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Monday, November 25, 2013

courage

  Chapter 1:  Courage

Norman, "before I go out, I have to tell you that I’m frightened about going on the mountain this year.”

His left eyelid flicked almost unnoticeably and he said gruffly, “Brother, you know that courage is one of the seven virtues.”  

Maybe he was gruff, but then Norman often just sounded a little crotchety.  He was sitting comfortably on the ground, cross-legged,  facing the teepee door.  I stood hesitantly at the door. The smoke from the prayer pipe he had just accepted from me mixed with the heavier smoke from the small wood fire burning between us.

Ranger, sitting at Norman’s right side had the job of serving as witness for the vows being given by all of the fasters today.  My words had made Ranger a bit uncomfortable.  He looked into the fire and appeared not to notice my admission, nor or Norm’s response. Ranger looked mildly embarrassed at my mention of fear; he shifted around a bit on his haunches.  But, he said nothing and had that distant, absent look that said he was no longer attending.  Ranger was no longer there as witness. 

I felt a little foolish, a 60 year old white guy who had started on the Red Road of the Lakota Sioux some five years before.  I felt that Norman wasn’t taking my concerns seriously, responding automatically as one might to a child.  We had all known each other for those years and shared a number of trying circumstances with perseverance and proper Sioux detachment.

A little testy myself, I replied,“Courage would be unnecessary without fear.”  My thought was  that the notion of courage wouldn’t even make sense without fear,  but phrased the reply more indirectly partly out of respect for the seriousness of the situation and partly to avoid the implied jab at the traditions and at Norman.  Sioux do not take vows to Wakan Tanka lightly.

I had just made the four ceremonial presentations of the pipe I carry; Norman had refused three times and then accepted the fourth offering.  We smoked the pipe, and thereby released to the Creator the prayers I had placed in the pipe when loading it.  Norm mentioned that this was the fourth year he had placed me “on the mountain” for  Hamblecheya, the annual purification rite of the “vision quest.”  This fast was in preparation for Wiwanyag Wachipi (sundance) to be held near Poplar, Montana. That dance began on Summer Solstice each year on the Fort Peck reservation in Montana.  

Norman moved back to business with his asking of the traditional question, “Brother, what is your vow?”  

I had given the proper ritual response, “To offer myself on the mountain for the next four days.”  Norm grunted approval.  Ranger  looked pensive; he tuned back in now that we had returned to a proper ceremonial exchange.  He logged my pledge into his memory.

Norman looked puzzled at first.  No one had ever told him that you couldn’t have courage without having fear.  Then he looked thoughtful; it was clear that he took the observation seriously and was working to move our exchange back to the business at hand.  Others were waiting to present tobacco to him and make their vows to the creator.  We all needed to get to the sweat lodge and then move out to be placed in the locations where each of us would fast for the duration. 

“Oh brother,” Norman offered, “we all have our fears.  Some of us are afraid of dark or animals, or of being alone.”

I was a little annoyed, partly at myself for having ever entered the Sioux world of “suffering for the people,” but also at Norm’s assumptions about my fears.  His words spoke to children’s fears and I do not have these.

A little gruff now myself, I replied, “I’m not afraid of dark and I usually enjoy being alone.  Although I have great respect for the strength of many animals, I have no fear that they will come into my vision quest alter and harm or eat me.  Well actually, I do have great fear of polar bears.  I always carried a .44 on my walks one January when I was in polar bear country.  They are land sharks." 

Norm grunted softly, “ah ho,” which usually meant agreement.  I took this to mean that he shared my view of polar bears.

“Polar bears are the only animals that actively hunt humans systematically,” I went on, “but we are in the mountains of southern British Columbia and there are no polar bears here, so that is not my fear.”

Norm waited, and although Ranger had concluded hi job as witness, he looked a little more interested in the turn in the conversation.

Norman, I’m afraid of the cold.  I grew up in Texas and we didn’t really experience cold.  In fact we only had the one word for it.  Unlike more northern people, we didn’t use words like cool, brisk, or bracing as they lead up to the real thing - cold.”

  “When I moved to the Northwest 25 years ago, I had two choices my first real winter.  I could crouch for three months in my house, car and office; or, I could learn to live outside in the cold.”

“So, I learned about winter survival.  Stay dry and warm.  If you should by some accident get wet, build a large fire, strip naked and dry out before proceeding.  Wear light layers of polypropylene, wool, down and Goretex.  Don’t sweat!  Avoid this by removing layers of clothing to your pack when you are warm and add some of these back when you begin to feel chill.  Sleep in dry down or some approximation to that.  Always have cap and gloves handy.  And, an extra pair of dry socks.  Stay hydrated.  Load your body with fats and carbs before you start out.  Carry emergency food – a stash of candy, nuts, fry bread, and other good concentrated calorie reserves.  Eat these regularly if you will be out for a day or so.  Have the ability to make a fire – for emergencies and to make your camp or bivouac more comfortable over night – even with wet frozen wood.”

