Tuesday, September 20, 2022

A unique family adventure to North Dakota

We went on a little explore into North Dakota today, sort of a family outing with our two sons before they head back home.  We saw a little of America few see, one was a rather diminutive waterfall. Mineral Springs Waterfall as it turns out, IS the largest within the State of North Dakota.  To be fair, it does not look like much, but the two and a half mile walk into it was pleasant and worth the adventure.  Who knew? 

The Sheyenne River valley is a cool place. The look of fall is in the air...

We then went to Ft Ransom, and looked for the many archeology oddities found nearby.  Pyramid Hill, a mound of conflicting origin, overlooking the Sheyenne River, much like Pilot Mound overlooks the end of the Pembina River to the rest almost straight north in Manitoba.  I have my theories but that is beyond this blog.

The Black Viking sits on top, a rather recent addition to an ancient mound.  It all started when Snorri and Bjarne--Snorri Thorfinnson and Bjarne Ness, two old cronies in Fort Ransom--decided they would put their little town on the map with a Viking monument. They were inspired both by Snorri’s discovery of Norse mooring stones along the Sheyenne River and by the example of Elmer Peterson of Jamestown College, whose World’s Largest Buffalo not only put Jimtown on the map but also lured Republican hopeful Nelson A. Rockefeller out for the dedication in 1960. Snorri and Bjarne started sculpting classes with Professor Peterson, the master of concrete, and planned to fashion the great Viking themselves. They wanted to place it atop the conical hill overlooking town from the south, an elevation Snorri thought surely was an Indian burial mound. That was when the dream began to unravel, for Bjarne got cancer, and died, and Snorri’s enthusiasm flagged.

Somehow, then, as the story goes, a Vietnam veteran named Bill Woell, down and out and living in a tipi, made connections with Snorri and other men of the Fort Ransom Commercial Club, and he offered to sculpt them a Viking.  He did the work in a farm building down by Leonard, fashioning the figure of pipe, steel mesh, and a sort of burlap-mache.  One afternoon in the early 1970s, a helicopter lowered the Black Viking into place.

It was not exactly what the Nordic stalwarts of Fort Ransom had in mind.  The Black Viking was downright demonic. He was, of course, black, and way too slender to be stolid. His spear was like a trident, his horned helmet like horns, and his eyes, they glared vacantly. “We wanted a Viking,” a local woman observed, “but not that kind.” The subsequent physical deterioration of the Black Viking testifies to the not-so-benign neglect by the community for a stunning piece of outsider art.  They now have a turn out and a sign below him.

We could not locate the mooring stone or the Writing Rock, sigh, a missed opportunity

We also went past the Scenic Theater in Lisbon ND, the oldest continuously operated movie theater in the United States.  It began operating in 1911.  "Where the Crawdads sing" is currently playing, should anyone get up this way.  It is a one of a kind place worth visiting.

Standing Rock is a rather odd deal.  What a piece of obsidianish stone is doing on this high overlook is not natural. There is a lot of money placed on it, for reasons I can only guess.  It is at an extensive 15000 year old burial mound complex (a mound is behind my son), this is about 8 miles north of the Pyramid Mound.  Who was here 15,000 years ago?  Nobody really knows.  Some speculate but they do not know.  

We saw the 1910 built Sargeant County courthouse in Forman, ND, to add to me nascent collection of County Courthouse photos.  The maroon trim is quite nice and considering this sits in a town of 450 people, and in a small county, its upkeep is good to see.

Plus a more recent one in Lisbon, for Ransom County, This one looks very much 1930s and upon looking it up, I was not surprised to see the building date at 1937.

I decided to not photograph birds today.  I watched but somehow felt I was intruding and could not press the shutter, the same held true for butterflies but I snapped a couple of photos anyways.  There were a few Gray Hairstreaks about.

and so diminutive Dainty Yellow butterflies hanging on in the rapidly browning of fall

Saw some western plains garter snake subspecies of the common garter snake, many were out on the roads

I also saw a smooth green snake as well, but could not get it photographed
Our picnic would have been better had not someone forgot to pack the bread

It was a good outing to the north, might be the last for a while, Allwin middle is leaving for the Max Planck Institute in Germany in two weeks and Tyko, is heading back in a couple of days to Chicago to complete his medical studies.  It has been a wonderful  idyll home with our boys.

Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...