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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Freedom Tour -- Days 27, 28 and 29

The Pine Ridge Reservation in southwest South Dakota near the Nebraska border is the site of several historic conflicts, most notably at Wounded Knee in 1890 when the U.S. Army's Seventh Cavalry massacred Chief Big Foot's band of Sioux; and in 1973 when local Oglala Sioux and members of the more urban American Indian Movement (AIM) occupied Wounded Knee in a 71-day standoff with FBI agents and U.S. Marshals that left two people dead, one person missing to this day and several injured.

On Sunday, June 26, I made my way from Chadron, Nebraska, to the Pine Ridge Reservation.
Some signs, including the one below, are in two languages -- Oglala Sioux and English.

I wondered if there are local radio stations so I pushed the AM button on my car radio. There were a couple of country music stations and a rock station. Then I pushed the FM button and found KILI, a station that was playing traditional Sioux music with ritual chants and drumming, as well as modern Sioux music and some interviews. It lent itself beautifully to my experience as I drove through the reservation. (I'm streaming KILI as I write this.)

You have to truly intend to go to Wounded Knee; it's not a place you just happen to stumble upon. It is hours away from any freeways. I became quite nervous a couple of times because there were long stretches on the Pine Ridge Reservation when I had no service on my phone and the GPS signal was lost -- in the middle of nowhere.
I finally arrived and at first was surprised (not so pleasantly) that there is not much to see at Wounded Knee. There is this big sign that explains what happened as well as some Oglala Sioux artisans selling their wares from a couple of shade structures. (Click on the photo of the sign to see the text more clearly.)

On top of a hill across the road there is a cemetery. I asked one of the artisans about it, since there was no signage and I didn't know what it was, and he said it is private property and that I could drive on up. He said that since the cemetery is on land not owned by the Oglala Sioux nation, they have no control over it and no permissions to tend to it.

In addition to individual 20th century graves, there is a monument at the site of the mass grave of about 150 of the more than 300 Sioux killed during the massacre at Wounded Knee.
At first I was dismayed that the cemetery is not well maintained at all and the entire Wounded Knee area is very sparse when it comes to signage and education. But after I stood there for a few moments on top of that hill, taking it all in, I had a complete change of heart.

I swear I could hear the cries of the 300 innocent and unarmed Sioux men, women, children and elders in the wind that whipped around the hillside. I looked out at the fields below and imagined the horror they suffered at the hands of the U.S. Army's Seventh Cavalry. 

I got weepy as I read the names on the monument of the known victims who were massacred and then tossed into the mass grave by members of the Seventh Cavalry. (Click on the photo to see the names better.)

I felt like an intruder as I watched a young Oglala Sioux man walk into the cemetery, tie a bright yellow prayer cloth to the fence and then stand with his face toward the sky and his eyes closed. I chose not to take a photo of this intimate moment. I simply turned away in the opposite direction to leave him in peace. There are many prayer cloths on the fence, and many offerings (my term -- I'm not sure what they are) at the foot of the monument.

A couple of years ago I read "The Heart of Everything That Is," the best-selling biography of the Sioux chief Red Cloud who organized resistance to white expansion into his people's territory and later traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for Native American rights. He died on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1909 when he was 88. His grave is at this same cemetery.
Red Cloud is the man in the photo at the top of this post. The photo is courtesy of South Dakota State University.

As I left the cemetery, my heart was filled with sadness over what took place at Wounded Knee in 1890 and the very hard lives experienced even today -- 126 years later -- by the people of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

This sign is about a half mile down the road:
The next day I drove to Mt. Rushmore, which I had always wanted to see. It was spectacular! It was carved over the course of 14 years, from 1927 to 1941.
After leaving the main plaza area, where I spent about an hour, I began driving down the curving mountain road and came upon George Washington peeking out in profile:

Then I drove to the Crazy Horse monument, a work in progress. As I got closer to the mountain, the better I could make out his face.

Resisting efforts to force the Sioux people onto reservations, Crazy Horse was a fierce warrior, chief and strategist who fought alongside Sitting Bull and others in the so-called Indian Wars and was instrumental in the defeat of Col. George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

At the visitors center there is a sculpture of what the Crazy Horse memorial will look like when it is completed. It is positioned perfectly for photo-taking:

Then it was on to Custer State Park, where buffalo (bison) roam freely. I was hoping to get a glimpse of some. I was not disappointed! The ones at this meadow were very close to the road, just minding their own business.