Both Ranger and Norm looked interested, but as if they wondered exactly where this little outburst of mine was going.  I took the hint and moved directly back to my fears.

When I continued, “It snowed last night just up the mountains about 1000 feet above us,” they both nodded.  Said they had noticed that when they had walked from the community encampment to the ceremonial lodge this morning.  But then it was BC, the Canadian Rockies, and early May.  The weather could do most anything for the next month.  There was no “ah ho” this time.  The snow was there for anyone to see.  These guys grew up here and wondered just what the hell was my point.

So I went on, “I  just made a pledge which means that I’ll walk up on that mountain in nothing but gym shorts, moccasins and a blanket; and and, I'll sit up there in a ceremonial space 6 feet square for four days and nights.  Also, the pledge requires that I will have no food, no water for the 96 or so hours.” “Nothing by mouth” as Melvin had phrased the rule after that first Hamblecheya at Bear Butte five years ago.  He was giving me a caution and mild rebuke over my report of an unwitting rule violation – I had lain on my back with mouth open to the brief rain shower on my third day and eaten a couple of the “mosquito people” on the fourth. I had thought that if they had my blood in them, it was only justice that I should eat them.  Melvin had explained patiently that you must kill nothing on Hamblecheya.  Anything that comes into your alter space, whatever its outer form, may be the grandfathers coming to talk with you with guidance and warnings.  This contact with the spirit world was one of the prime goals of the vision quest  -- to get guidance. The spirits did not always bless the fasting seeker which is the reason that traditional speakers  sometimes translate Hamblecheya  as Crying for a vision.    Indeed, many fasters cry out for a vision during the four day ordel. 

Warming to the topic of my anticipated deprivations, I continued, “At least as bad as the food part, is that I cannot smoke cigarettes for the four days, and I am a nicotine addict.”  I realized that having to abstain from this bad habit was really a “side fear,” anxiety really, so I dropped the topic and returned to the main fear -- cold.

“If the weather is normal for this time of the year, we’re going to see rain, snow, wind, sun, mosquitoes, but most especially, (I paused) cold at night.  Around nine in the evening, a “snow wind” develops; air cooled by snow at higher elevations slides down the mountain through the vision quest sites, on down to the community encampment and to the Cold Water River.”  Again they nodded for all of this is well known.

Finally to my point, “What I’m doing over the next four days violates every winter survival rule that I have learned.  I will do it, I emphasized, because I made a pledge to do it, but it scares the shit out of me.” 

Norman winced slightly at my crudity in the sacred space of the teepee,  but finally seeing my point, he responded, “Oh brother, you carry the pipe and when you pray with it, the grandfathers will protect you.”

Really nothing else to say.  As I moved toward the door, Norman nodding forward and to his right, said “See the Grandfather at the door,”  I glanced over and for the first time, noticed the figure there, just inside the door and boldly visible against the canvas wall.  Had never seen a grandfather before.  

If I were a Christian or Muslim, my feelings at that moment would no doubt be called a “crisis of faith,”  a rather serious crisis of faith.  I was not at all certain that the prayer pipe would protect me from freezing to death, frostbite at least; nor was I certain that the Grandfathers would see over me.  I had not been reared in the Lakota path; only encountering it five years ago when I was drawn into the circle  to learn and practice the traditions.  Initially, it was probably mostly curiousity.  Came to study; stayed to pray.

Bottom line is that the vow had been given and must be fulfilled.

The extraordinary became ordinary.
Habit and ritual kicked in.

Slipped into some shorts and grabbed a towel for the purifying sweatlodge.  Hoisted the duffel bag with ceremonial items I would need  -- star blanket, tobacco flags and ties, abolone shell, spiritual offerings. Locked the truck and proceeded to Sweat Lodge.

The whole community joined in the lodge.  Afterwards, I dryed, changed to a breach clout (my only clothes) and took up the Star Blanket (my only covering from the cold).

The "Quest" went normally if there is such a thing.  Cold nights, hot days, rain, spot of snow, mosquitoes.  Four days.  Hunger was worse the second day, but hunger goes away by the third day and is not really notieable by the fourth.  I really missed cigarettes, but the rule is, "Nothing by mouth."  But I missed water much more intensely. Thirst grew over the first day and night.  By the second day dehydration was serious.  The third day without water was a genuine ordeal -- I considered giving up, cutting and running.  But I could not.  The vow had been given and must be honored -- else I would have no honor among  the Sioux.

