And no, I’m not talking about the two legged type so prominent in today’s world. They’re too scary for this blog. I’m talking about the behemoths that wandered the world between 65 and 245 million years ago. The small display area of Black Hills Institute in Hill City, South Dakota is packed full of them. If you have children, be sure to take them there. They will love it. Heck, if you don’t have kids, take yourself! Peggy and I visited as part of our three month road trip last fall.
Peggy and I didn’t know what to expect when we visited the small dinosaur museum in Hill City, South Dakota. It’s located maybe 30 minutes away from Mt. Rushmore and not much more from Custer State Park. We had some time to kill, so why not. What we found was an absolute delight. Normally I take museums seriously, carefully noting what I am seeing and photographing. Not this time. While the museum is worthy of such attention, it was so crammed full I wouldn’t have known where to start. So Peggy and I just wandered around admiring big teeth and taking photos. Following are the results. Enjoy.
That does it for today. Next Monday we will be back in Egypt visiting one of Egypt’s first pyramids.
The Open Air Museum of Memphis, near the modern town of Mit Rahina south of Cairo, is relatively small considering Memphis was established as the first capital of Egypt 4000 years ago by the pharaoh Narmer when he united Upper and Lower Egypt. It continued to serve as the capitol for over a thousand years. As such, Memphis would have been a bustling city filled with temples, palaces and tombs. Now it is mainly scattered ruins with most of its remains buried beneath villages and farms. The museum is well worth a visit however. First and foremost because of its huge statue of Ramses II, which was found lying in a swamp in 1820 missing its lower legs.
Ruling between 1279 and 1213 BCE, Ramses II is recognized as Egypt’s greatest pharaoh. He’s best known for ruling 66 years, expanding Egypt’s territory by fighting in multiple wars, and for building monuments, cities and temples throughout his realm. More ancient statues of him have been found than any other pharaoh. Peggy and I saw several as we made our way up the Nile. Then there is also the matter of the 90 children he was said to have fathered! As I noted in my heading, he was big— and he was bad.
Memphis was an important religious center for the triad of Ptah, the creator god who gave shape to all things, his consort Sekhmet, the lion goddess, and their son, Nefertem, the god of blossoms and perfume. It was common for the Egyptians to create triads for their gods, not unlike that of the Christian triad of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Next Post: We will return to South Dakota where we will visit a museum that is crammed full of dinosaur bones in a chaotic but wonderful arrangement.
Like many public projects, Mt. Rushmore was conceived as a way to encourage tourism. The project was thought up by Doane Robinson of the South Dakota Historical Society in the early 1920s. Peter Norbeck, who was serving as South Dakota’s Senator at the time, gained Washington approval and funding for the concept. Robinson then proceeded to hire the sculpture Gutzon Borglum to implement the vision. It was Borglum who selected the specific location, chose the four presidents to be featured, designed the sculpture, and oversaw the work, i.e. just about everything.
As might be expected, an incredible amount of work was involved in creating the massive sculptures shown above. Started in 1927, the work took 14 years to complete. Over 400 tons of rock were removed— around 90% by carefully placed dynamite charges and the rest by jack hammers and facing bits. The latter designed to smooth the rock. Over 400 workers were recruited to do the work, among them local miners, lumbermen and ranchers. Going to work involved first climbing 700 steps to the top of the mountain. Workers weren’t paid for the climb. The carvers would then be lowered by rope to do the job.
Next post: It’s back to Egypt with a focus on Memphis, a giant statue of Ramses II, and a look at one of the first pyramids created.
What’s not to love about Hathor, the Egyptian cow goddess of beauty, sensuality, music, dancing, wine, maternity and much more. She could change from a cow, to a woman with a cow’s broad head and cow ears, to a beautiful woman with cow horns and a sun disk. She could also take the form of a lioness, goose, and a sycamore tree! She was popular with both pharaohs and common people alike. Her beginnings trace back to the dawn of Egyptian history. She is even found on the Narmer Palette, considered Egypt’s most important historical relic, that dates back to 3,100 BCE and reflects much of the next 3,000 years of Egyptian art and history.