Apparently this is not always the case!

I visited plenty of other places and had additional adventures over the last three days, but I'll leave it here for now. This blog post is getting too long-winded, I think!

Final thoughts about the last three days:

When I was in school in the '50s and '60s, Wounded Knee was portrayed in history books as a battle. It was the cavalry vs. the Indians and it was every man for himself. More than a century following what we now know was an all-out massacre, history books -- what little they include about Native American history these days -- are being corrected. 

Many times over the past few years I have heard talk about adding a face to Mt. Rushmore, with suggestions of everyone from President Barack Obama to Susan B. Anthony to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I think this is a terrible idea. 

Imagine hiring an artist to add a second person to Rodin's "The Thinker," a third person to Grant Wood's "American Gothic"  or additional people to Rembrandt's "The Night Watch."

Doane Robinson was the state historian for South Dakota whose vision was for four faces -- all of them U.S. presidents -- because George Washington was the first president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson because he crafted the Declaration of Independence, Theodore Roosevelt because he was the first to extend conservation protections to federal open space and Abraham Lincoln because he preserved the Union and abolished slavery. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his team brought Robinson's vision to life. 

I'm loving my Freedom Tour!

The historical photos of Red Cloud and the mass burial of massacred victims at Wounded Knee are courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Freedom Tour -- Day 26

In the middle of nowhere, along one of those two-lane highways I've been traveling lately, I saw this painted building as I was passing tiny little Lewellen, Nebraska. So I had to turn around and see what this was all about.

Ordinarily, small towns in the middle of nowhere on the Nebraska prairie are quaint looking with historic downtowns like this one (Gothenburg):

But Lewellen, population 224 and the only town within 50 miles, looked comparatively hip to me. The Most Unlikely Place, for sure.

That third building from the right above, with the white triangular roof, is what all the fuss is about.

Here it is from the front:

Housed in a former silent movie theater with an interesting history, The Most Unlikely Place has occupied the space since 2009 with a family-owned art gallery and bistro complete with live music and servers on roller skates!

What's even more unlikely is that this wonderful establishment is in a town where Main Street is the only paved street! All the other streets are dirt. Here's what I saw when I turned the corner to leave Lewellen: tidy residential neighborhoods with unpaved streets.

Lewellen even has a winery. (It's odd that the Wikipedia photo of Main Street in Lewellen is on the opposite side of the street from all the colorful interest.)

I got back on that two-laned highway and headed northwest. An hour later, way out on the prairie a few miles from Bridgeport, I passed a sign that said "Historical Marker" with an arrow, so I followed it to what I learned were two of the most important guiding landmarks for pioneers traveling westward along the Oregon TrailCourthouse and Jail Rocks.

And who knew that rocks were eligible for the National Register of Historic Places?

It's hard for many in the 21st century to imagine the hopes and hardships experienced by thousands of people in the 19th century who ventured west along the Oregon Trail in wagons. They left civilization behind to find new and better lives for themselves and their families, facing physical threats, severe weather, Indian attacks, rugged terrain and other perils all along the way.

I ended yesterday's adventure safe and sound in a hotel room in Chadron, Nebraska.

Final thoughts about yesterday:

The owners of The Most Unlikely Place, three siblings, took a big risk that paid off in a tiny town. One of the primary reasons 50 percent of small businesses fail within the first five years is that they have neither a business plan nor a marketing plan. These sibling-owners obviously have their plans and goals and visions in place and are succeeding with gusto!

When I was growing up, our parents drove my three siblings and me from San Diego up to Knott's Berry Farm a few times before it ever became a big-time amusement park. It was a wonderful place for this child of the '50s and '60s who loved history. One of my favorite attractions there was the Wagon Train Panorama, a museum with artifacts associated with pioneers coming west to California. I'll never forget the special display in a giant diorama of sorts showing what such a wagon train would have looked like on the prairie along some unnamed trail, and there was a very dramatic (to me, anyway) audio recording of what a family's conversation might have been along the way. At the end, a little girl's voice said, "Mommy, I'm thirsty" and her mother said the only water left had to be saved for the horses. That has stuck with me always.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my blog post about what I did today.