Water.  On the fourth day my mouth was so dry my toungue stuck to the roof of my mouth.  I could not talk, there was no saliva, no spit.  By this time hunger, fatigue, sleeplessness, had slipped out of focus.  All I could feel was thirst.  I waited out the final day.  Norman and helpers came for me.  We went down from the mountain, entered a sweat lodge where I was given delicious sips of water and dilute chokecherry juice to restart kidney function.  Afterwards, some bland food -- potato soup.

My vow fullfilled, I pretty much forgot about "courage" and Norm's embarrassment when I had mentioned my fears. Didn't really think about it again until the Sundance the following month.

Melvin Graybear supervised the Sundance each year near Poplar, Montana.  Those of us planning to dance that met with Melvin before the dance.  Seated on the ground in a semicircle around the sacred tree, we listened to Melvin as he gave instructions and rules for the dance that year.  It was Melvin's habit to explain Lakota ways and virtues at this time.

The virtues are straightforward -- honesty, generosity, courage, humility ....  Of course, none of the brothers are perfect, we try to follow honor virtues as we understand them and as we find strength.  Because we men are all weak sometimes, we sometimes hedge                           you know   is it really dishonest?     found/lost














***********************












With that in mind, I headed to the truck for the duffle with all the ritual/ceremonial items. Routine took over and I change to trunks for the sweat and walked down to the lodge.  Rod, one of the Kamloops brothers, was already there with towel around him over his trunks.  Also waiting were several helpers who will join us in the lodge, and afterward carry the duffel bags to each faster's altar site up the mountain.

After the sweat, Norman led a procession up the hill, each faster followed by a couple of helpers. For each in turn, Norman would set up the alter where the faster would remain for four days.  A six by six foot square was laid out with a protective boundary made of 405 tobacco ties (red, yellow, black and white).  The proper ceremonial items were positioned within the sacred space; the faster entered the alter in which he or she would remain until Norman returned four days hence. Sacred songs were sung at each site.  After all had been placed Norman led the helpers back to camp.

Alone in my alter now, I remembered that first year when before departing Norman had said, "You made a vow to remain here for four days. It was a voluntary vow between you and Wakan Tanka.  If you break that vow, I will never speak to you again because 'It is too dangerous for the people  to speak to anyone who breaks his vow'."  The first time that gave me something to think about as I lay down for my first night.  I remember thinking that the second worst  thing that could happen would be death; the worst would be to break my vow.

 Of course I learned that first year that 96 or so hours without food or water doesn't kill you. I learned that there are kinds and stages of hunger. It becomes extreme during the second day, but is easier on the third and fourth.  In my case, craving for nicotine also abated a bit by the third day -- still a pang or two when looking at the filled prayer pipe, tobacco ties and flags. Thirst by contrast gets worse over the first two days, much worse on the third, and quite accute by the fourth.  Wasichu translations of the term Hamblecha is "vision quest;" Knowlegeable people say a better translation is "crying for a vision."

Indeed, the extraordinary had become somewhat (almost) ordinary and the next four days passed. Waking, sleeping, praying, meditating, thinking, watching. Except for the slow alternation of day and night, time fades to background.  I faded in and out of sleep a number of times each day, and each night.  One just IS.

I remembered the mistakes I had made the first year.  Lying on my back in a thuderstorm with my mouth open and eating several mosquitoes.  My "white guy" reasoned , as they are prone to do, that if the creator sent the rain it was OK to let it fall in my mouth.  Also, it seemed to me that since the little flying buggers had my blood in them they were fair game.  In the sweat after the fast, Melvin Grey Bear had clarified the rules -- "nothing by mouth" -- and nothing must be killed because any being, however small or large, could be the guise of the grandfathers who had come to guide me.

Obviously, I lived through this current quest, and all of the previous ones. Late on the fourth afternoon Norman appeared with the helpers.   They disassembled my altar, packed everything in the duffle except the Star Blanket which I wore as we walked down mountain.  Other fasters and their helpers joined us as we proceeded to the sweat lodge.  "O mitake oyasen"  was said by each as they addressed the four directions and entered the lodge.  The leader was to conduct the sweat and interpret each faster's vision. He joined us in the lodge.  Using a hay fork, a fire- tender passed him red-hot rocks which he arranged with a pair of antlers in the central pit in the lodge.  After the twenty-eight rocks had been positioned in a glowing stack, the lodge "door" was pulled closed.  We prayed, addressing Tunkasila, and placing tobacco and other medicines on the glowing stones. Our first sip of water was served in the buffalo horn passed around in the lodge.  This was followed by small drinks of dilute chokecherry juice which kickstarted our kidneys.  Most of us sipped a bit, although several passed the horn on to their neighbor; and two brothers instead of drinking poured their sip of the tea on the glowing rocks  -- an offering to the grandfathers (tunkasila).  Next the horn was passed around with water and used a bit (or not) as needed.