Today, Peggy and I are continuing our series on our trip up the Nile in March with Uniword Cruises traveling with our excellent guide, Sabaa. Once again, we will be mixing the mythology, history, and architecture that make Egypt such a fascinating place. All of the photos in this post were taken by either Peggy or me.
Gods evolve over time. Hathor is certainly an example of this. She probably started out as the local goddess to a pastoral tribe of nomads as they moved their cattle from place to place. Her responsibilities grew as the regions she was identified with expanded and she took on the role of other female deities. The most dramatic increase in her territory was when Narmer, the pharaoh of Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt around 3,100 BCE. (Lower Egypt included the Nile Delta where it flowed out into the Mediterranean. Upper Egypt followed the Nile south of Cairo as it climbed up to the cataracts at modern Aswan.) The unification of these two areas is central to much of the subsequent history of Egypt. Since the Narmer Palette showed the first phase of the unification, plus Hathor, it’s worth looking at closely. The palette is located in the Museum of Egyptian History, which was just outside the backdoor of our hotel in downtown Cairo.
Two images of Hathor are located at the top of the Palette look favorably down on the Narmer. You might say that she is offering her blessing, supporting his position as pharaoh. Such approval was critical in legitimizing the position and power of the pharaohs, who also claimed divinity and made sure gods were part of their family trees. The raised relief between the two images of Hathor spells out Narmer’s name in hieroglyphics, represented by a catfish and a chisel. The background, called a serekh, symbolizes the entrance to a castle and was used to show that this was a pharaoh’s name. Later pharaohs would use a cartouche to emphasize their names.
A number of other things are used to demonstrate Narmer’s power that would be common to future pharaohs. One, he is smiting his enemy. Pharaohs did lots of smiting. In this instance, Narmer is using his mace to pound what I believe is his chisel into the head of his unfortunate enemy from Lower Egypt. Two, he is much larger than anyone else. Three, the bowling pin shaped hat on his head is the white crown of Upper Egypt, the Hedjet. Below his belt, Narmer’s kilt features four more images of Hathor on top of columns, just in case there are any doubts about her support. His beard will be seen on all future pharaohs. And finally, he has one fine tail. It’s a bull’s tail that symbolizes pharaohs could take the shape of large bulls.
The small figure off to the left is his servant, who is tasked with carrying his sandals. On the right, Horus, the falcon god, is perched on a papyrus plant while he uses a rope to pull up another enemy out of the marsh by what appears to be a hook through his nose. That would hurt. Note how his claw and leg have become an arm and a hand. This likely symbolizes that Horus also supports Narmer’s military success over Lower Egypt. Two more dead enemies are shown on the bottom.
From left to right on the next level, we have the servant still faithfully carrying Narmer’s sandals. His flower may be the lotus, the plant symbol of Upper Egypt. It looks quite perky. Narmer is wearing the crown of lower Egypt here, showing the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt and the fact that he now rules over both. He is still carrying his mace. His right hand, however, holds a shepherd’s crook that will become another symbol of pharaohs— and, far into the future, popes. His catfish and chisel come next, announcing him. Below them is another servant carrying what appears to be wilted papyrus, the plant symbol of Lower Egypt. Compared to the perky lotus, are they mourning the defeat? Standard bearers come next followed by the defeated enemies. Their heads have all been cut off and are laid between their feet. This isn’t enough, however. They have also been de-manned and their parts draped over their heads. Not a pretty picture in anyone’s book— or blog. Above them, a barque, Ra the sun god’s boat, sails across the sky, which is a story for a future post.