I'm loving my Freedom Tour!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Freedom Tour -- Day 25

Yesterday (Friday), after spending four make-'em-count days with family in Northwest Arkansas and Wichita, Kansas, I drove six and a half hours from Wichita to Ogallala, Nebraska. The roads were mostly two-lane highways through the Kansas plains and Nebraska prairie, with very few other cars in sight...and cornfields as far as the eye can see:

Since I haven't done a Freedom Tour blog post since last Sunday (June 19), allow me to back up a few days. After I arrived in Bella Vista, Arkansas, in the spectacular Ozark Mountains on Sunday evening to visit with my sister Charlou, brother-in-law Bill, cousin Bonnie, cousin Judy and her husband Ken, it was nice to just relax for three full days. 

While it's great to be on the road, relaxation with loved ones is a necessity from time to time.

I don't have any photos of family to share -- just Lake Avalon, where my sister's home is in Bella Vista. The top photo was shot from the upstairs deck and the bottom from the ground-level hammock (thank you, Matt).

Then on Thursday morning I drove about four hours to Wichita, Kansas, to spend the afternoon, evening and the next morning with my cousin Alice who lives in this lovely, spacious home in the historic Riverside neighborhood.

After a leisurely breakfast out, we parted ways (sob) and I hit the road again, which catches you up to yesterday!

I just realized I never snapped a photo of Alice. Here she is (I can't take credit for this one):

On that long drive yesterday to Ogallala, Nebraska, the two-lane highway went through a number of tiny little towns.

At one point I filled my car up with gas next door to a John Deere dealership. 

Dear John Deere: You give farmers all the best toys! 

I saw a sign about a mile from Gothenburg, Nebraska, about a historic Pony Express station and museum so I had to veer off the beaten path and take a look. 

Young men were hired to deliver mail between Missouri and California in the span of only 10 days, guaranteed, which was unheard of at the time. This was before the transcontinental telegraph system was completed, so the only way to communicate was via letter, and that sometimes could take weeks if not months, especially on the isolated plains and prairies. 

The only available options were mail delivery by overland stagecoaches or by steamship routes that had to go around the tip of South America. In other words, not exactly express delivery!

Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows, 
not over 18, must be expert riders, 
willing to risk death daily. 
Orphans preferred.

So a relay system was developed that was nearly 2,000 miles long with 190 stations, most of them in Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. Each Pony Express rider raced about 75 miles on horseback, then handed the saddlebag with mail pouches to another waiting rider with a fresh horse. And so on and so on. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody was one of the riders. 

Pony Express only lasted from spring 1860 to autumn 1861 but it remains a legendary chapter in American history.

This historic Pony Express station on the Oregon Trail was moved 25 miles from its original site on the prairie near the Platte River to Gothenburg's Ehmen Park in 1931 after the property owner donated it to the city. Like other stations, this one included sleeping quarters, a corral, food for riders and horses, as well as someone to run the station. 

An iconic image of a Pony Express rider and his galloping horse. 
Inside, which is now a museum, there are many Pony Express artifacts. 

Click here for more info about this station as well as a video about the Pony Express.

Final thoughts about yesterday:

I remember learning about the Pony Express when I was in elementary school. Back then, history was brought to life by exciting stories relayed by great teachers that left me hankering for more. I've been a student of history ever since.

Visiting the Pony Express station was a fascinating and educational break in the day that also gave me an opportunity to stretch my legs in the fresh air by walking around the park.

There doesn't seem to be much to write home about in Ogallala, Nebraska, where I spent the night last night, with the exception of the Prairie Theater that shows first-run films, which is unusual for such a small town in the middle of nowhere (on the marquis it reads "Independence Day" and "Finding Dory"). . .

. . .and a replica of an Old West town that features a short stretch of ersatz shopfronts.

You'll have to wait for tomorrow's blog post to see what I did today.

I'm loving my Freedom Tour!

Pony Express route map courtesy of Mike Reagan.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Looking for Something to Do? Free Events June 25 to July 1

Here are events scheduled Saturday, June 25, to Friday, July 1.