Lodge (extraordinary ordinary) do not 







Tradition, routine, ceremony



Cold

Wet

Sunny warmer – mosquitoes



Cold



Over





4 year vow -- renew



Sun dance – not to express fear.
The afternoon before we were to participate in a feast after which we would enter the sacred arbor for the four day dance, all of the male dancers would gather to sit in a semicircle on the grass facing The Tree.  

Melvin Graybear, standing between us and The Tree would conduct an "orientation."    
(The "quotes "." are to indicate a term, as used in context,represents the same concept in both cultures.)

He began with "statistics" (e.g."152 male dancers and 83 female dancers), moved to news from 
around Indian Country, (insert here later), a report on the annual meeting of Sioux Spiritual Leaders (colloquially, "medicine men") at Pine Ridge.  He often reported here some of the comments he had heard at Pine Ridge, these directed toward Melvin's presumed "laxity" in conducting the previous year's dance.  (Four Races welcomed if they "participate fully", have gone through the proper Purifications, and presented tobacco to Melvin with their formal Vow vs. "for Full Bloods only".) (insert analysis) Graybear's dance was like a "beach party" (beach party) wooses




“Not to Express Fear”



  Chapter 1:  Courage

                                        



Norman, before I go out, I have to tell you that I’m frightened about going on the mountain this year.”



His left eyelid flicked almost unnoticeably and he said somewhat gruffly, “Brother, you know that courage is one of the seven virtues.”  Maybe it was gruff, but then Norman often just sounded a little crotchety.  He was sitting comfortably on the ground, cross-legged and facing the teepee door.  The smoke from the prayer pipe he had earlier accepted from me still hung lightly over the heavier smoke from the small wood fire   burning between us as I stood hesitantly at the door. 



Ranger, sitting at Norman’s right side had the job of serving as witness for the vows being given by all of the fasters today.  He looked into the fire and appeared not to notice my words or Norm’s response, although he did look mildly embarrassed and shifted around a bit on his haunches.  But, he said nothing and had that distant, absent look he sometimes got.  Ranger was no longer there as witness. 



I felt a little foolish, a 60 year old white guy who had started on the Red Road of the Lakota Sioux some five years before.  I felt that Norman wasn’t taking my concerns seriously, responding automatically as one might to a child.  We had all known each other for those years and shared a number of trying circumstances with perseverance and proper detachment.



A little testy myself, I replied,“Courage would be unnecessary without fear.”  My thought was  that the notion of courage wouldn’t even make sense without fear,  but phrased the reply more indirectly partly out of respect for the seriousness of the situation and partly to avoid the implied jab at the traditions and at Norman.  Sioux do not take vows to Wakan Tanka lightly.



I had just made the four ceremonial presentations of the pipe I was carrying; Norman had refused three times and then accepted the fourth time it was offered.  We had smoked, thereby releasing to the Creator the prayers I had placed in the pipe.  Norm mentioned that this was the fourth year he had placed me “on the mountain” for  Hamblecheya, the annual purification rite of the “vision quest” as preparation for other ceremonies held at the solstice each year on the Fort Peck reservation in Montana.  He asked the traditional question, “What is your vow?”  I had given the appropriate response, “To offer myself on the mountain for the next four days.”  He had grunted approval.  Ranger had looked pensive and logged the pledge into his memory.



Norman looked puzzled at first.  No one had ever told him that you couldn’t have courage without having fear.  Then he looked thoughtful; it was clear that he took the observation seriously and was working to move our exchange back to the business at hand.  Others were waiting to present tobacco to him and their vow to the creator.  We all needed to get to the sweat lodge and then move out to be placed in the locations where each of us would fast for the duration. 



“Oh brother,” he said, “we all have our fears.  Some of us are afraid of dark or animals, or of being alone.”



I was a little annoyed, partly at myself for having ever entered the Sioux world of “suffering for the people,” but also at Norm’s assumptions about my fears.  His words spoke to children’s fears and I do not have these.



A little gruff myself, I replied, “I’m not afraid of dark and I usually enjoy being alone.  Although I have great respect for the strength of many animals, I have no fear that they will come into my vision quest alter and harm or eat me.  Well actually, I do have great fear of polar bears.  I always carried a .44 on my walks on the frozen lake the one January when I was in polar bear country.  They are land sharks.” 



Norm grunted softly, “ah ho,” which usually meant agreement.  I took this to be his sharing of my view of polar bears.



“Polar bears are the only animals that actively hunt humans systematically,” I went on, “but we are in the mountains of southern British Columbia and there are no polar bears here, so that is not my fear.”



Norm waited, and although Ranger was no longer there to witness, he looked more interested, now focused his gaze at something just over my left shoulder.



Norman, I’m afraid of the cold.  I grew up in Texas and we didn’t really experience cold.  In fact we only had the one word for it.  Unlike more northern people, we didn’t use words like cool, brisk, or bracing as they lead up to the real thing - cold.”