The delightfully weird mythical beasts below with their long necks are called serpopards, a modern name concocted from serpent and leopard. Egypt adopted them from neighboring Mesopotamia. The round space in the middle is designed for grinding minerals used in makeup, possibly for ceremonial purposes in the worship of the gods. Could it be Hathor? The goddess of beauty was also the goddess of makeup. Below, Narmer has adopted his bull persona and is destroying the walls of a village or city where he is smiting another enemy.
Now back to Hathor.
One of my favorite myths about Hathor is how she served time as the Eye of Ra, which like the Eye of Horus, could wander around on its own. Unlike the Eye of Horus that brought good things, however, the Eye of Ra was an object of power and could bring devastation.
In the Book of the Heavenly Cow from the Middle Kingdom, Ra becomes angered by humans’ lack of respect and bad behavior so he releases his eye Hathor in the form of Sekhmet, the lion goddess, upon humanity to destroy it. Note the parallel here with the God of the Old Testament, who decides to flood earth and destroy humanity for similar reasons. The goddess in a passion of blood thirsty destruction descends on mankind killing everyone she finds and destroys their farms, towns and cities. At first Ra is pleased that humanity is getting what it deserves, but eventually becomes concerned (with the help of the other gods) that maybe he has gone too far, and soon there will be no humans left on earth. Who’s going to worship him? He decides to show mercy.
He asks Tenenet, the goddess of beer, to brew a large, potent batch, dye it red, and deliver it to where Sekhmet will see it. (Brewing a large batch of beer in Ancient Egyptian terms was indeed large. Vats found in Hierakonpolis could brew up to 300 gallons of beer at a time.) Sekhmet finds it, and, thinking she has found a huge cache of blood, drinks it down to relieve her blood lust, the whole batch! Glug, glug, glug—becomes drunk beyond imagination, and falls into a deep sleep. She wakes up in the form of the beautiful Hathor who henceforth does only good for the people of Egypt and becomes their most beloved goddess.
Another set of myths I enjoyed about Hathor was her relationship with Horus, partially because it reflects how myths can change and don’t necessarily need to be consistent. In at least one version of the Isis-Osiris myth that I shared in my last Egypt post, Hathor nurses the young Horus with her bounteous udders while he is hidden in the papyrus marshes of the Nile Delta. She also helps hide him by shaking a sistrum, an ancient Egyptian music rattle that sounds like rustling papyrus, and muffles any noise Horus may make. Need it be said that Hathor was also the goddess of the sistrum?
Another myth suggests that Hathor was the mother of Horus. So much for Isis. But maybe that’s okay, since Isis eventually takes over the role and form of Hathor, looking exactly like her. And finally, this gets a little kinky: Hathor becomes the lover/consort/wife of Horus. BTW, Hathor translates into the House of Horus, giving a whole new meaning to “I’m home, Honey.”
Now it’s time to wrap up this post with some photos of Hathor. Many of these images came from the Temple of Hathor at Dendera, which we will visit later.
Our next post will feature Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. We will be back in Egypt the following week.
It’s impossible not to feel awe when traveling through the towering Cathedral Spires of South Dakota’s Custer State Park. They so impressed Peter Norbeck, the governor of the state from 1917-21, that he personally scoped out a route on foot and horseback that would feature the best views. Known as the Needles Highway, it’s also famous for its narrow tunnels hewn out from the granite rock. We visited Custer State Park on our RV trip around North America last fall. All photos in the blog are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.
Next Monday, May 15, Peggy and I will be back in Egypt with a trip out to the ancient city of Memphis, near Cairo, where we will visit the colossal statue of Ramses II lying down, and then return to Cairo for a tour of the Museum of Egypt, which was out the back door from our hotel. There will be more of the history of Ancient Egypt, some treasures from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, a cow goddess, and much more. (So much that I may turn it into two posts.)
The Monday after that, May 22, we will take you on a tour of even more colossal monuments than Egypt has, the presidents on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. It’s located 10-15 miles north of today’s post on the Needles Highway.