All events are free, so take a look -- and don't you dare say there's nothing to do in Pasadena!
Activities for Pasadena Public Library's Read for the Win! Summer Reading Club include the following (and much more!):

  • For all ages: Read for the Win! will kick off with an old-fashioned singalong led by Theatre Americana Saturday, June 25, at 3 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library.
  • For children 12 and younger: Games Master Dave will run wacky games with unique twists that make them extra fun Thursday, June 30, at 4 p.m. at Hastings Branch Library,.
  • For teens 19 and younger: Enjoy an evening of board games, video games and pizza Thursday, June 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Central Library's Studio on 4th. Sign up by emailing jgov@cityofpasadena,net or calling 626-744-4246.
  • For adults: The documentary "Belly Dance: A History and an Art" will be shown Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library, followed by a belly dancing class!
  • Download Pasadena Public Library's newsletter for a full list of summer activities.
The Pasadena Master Chorale will perform "Listening to the Future," an original work by student composers, Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m. at Neighborhood Church. Stay for a post-concert reception and end-of-season celebration.

The South Lake Avenue Business District presents "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015, PG-13) starring Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher Saturday, June 25, at 8 p.m. on the roof of the parking structure at 55 S. Lake Ave. Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat has arisen and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop it. While the event is free, you must have a ticket. Bring a beach chair and arrive as early as 6 p.m. for DJ music. Bring a picnic or purchase dinner at the event.

Come see what remarkable athletes are made of! With more than 30 competitive events from archery to volleyball, the California Senior Games Championships are ongoing through Sunday, June 26. Go to a venue near you and cheer on these fierce competitors!

What is the human future of space? Will humans settle other worlds? Dr. Louis D. Friedman, former leader of JPL's advanced planetary studies, cofounder of The Planetary Society and advisor to Breakthrough Starshot, will discuss the future of deep space travel during a presentation titled "Human Spaceflight: From Mars to the Stars" Monday, June 27, at 1 p.m. at the Pasadena Senior Center. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.

The Los Angeles Children's Chorus will present a special send-off concert Tuesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. at Pasadena Presbyterian Church before embarking on a tour of the east coast and Japan in conjunction with LACC's 30th anniversary.  

Flutist Ruth Kasckow will perform Wednesday, June 29, from 12:10 to 12:40 p.m. for the popular Music at Noon recital series at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. 

"Sister Kenny" (1946, PG-13) starring Rosalind Russell and Dean Jagger will be shown Wednesday, June 29, at 1 p.m. in the Donald R. Wright Auditorium at Central Library. A nurse in the Australian bush discovers an effective treatment for polio but can't get official recognition or sanction and is ridiculed for her techniques and theories. Based on a true story.

Tim and the Space Cadets will perform music for children and families Thursday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at the Levitt Pavilion. Bring a picnic or purchase dinner at the park. A pre-concert festival will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Admission to the Pasadena Museum of California Art is free the first Friday (and third Thursday) of every month. On Friday, July 1, from noon to 5 p.m. see the current exhibitions and everything else the museum has to offer.

"45 Years" (2015, R) starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay will be shown Friday, July 1, at 1 p.m. in the Scott Pavilion at the Pasadena Senior Center. A couple planning their wedding anniversary receives shattering news that promises to change the course of their lives forever. You do not have to be a member of the Pasadena Senior Center to attend.

Free Admission Night at the Norton Simon Museum is the first Friday of every month, On Friday, July 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. enjoy the current exhibitions and everything else the museum has to offer.

Jai Uttal will perform world fusion music Friday, July 1, at 8 p.m. at the Levitt Pavilion. Bring a picnic or purchase dinner at the park. A pre-concert festival will begin at 6:30 p.m.


Old Pasadena Summer Cinema will present films from July 8 to 30 at indoor and outdoor locations throughout the district.

Photo credits: iStock, Pasadena Master Chorale, Lucasfilm, Pasadena Senior Center, NASA, Los Angeles Children's Chorus, Ruth Kasckow, RKO Radio Pictures, Tim Kubart, Pasadena Museum o California Art, BFI Film Fund, Norton Simon Museum, Jai Uttal.