  “When I moved to the Northwest 25 years ago, I had two choices the first real winter.  I could crouch for three months in my house, car and office; or, I could learn to live outside in the cold.”



“So, I learned about winter survival.  Stay dry and warm.  If you should by some accident get wet, build a large fire, strip and dry out before proceeding.  Wear light layers of polypropylene, wool, down and Goretex.  Don’t sweat!  Avoid this by removing layers of clothing to your day pack when you are warm and add some of these back when you begin to feel chill.  Sleep in dry down or some approximation to that.  Always have cap and gloves handy.  And, an extra pair of dry socks.  Stay hydrated.  Load your body with fats and carbs before you start out.  Carry emergency food – a stash of candy, nuts and other good concentrated calorie reserves.  Eat these regularly if you will be out for a day or so.  Have the ability to make a fire – for emergencies and to make your camp or bivouac more comfortable over night – even with wet frozen wood.”



Both Ranger and Norm looked interested, but as if they wondered exactly where this little outburst of mine was going.  I took the hint and moved directly back to my fears.



When I continued, “It snowed last night just up the mountains about 1000 feet above us,” they both nodded.  They mentioned having noticed that when while walking up from the community encampment to the ceremonial lodge this morning.  But then it was BC, Rocky Mountains, and early May.  The weather could do most anything for the next month.  No “ah ho” this time.  The snow was there for anyone to see.  These guys grew up here and wondered just what was my point.



So I went on, “I  just made a pledge which means that I’ll walk up on that mountain in nothing but gym shorts, moccasins and a blanket; and sit up there in a ceremonial space 6 feet square for four days and nights.  Also, the pledge requires that I will have no food, no water for the 96 or so hours.” “Nothing by mouth” as Melvin had phrased the rule after that first Hamblecheya at Bear Butte five years ago.  He was giving me a caution and mild rebuke over my report of an unwitting rule violation – I had lain on my back with mouth open to the brief rain shower on my third day and eaten a couple of the “mosquito people” on the fourth. I had thought that if they had my blood in them, it was only justice that I should eat them.  Melvin had explained patiently that you must kill nothing on Hamblecheya.  Anything that comes into your alter space, whatever its outer form, may be the grandfathers coming to talk with you.  This is one of the points of the quest.



Warming to the topic of my anticipated deprivations, I continued, “At least as bad as the food part, is that I cannot smoke cigarettes for the four days, and I am a nicotine addict.”  I realized that having to abstain from this bad habit was really a “side fear,” anxiety really, so I dropped the topic and returned to the main fear.



“If the weather is normal for this time of the year, we’re going to see rain, snow, wind, sun, mosquitoes, but most especially, (I paused) cold at night.  Around nine in the evening, a “snow wind” develops; air cooled by snow at higher elevations slides down the mountain through the vision quest sites, on down to the community encampment and to the Cold Water River.”  Again they nodded for all of this is well known.



Finally to my point, “What I’m doing over the next four days violates every winter survival rule that I have learned.  I will do it (I emphasized) because I made a pledge to do it, but it scares the shit out of me.” 



Norman winced slightly at my crudity in the sacred space of the teepee being used to receive tobacco offerings and vows, but finally seeing my point, he responded, “Oh brother, you carry the pipe and when you pray with it, the grandfathers will protect you.”

______________________________________________________________________



Really nothing else to say.  As I moved toward the door, Norman nodding forward and to his right, said “See the Grandfather at the door,”  I glanced over and for the first time, noticed the figure there, just inside the door and boldly visible on the canvas wall. 

_______________________________________________________________________



“Crisis of faith” is what I was having.  Hadn’t been reared Lakota; only met them and







Tradition, routine, ceremony



Cold

Wet

Sunny warmer – mosquitoes



Cold



Over





4 year vow -- renew



Sun dance – not to express fear.





“Not to Express Fear”






























Tuesday, December 18, 2012

... without even a taste of dogmeat?

......  or, ..... how "Spin" is related to "Historical Revisionism."   
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------



Never know what you might encounter along the river.  
On a cool summer weekmorning, the canyon near the (now underwater) place named Wawawai was partly cloudy in the morning.


By noon clouds had cleared and wind died down.  A barge headed up river.


The afternoon "thermals" started blowing upstream as the day warmed.
Koah and I were walking one of the high trails.


A very odd flotilla was heading downstream.  
By "flotilla" I mean a varied set of boats moving together in such a way as to suggest that they must be travelling in coordination  
--  in a more or less stable "formation."

From afar the group was led by several power boats, later determined to include a least one for hauling supplies  --  food, drink, fuel -- and at least one local law enforcement -- police/sheriff boat.
The fleet seemed to maneuver around two bizarre looking craft which could not yet be identified.