Today, Peggy and I are beginning our series of blogs on our journey through Egypt up the Nile River on a riverboat with the UniWorld Cruise company. We hope you will join us. As always, all photos are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.
Visiting the pyramids of Egypt at Giza is like climbing into a time machine. The Pyramid of Khafre on the left was built around 2,570 BCE and the Pyramid of Menkaure on the right around 2510 BCE, which makes them both over 4500 years old! The beginning of Egyptian history is traced back even further, to 3100 BCE, over 5000 years ago.
The Sahara Desert and the Nile River kick-started the process. 10,000 years ago the Sahara Desert wasn’t. It was a huge savanna where wandering herders grazed their goats and cattle. It is now thought that some combination of climate change and overgrazing changed the savanna into the vast desert it is today. The herders needed somewhere to go and the Nile River was their best option. The river provided a continuous source of water for thirsty stock. Its annual floods assured that there would be rich soil for farming. Increasing population along the river led to the creation of villages and towns, eventually leading to cities, kingdoms and even empires in a time period that extended over 3,000 years.
The pyramids speak to more than ancient history and the engineering marvels. They reflect the ancient Egyptians’ deep belief in the afterlife, magic, and the numerous gods who impacted their lives from birth to death— and beyond. This belief in the afterlife (plus the pharaohs’ exploits and claimed relationship to the gods) dominated the temples, tombs and monuments we visited as we explored the area around Cairo, made our way up the Nile, and visited the city of Alexandria.
There are numerous myths about the gods and I’ll be relating several as I go though my posts on Egypt. I find them both fascinating and fun. One thing to note here is that most of them have several versions. Five thousand years is a long time to keep a story straight. For example, today I am going to tell about one of the great founding myths, that of Osiris and Isis. Like most great tales, it is filled with murder, mayhem, adventure, sex, twists, magic and even a bit of humor. That Osiris was killed by his brother, chopped into pieces, put back together, and became God of the Underworld where he sat in judgement of the dead is generally agreed upon. The details on how he was killed, managed to get Isis pregnant with Horus afterwards, and was put back together vary with the teller.
The version that I am writing about was originally told by Plutarch in the second century AD. I first read it in a book by Joseph Campbell, Transformation of Myth through Time, over 30 years ago. I like this version because it has a Cinderella aspect to it, i.e. if the coffin fits, wear it.
This story starts with the goddess of heaven, Nut, and the god of earth, Geb. The god of air, Shu, separates Nut from Geb. Night and day are created by the sun god, Ra, who sails across the sky in his boat during the day, is swallowed by Nut in the evening, journeys through her at night, and is born again in the morning through a somewhat natural birth.
Nut and Geb get together and give birth to four children. The older twins, Osiris and Isis, are born first, and, in the tradition of Egyptian gods and pharaohs, marry each other. Osiris, with the help of the clever Isis, replaces Ra as the king of Egypt and gets the throne. Seth and Nephthys are born next and and marry each other. Now the fun begins. Osiris is the typical good son and represents order. Seth is the typical bad son and represents chaos. It’s Osiris that creates the trouble, however. One night he sleeps with Nephthys, claiming he thought it was Isis. (Joe Campbell notes that this isn’t paying attention to detail.) Whatever the reason, Seth doesn’t buy it. Would you? He vows to get even.
He builds a beautiful (and undoubtably incredibly expensive) sarcophagus/coffin made out of gold that is exactly fit to Osiris’s size. He waits until a great party is going on and everyone has consumed large quantities of beer (the go-to drink of the time) before showing up with his golden sarcophagus. “Whoever fits can have it!” he declares. Naturally everyone is excited to try, but nobody fits. Except Osiris. He’s just beginning to enjoy his triumph when 42 of Set’s servants rush out, slam the lid closed, wrap iron bindings around it, and throw it in the Nile.
