

While there was more to see around the national mall than can be viewed with the time it deserves in just 2 days, I wanted to write about one of the more moving moments.  After getting our hotel room straightened out on Friday, we decided to hike from the Crystal City Marriott to the National Mall to save some money.  Of course this was pre-discovery of the Metro ride to L’Enfant Plaza which I would highly recommend if you wan’t to save your walking energy for once you reach the attractions.  We took an impromptu route along Long bridge, by the Pentagon and up to Arlington.

Fort Phil Kearney is just down the road

Out of all of the tourist attraction we visited on the trip, Arlington made me think the most.  We visited the grave site of one of the students great-grandfathers and looped up by Arlington House, which has a tremendous view from it.  Having seen the tomb of the unknown soldier years before, I left it up to the students as to whether they wanted to go see it or head to the bridge to the mall.  Fortunately they decided to go to the tomb.  There was a little excitement on the way as they saw McArthur’s tomb and got a picture by it, before realizing it was not Douglas McArthur but Arthur McArthur, his father.

While coaching middle school football and track, one of the hardest concepts to teach the athletes is that paying attention to the little details during dynamic warm-up and drills is one of the most important things they can do.  Doing the “A” walk correctly helps with the lead leg for hurdling form.  Running through a hand-off “on air” over and over gets the timing down.   It is rare for a middle school student, or even many high school students, to see this.  They want to get to “scrimmaging” instead of concentrating on each step and the pace, or breeze through form drills and go directly to hurdling or jumping.   While at this level many can compete well because of pure athleticism, as you move to higher levels the little flaws in technique begin to show.  It is the attention to “little” details and discipline that will improve a time or distance, or make a play successful.

This may seem like an unrelated topic, but as we watched the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier it was inspiring to see how much discipline he(they) had.  There wasn’t any “close enough”.  Every step, turn and action seemed flawless.  It isn’t an “exciting” job, either.  I have heard that an adult attention span is rarely over 10 minutes unless it is something that really grabs your attention.  Depending on the time of year, the Tomb Guard must continue the 21 second wait and 21 step march for anywhere from half an hour to 2 hours.  How many times was this practiced making sure every detail was correct before performed for duty?  How many people could keep that kind of precision for an extended period of time?

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While the soldiers are part of an extremely elite group, this isn’t really something that is done for personal recognition like our sports “heros” get either.  I couldn’t tell you the name of either the guard on duty before or after the changing of the guard.  They do not display their rank because they don’t want to outrank any of the unknowns.  The entire purpose of the act is to show respect to those that gave their lives for their country in a similarly anonymous manner.

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I was also impressed with the crowd at the tomb.  There wasn’t anyone yelling or running around.  The atmosphere was solemn and respectful.  It was not about an agreement with every conflict or war that America has taken part of, but rather an honoring of the patriotic actions of those that gave their life for our country.

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It may be easy to point to the fact that marching at the tomb is the guards “job”.  That may be true.  Now think about how much devotion you have to your job.  Do you sweat the details and make sure you are fulfilling it as perfectly as possible?  Do you give up facebook, text messages and games that are not part of your duties?  Are you reading this right now while you could be working?  Well, that is entirely understandable…