Following this was a small Coast Guard ship, possibly an Inland River Buoy Tender.  


Other than the yet unidentifiable craft, the Coast Guard ship was the most unusual for these waters -- 450 miles from the ocean.



The ship was preceded by a smaller Coast Guard Patrol Boat.


Most curiously, the patrols were cruising in formation with what appeared to be two dugout canoes, each one strapped to a Zodiac inflatable boat powered by an outboard engine.




A switch to telephoto lens revealed that each of the two central craft was indeed a dugout/Zodiac composite.


Curiouser and curiouser!

Interesting enough to walk down to the river and see what this was about..


The men in the dugouts seemed to be in some sort of period costumes.  All of that Mountain Man 
stuff must have been quite uncomfortable, as the day had turned balmy.
                                                                                                   

Even more curiously, a man was running along the railroad tracks shouting and gesturing to the boats.


As Koah and I watched he dashed back and forth.  We thought perhaps he needed help.

We approached to inquire.  At first he seemed almost wary, but then introduced himself as Clark Churchill, adding that he was leading a group in a 
"Reenactment of the Lewis-Clark Corp of Discovery Journey from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean."  

"Yeh, uh..."  I paused.
I was wondering if the guys in the Zodiacs were also part of the team or if they were local hires  --  obviously the guys in the dugout canoes were this dude's actors.

"Redhair" gushed,  "I am a 'fourth-great-grandson of William Clark and also a descendant of the Churchill who established Churchill Downs in Kentucky." 

"Yeh uh,well, where are you guys camping?" 

"Down river."

"At Wawawai?"

"What?"

"Wawawai, the next county park.  Easy beaching. Pleasant camps. A couple of miles down river."

"We haven't decided yet."

Then the dude starts complaining about the wind.

--------- "Thermals," I thought.

These are robust upriver winds every afternoon in the summer. Often these winds are strong enough to push rafts/canoes -probably not dugout canoes- upstream. 

Most rafters pull out to camp by 3:00 pm after which it is very hard to buck the wind, planning to launch early (like 5:00 am)  the next morning to catch the downward flowing cold air draining from the Rockies to the Columbia overnight.
Canoeists or sailors, especially older ones, will often go down river in the morning and come back upstream on the afternoon winds. ----------


Obviously, these were "turisters" (sic!) in these waters -- the original good soldiers with Lewis and Clark floated through here in spring runoff at a likely 12000-14000 cubic feet per second flow; mid summer flow is typically around 6000 cfs.

The Lewis/Clark centennial art along their route portrays what the passage through this very section of the river was like before the dams.


Of course, that was before the Wasi'chu built the many dams.  These contemporary "floaters" had eight dams between them and the Pacific when I sighted them.  Rather than a roaring river, they were to experience a series of eight artificial lakes.  Hope the Zodiacs held out.


As Koah and I left, Churchill  was complaining about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who denied a request to release water from Dworshak Reservoir, just up river from here,  to "flush" the reenactment to the ocean.  The Corp had cited drinking water, irrigation, hydro power, and navigation uses as having obvious priority over recreational (or artistic?) pursuits.

Oh yeh, and cell phones don't work in most of the Snake and Clearwater canyons

From his vantage on the railroad tracks, Clark choreographed the flotilla (sans cell phones).  The Zodiacs were disconnected from the dugouts; all powered boats withdrew to the other side of the river to clear the visual field for historical period photo-ops.  The hand-powered craft made for the Wawawai boat landing.


I was a bit puzzled when the landing of the dugouts was accompanied by a rowboat.  Later I heard that there had been a schism, not quite a mutiny, in Churchill's crew.  One group felt it more authentic a reenactment to row the 480 miles to the ocean even in a modern boat; the others followed Churchill's direction and stuck to what they saw as the more "authentic" dugouts -- with Zodiacs which could be ditched for photo ops.

When the flotilla resumed its progress, it was observed with mild curiosity by local fishermen.
I could not help reflecting on the curiosity which must have been felt by fishermen 200 years before when the original Lewis-Clark expedition passed them, not here of course;
at that time "here" was a moderately deep river gorge, with vigorous rapids and a large gravel/sand bar to the right of fishermen  (and 150 feet below the current lake level shown here).



_____________________________________________________________________
Anyway, the bizarre flotilla sailed off into the early afternoon sun. 

One mile "down stream" they encountered Lower Granite Dam.  I wish I could have been there to photograph them all going through the Locks moored together.  


Local rumor had it that the reenactors were mildly pissed off over not being able to carry their historical period guns in the dugouts with them when they were locked through.  Security measures imposed at the dam since 9/11 have restricted firearms in the facilities.

Of course, I didn't yet know about any of these things, I had just seen them sail off around the bend to the dam and its locks, which meant they would probably camp at the marina near Almota Canyon
(60 miles or so by road although only a couple of miles by river and lock).