End of story, right. A solid gold coffin can hardly be expected to float. Except it does. Osiris is a god, after all. In fact, it floats all the way to Syria where it lands and a tree grows around it. And what a sweet smelling tree it is. So sweet that the local king decides he wants to use it for a pillar in a castle he is building. Meanwhile, Isis, in deep mourning, is searching the world over for Osiris. She ends up in Syria where she stops for a drink at the community well and hears the story of the sweet smelling pillar from maids who work at the castle. “Aha, Osiris!” she thinks. She also learns that the king has a new son who needs a nursemaid. She applies for and gets the job.
Isis really likes the baby, nurses it from her finger, and decides to make it immortal by throwing it in the fire each night to burn away its mortality. While this is going on, she assumes the form of a swallow and flies around the pillar, twittering mournfully. One night the queen comes in on this scene and discovers her baby has been thrown in the fire and the nursemaid has become a twittering bird. Needless to say, she gets a little excited and screams. Isis immediately morphs back into herself, saves the baby, explains what she was doing, and asks the king if she can have the pillar. “Of course,” he says. (My thought is that he wanted to get the baby-burning goddess out of his life as quickly as possible.)
Isis gets a barge, loads the sarcophagus and heads home. Feeling lonely on the way, she opens the coffin, finds a quite dead Osiris, and climbs on in what seems to be a bit of Necrofilia. I’m not sure how it works, but she becomes pregnant (god thing again). Another version, which I like better, has her turning back into a swallow, flying over the coffin and being impregnated by magic. Immaculate conception is a common theme of Egyptian mythology. One myth I came across has the sphinx being born as the son of the lion goddess Sekhmeth after she is impregnated by a moonbeam from the Moon God. Explain that one to your husband. The Ankh, Egypt’s well known symbol of life and immortality, is also problematic when it comes to immaculate conceptions as well.
Back home in Egypt, Seth has assumed the throne and will not be glad to have Osiris back, dead or alive. So Isis heads into a papyrus swamp where she hides out and gives birth to Osiris’s second son, Horus. Nephthys has already give birth to his first son, Anubis.
All goes well until Seth follows a boar he is hunting into the papyrus swamp and finds the dead Osiris. Infuriated, he tears Osiris into 15 pieces and scatters them throughout Egypt. Once again, poor Isis sets out to get her dead husband back. Anubis, who is a Jackal in his animal form, and Nephthys help in the search. They can only find 14 pieces. Osiris is missing his genitals. A fish has eaten them.
They stitch Osiris back together with the parts they have and Anubis embalms Osiris, turning him into a mummy. Meanwhile, Horus grows up and goes to war with Seth to avenge his father. In a horrendous battle, Horus loses one of his eyes while Seth loses a testicle. Not quite reciprocal justice (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth), but close. Seth also loses the battle, however. Horus takes the throne and order is restored to Egypt while Seth is banned to the desert. Horus’s eye is magically restored and comes to symbolize making things whole and healing. It even brings life back to Osiris, who becomes god of the underworld.
Given that 2,000 buffalo roam on the outskirts of Custer City, South Dakota, it’s not surprising that the town has a buffalo fixation. We found one on every corner!
Over the past several years, Peggy and I have been in a number of communities that feature sculptures of animals. Several have been buffalo, but we have also seen bears, cows, horses, elk, and sandhill cranes. I’ve little doubt that other communities feature dogs, cats, pigs and rhinos. Rhinos? Apparently you can find a hundred of them in Cape Town, South Africa. We love the unique, colorful, sculptures. Like murals, they are attractive to locals and visitors alike, and encourage both community pride and tourism.
Next Monday’s post will feature the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis plus the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis near Cairo.
On Monday, Peggy and I flew from Seattle, Washington to Sacramento California. It was cloudy through Washington and Northern Oregon, which was hardly a surprise given the weather in the West this year. In mid-Oregon, however, the clouds suddenly parted. We enjoyed great views of the Three Sister volcanoes and the iconic Crater Lake.
