We spent Labor Day weekend at daughter Anita’s in Custer, S.D. I spent the first half of three days (before it got too hot) thinning their ponderosa pine grove of small- to medium-size trees. Dan wanted them thinned due to pine beetles which are attacking trees all over the west. He says the beetles don’t kill as many trees if they are thinned enough that their branches don’t touch each other. In all, I cut about 100 trees and sawed them into short enough lengths that Dan could handle them. He hopes to give the wood away, rather than let it rot.
Afternoons we did some sightseeing in the local area. Saturday afternoon, we hiked a mile to a place called Roughlock Falls, an easy hike for the kids (Sierra-4, and Bryce-2). They are really slow hikers because they have to stop and sample every edible berry and pick samples of most of the low-hanging leaves. Hence the hike took all afternoon. While we were at the Falls, I managed to break my new digital camera! I had given it to Anita to get a photo of Mona and I with the Falls in the background, but another couple was standing at the railing where the best view was, seemingly oblivious to other people wanting to take pics. I decided to take the camera from Anita and get another shot of the Falls while we waited for those people to move. I took hold of the camera, not realizing Anita had the strap around her wrist, started to pick it up, and it fell to the boardwalk when it slipped out of my hand. I hate it when that happens!
Next afternoon we drove to Hot Springs, S.D., where there is a place called “The Mammoth Site,” where dozens of fossilized mammoth skeletons are being unearthed. This is the site of an ancient sinkhole that filled up with warm water and where an unknown number of mammoths fell into the hole and died over a period of thousands of years. Our site interpreter said that this is the only site in the U.S. and probably the world where two species of mammoth fossils are found together: wooly and Columbian mammoths. We were told that there is an additional 60 feet of as yet unearthed sinkhole below the currently visible fossils, where they expect to find many more such specimens. The site is now enclosed in a very large building, and research is continuing on a daily basis.
If you ever come to the Black Hills to see famous Mount Rushmore’s presidential faces, be sure to explore adjacent Custer State Park. This is a large park with a free roaming herd of buffalo, and more spectacularly, a large area of spectacular granite peaks and spindly looking spires called “Cathedral Spires.”
Labor Day afternoon Dan, Anita, the kids and I hiked a short trail among the spires while Mona stayed in the truck at the trail head and read. While there, several people stopped and talked to her; among them was a woman, Gretchen, who said she was from Albany Twp., Maine! Small world!
Before we left Custer, I took Mona to the local medical clinic, where she was prescribed an antibiotic for an infection. By the time we reached Helena, Mont., where we visited Martha Grover, Mona was experiencing chills and sundry aches and pains. We found the local hospital ER, where, after blood analysis, a doctor said he thought she was suffering a reaction to the previously mentioned antibiotic. She was to quit taking the antibiotic and see if she wasn’t feeling better after 3 or 4 days (She was!).
As a result of Mona’s illness, I decided to cut short our trip and begin our journey homeward. While we were there, Martha showed us around the large facility where she is displaying some of her ceramic creations in a large gallery, while also teaching several classes both there and at the local college and also where she continues creating new pieces. Her work is largely inspired by the various shapes and petals found in orchid flowers. She uses orchid shapes and colors very creatively.