So I forgot about them, walked another canyon with Koah and then we headed up Wawawai Canyon to the Palouse Prairie above and home to Pullman.

As a Vermont Shopowner once told me -- "ya' see all kinds of turisters (sic!)."

A few days later I was uploading from camera to computer and noticed the pictures; so, I googled "Lewis Clark reenactment," which lead immediately to two links with utterly different stories:
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http://lewisandclarktrail.com/eventsstate/discovery.htm
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which is headed:

THE DISCOVERY EXPEDITION 
THE 2004 JOURNEY ~ "UP THE MISSOURI RIVER"

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 Discovery Expedition Voyage

Exploring this site, I discovered that the RedHair's bunch started off up the Missouri 
in high style and fancy costumes.
  
The overall Lewis/Clark "bicentennial" was reportedly funded at circa $85 million, see Ponca estimate below.  Much of this likely spent on the many exhibitions along the highways (Missouri to Pacific) along with coordinated tourist promotion and celebrations along the way.




I have no idea what the "reenactment" itself cost.  
And, although "actors" were said to be unpaid -- at least the common actors -- these guys signed on for a three month river/camping trip with grants and society funds covering all lodging, food, drink and transportation --  and of course, those fancy costumes.

Their itinerary called for dozens of stops along the way at various towns along the  river -- towns 
in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, and Nebraska  -- and then they met the Ponca and Sioux delegations.

The actors were generally received warmly in the river towns, treated as honored guests. In some towns hosting committees would schedule events to fete the heroes. 
(check above link above for images)

Then they met the Ponca lady.
She and her relations apparently unsettled the "Corps of Discovery" dudes to the point where they traveled much of the rest the 
Corps of Discovery Reenactment Expedition path 
with police or sheriff protection.  
(Is that from South Dakota to Washington with publicly paid "bodyguards." I wondered from whom they might have felt threatened when I first met their leader.
  
 That's one of the things that first puzzled me about flotilla;
All those boats for what looked to me like a Disney version of a bunch of aging Frat Boys out playing 
mountain men?
army regulars?
intrepid explorers?

Or whatever the artistic elements the Historical Society back in St Louis prescribed.

And where the hell was Sacajawea -- the woman who brought to this mission

familiarity with regional languages;
familiarity with geography and landmarks crucial to finding Lolo Pass;
acquaintance with local foods and medicines;
and survival strategies for the Rockies.  

Also, there are accounts by some First Nations People that the "company of men" appeared more likely to have non-hostile intent when surveillance of the troops revealed the presence of a woman with child going about her daily activities.  

Though unintentionally, Sacajawea, her husband Carbennieu and their son, provided effective cover for a bold military reconnaissance mission.    

The original mission was not seen by all as a peaceful one; a detachment was sent from Mexico to intercept and repel Lewis's men. There was then considerable dispute about ownership of outlying areas of "Greater Louisiana" and "Nuevo España. "  England, Spain, France, Mexico, Russia and of course the United States, were all pressing territorial claims against each other, as well as with
the varied First Nations peoples, claims to whose homelands were being "bought and sold"
in Paris and Washington at that time.
The Mexican detachment made it no further than the area which today lies in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  Easy area to get lost in  -- even today.

Jefferson planned for the original mission to pursue a bit of "proto-diplomacy," with the First Nations along the way.  He commissioned casting of a 32 Jefferson Peace Medals (shown below) these in two sizes and 55 of a smaller Washington Season Medals.
Jefferson was the first American President whose image was cast into a medal while he was living.

             
The larger medals were for prominent "chiefs," the smaller ones for lesser "chiefs."  
All conveyed a promise of peace, friendship - and "protection" from Spanish, French and English. 
Lewis was also instructed to retrieve in exchange any symbols given earlier by the other powers.  
The subtext was that the United States intended to be the dominant power in the region.
Even the explicit message was not uniformly of "peace" as Lewis warned one tribe in 1804, 
on the consequences of not cooperating:                                                                       

"You great father (Jefferson)...could consume you as the fire consumes the grass of the plains..." 

Nor were all First Nations eager to accept the military mission.  
Early on, back on the Missouri River, Sioux warriors denied the armed troops access to shore.  
A year later on the Snake River, the Nimiipuu had saved Lewis's men from near starvation, 
taught them  to make dugouts efficiently, and sold provisions (some Salmon and a number of dogs).  
However, before doing so the Nimiipuu had a council to decide whether or not to kill the invaders.  They chose instead to hurry them along on their quest.




Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes edited by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr (New York: Knopf, 2006)



http://www.dlncoalition.org/dln_coalition/2004landc.htm

Later I learned that when "exploring" up river though South Dakota, Churchill had confronted a highly respectable group of First Nations people (Sioux and Ponca) trying to get those guys to
"play act" in a reenactment exchange with them.