As we crossed into California, I told Peggy to hold her breath. Mt. Shasta was coming. We would be flying to the East of it. We didn’t have a clue what the weather would be like. Shasta could be cloud covered, partially covered, or totally clear. What we got was a rare treat, a lenticular cloud was perched on top of the mountain. While Peggy oohed and awed, I grabbed my camera to snap a few photos.
I love Mt. Shasta. It’s one of the most beautiful volcanic mountains in the world. I’ve been driving by it for decades as I made my way from California to Oregon and back. I even climbed the mountain in 1979 with my 75 year old friend, Orvis Agee, who’d been up it so many times that he was known affectionately as ‘The Old Man of the Mountain.’ For my own 75th birthday in 2018, I had spent two weeks of my 750 mile backpack trek down the PCT enjoying spectacular views of the mountain as I made my way south from Mt. Ashland to Burney Falls.
It was my intention to slap up a quick post on our Monday fly-over but we were in Sacramento for a personal and sad reason. Peggy’s sister, Jane Hagedorn, and my friend of 50 years had unexpectedly passed away. We had come in from Virginia to attend a celebration of life memorial and help her children for a couple of weeks as they sort though things and prepare for the memorial. So, I put the post off. I actually forgot it.
Until Saturday. I was reading a blog I follow by Bubba Suess, hikemtshasta.com, and he had photographed the same lenticular cloud and others from the ground. I suggest you jump over to his web site and click on his blog at the top. He had photos from both Sunday and Monday. They are amazing, especially the flying saucer lenticular cloud! They inspired me to put up my photos as well.
Jane drove up to see us several times while Peggy and I were living in Oregon, sometimes with her husband, Jim, and sometimes by herself. She considered our home and property as a retreat. Along the way, she would pass by Mt. Shasta. She shared our awe of the mountain’s beauty. She was a faithful follower of my blog and I know she would love this post on Shasta. This one’s for her.
My post on the buffalo sculptures of Custer City, South Dakota that I was going to run today will be posted next Monday. My post on the history and mythology of Egypt will be on the following Monday.
The Black Forest is legendary, a land of dark fantasy. The Brothers Grimm reportedly based their fairy tales on the region. We found beauty and humor instead.
We are wrapping up our Rhine River series today with a trip into Germany’s Black Forest. Our riverboat journey up the Rhine with Uniworld Boutique was special, no doubt about it. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. Given that we took our daughter’s family and son’s family (which included their five kids) along, Uniworld’s Generation Cruise was particularly appropriate. Riverboat trips can be expensive, however. One can also travel through the Rhine River Valley by car, bus or train. An advantage here would be having more time to stop and enjoy the scenery, towns and castles. All photos on this blog are taken by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.
The Black Forest is world-famous for its cuckoo clocks and our trip into the Black Forest included a visit to one of its most famous shops, The House of Clocks. There are photos, of course, bur first I have two related Black Forest cuckoo clock stories that took place decades before our riverboat trip up the Rhine. One is my son-in-law Clay’s; the other is mine.
Clay’s is the most relevant. He had actually visited the House of Clocks when he was a child in the 80s. His dad was in the army and stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. Even more to the point, his dad and grandfather bought clocks from Adolph Herr, the owner of the House of Clocks, when he brought grandfather clocks to a Christmas Market that was held on Abram’s Army Base in Frankfort. As we headed into the Black Forest, Clay was on a mission to buy his own cuckoo clock from the House of Clocks and Adolph Herr.
My cuckoo clock story goes all the way back to1951when I was in the third grade. My town was so small that the grade school only had five rooms. My introduction to it hadn’t been great. First grade took me two tries. I was kicked out the first time. My mother had altered my birth certificate to get me in early. She was eager to get me out of the house. Obviously. The teacher had been teaching for decades and knew first graders, however. She became suspicious and mailed off to Oregon for my birth certificate. I was sent home. I was happy with the reprieve. My mother— not so much. The following September I became an official first grader. It was a tough year. Mrs. Young, the teacher, had decided that Marge Mekemson’s kid was a wild child in need of taming. She was right, but I’ve never done taming well.