Didn't the twits know that the grandfathers and great uncles of these dudes didn't allow the original Corps'  leader and three dozen armed men even to come ashore at certain places.
(noted in corps journals)

See observations by Carter Camp, below:

"We didn't like the original ......            and we don't like you."

Carter Camp, Russell Means, Alex White Plume, Floyd Hand, Alfred Bone Shirt & Vic Camp


Although Clark said the re-enactors were volunteers and were not paid, Lakota and Ponca said white people never do anything without being paid. They pointed out the expedition had received $85 million in funds, while the Lakota, the poorest of people, had to pay their own way here to stop them.

Responding to comments by re-enactors who defended the expedition as a means of education, Camp asked, "Would it be all right if these guys were dressed in sheets like the Ku Klux Klan? "Do you know that Clark would not free his slaves?"

Native women told the expedition that they carry the DNA of the survivors of the slaughters that Lewis and Clark opened the door to and the diseases they brought.

Camp said Indians here did not like the first Lewis and Clark and they sure don't like the second ones. "Take those silly clothes off and come back dressed like a normal human being (normal at present time as you know costuming is very much time dependent). Don't come here to remind me what your grandfather did to my grandfather."



http://www.dlncoalition.org/dln_coalition/2004landc.htm





"reenactment" is theatre, fiction, if taken as authentic, the fiction becomes fact, a sort of theatre of historical revisionism
edited out elements, discovery! changes in terrain, York, Charbonneau (language, survival and social skills),
Grizzly bear (ursus horribilus)
 Sacajawea (language, survival and social skills)
no peace medallionss (didn't ask to see old peace medals

 The crew had encountered hostile Indian tribes, eaten dogs and slaughtered horses to avoid starvation. They'd spent an entire winter with nothing to drink but water and were often plagued by clouds of mosquitoes. When St. Charles finally hove into sight on September 21, 1806, many of the men suffered from eye infections, not to mention the venereal diseases they'd picked up on the trail.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Mountain Cows!" -- Ranching in Snake River Canyons

Many years ago I was driving a friend visiting from Chicago down the Wawawai Canyon road to the main Snake River Canyon  -- 5 miles and down a 1000 feet in elevation below the rich wheat-lentil-pea fields of the Palouse and Camas Prairies.

The canyons are too steep for the high tech mechanised agriculture of the prairies above.  Although 400 miles from the ocean this stretch of the Snake River, only 1400 feet above sea level, and in the eastern tail of the Cascade rain shadow, can be bloody hot and dry in the summer.

Hot Northern Desert River Canyon

It was an early spring day when Jones and I neared the bottom of the canyon and looked across at the meadow up the hillside. 

"Wow, mountain cows," he yelled. 
I still think of them that way, but now I know that a number of the farmers of the prairie above also keep cows in these canyons.  



Cows grazing seasonal hillside pasture in Wawawai Canyon




We stopped and looked.  I'd sort of seen cows around the canyons, but hadn't noticed they were so "all around."

Over the years I learned that the canyon pastures have two greenings each year -- periods of rapid growth after September rains before snow and ice cover, and with the melt in late winter to early spring -- sort of like two springs.  Except in barnyards, I seldom saw a cow (and never a calf) in summer, nor in the seasonal deep freezes of January and February.   I really had no idea of how the cattle were managed and where they all went, until a local rancher summarized: 
I can explain our program and maybe you can find some of it useful. The cows are turned out in the canyons in November and graze until around the first of the year. Then we gather them and feed hay till early April when they are turned back out on the new grass. It is during the winter months when the calves are born. In late May and early June they are rounded up and hauled to to summer ranges in north Idaho. In October we start weaning the calves and bring them to the river and put them in pens and feed them. They are not put out on grass. The cows are brought home in November and the cycle begins again. The calves are marketed in Jan-Feb. 
Straight forward in theory -- cows graze here fall and spring, feed them hay in winter and move them up a few thousand feet for summer -- but pulling it off requires a lot of skills and work.  Winters can be especially challenging; the most severe of these may freeze springs and streams so ranchers must provide for water as well as feed.





The rough terrain means that the traditional horseman is required -- along with working stock dogs.


Having all of the cows together in late winter also facilitates watching over the calving season.

Mother cleaning calf moments after birthing



Calf opens eyes to the world for her first look around
Cattle drives sometimes surprise drivers along State Route 193.  Drives spread the "pairs" -- cow and calf -- among many small canyon pastures for the spring.  Also drives collect the cows for trucking to summer pasture.


Working dog at lower right has seen and noted that the calf at lower left is attempting to turn back.  The dog corrects this immediately.  Men on horses keep the flow going, but nothing matches a stock dog for managing strays.