The second grade went much better. Second and third graders shared a room and had the same teacher for two years. I lucked out. My second grade teacher, Ruth Jones, was my godmother. She was required to like me. And did. My attitude about teachers and school took an abrupt turn. I began to enjoy school, and, I confess, even became something of a ‘teacher’s pet.’ Miss Jones was married and became Mrs. Hall the summer between my second and third grade and went on a honeymoon to Europe. On the last day of third grade, she asked me to stay after school briefly. “I have something for you, Curt, and want you to keep the fact I gave it to you to yourself.” She was careful about showing favoritism.
The gift was a cuckoo clock she had bought for me the previous summer in Germany’s Black Forest. I had it for years. Visiting the Black Forest had been on my agenda ever since.
Grimms’ Fairy Tales are said to have been based on Germany’s Black Forest, so one way to think of the area is as a dark place filled with terrifying beasties. Well, we did run into two beasties and some of the trees were dark in appearance, but our overall impression was of a bucolic, scenic area. Our lunch stop included time to wander around in the woods for a time.
We got to spend a lot of ‘up-close’ time with buffalo and donkeys at Custer State Park in Western South Dakota. We didn’t have a choice. They blocked the road.
I’m sure you have noticed. Peggy and I have been alternating our Monday posts between our US travel and overseas travel. The US posts tend to focus on nature while our overseas posts usually focus on culture and history. These are only guidelines, however, as Captain Jack Sparrow might note, not hard and fast rules. Today’s post is on the buffalo and donkeys of Custer State Park in western South Dakota. Next Monday we will visit the Black Forest of Germany. All photos in today’s post are taken by either Peggy or me.
Western South Dakota is truly worth visiting. Peggy and I checked out Badlands National Park, Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park, Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research with its great collection of dinosaur bones on our trip through there last fall. We also slipped a few miles across the border into Wyoming to visit Devil’s Tower. We’ve already done posts on the Badlands and Devil’s Tower. Including today, we have six more posts on the area, which reflects how interesting we found it.
Would you like to have your own buffalo? How big is your backyard? I’m serious. The annual buffalo roundup was taking place at Custer State Park while we were there. The maximum number of buffalo the park can hold is limited to around 1500 given how much land the animals need for grazing. All of them, except the large bulls, are rounded up and herded into corrals where they are sorted according to sex, size, age, health, etc. Enough are then sold off to keep the herd healthy. You can buy one. Bring your truck. The whole roundup is a big deal. Cowboys from all over the West (and probably beyond) volunteer to help. But first, they have to apply and prove they have the necessary skills. There’s a long waiting list. We were going to go until I learned that some 20,000 people would be there. We’d have to show up three hours early and could be expected to be stuck in traffic for at least an hour afterward. We watched the video instead.
This brings us to the donkeys. I like them. Next to dogs and cats, they are my favorite domesticated animal. We even have one. He travels with us…
The past 12 months of our travel could have been called the Year of the Donkey. They were everywhere it seemed— certainly in the remote lands of the West where they roam wild. Theirs ancestors served as pack animals for hopeful gold miners. We also saw lots of them in Egypt where they have worked for thousands of years pulling carts, serving as pack animals, and even providing transportation. They still do. We even discovered one in Germany’s Black Forest, as you will see in next Monday’s post.
They were waiting for us in Custer State Park, They knew where the tourists would be stopping to let the buffalo pass. But unlike the buffalo, whose intention, I noted, was to get across the road, they held drivers hostage.
That’s it for today. Next week it’s on to the Black Forest of Germany and the wrap-up for our Rhine cruise.