Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beating the Chickens....

...out of bed in the morning! Surely you didn't think I was talking about poultry violence?

Bizarre - that's all there is to it. It is so hard living right on the edge of a time zone. I do mean right on the edge; according to Google earth we are about 300 ft from Central Time. In fact, the kids have plans for New Year's Eve. Right after 11:00 pm our time, they are going to walk the 300 ft into North Dakota, straight into the year 2010. Then they are going to turn around and walk back into 2009 again. Hey, when you're poor you gotta make your own toys!

So there I was, grudgingly getting up. According to my body, which is still firmly rooted in California time, it was 2:00 am. According to my clock, it was 3:00 am. Not much of an improvement. And then, about 30 seconds after we left, it became 4:00 am. Oy!

It was allegedly a business trip to Bismarck, ND, but in Lewis and Clark country there's just no such thing as strictly business. With so much history tucked behind every rock, hill, and the occasional rare tree, side trips are inevitable. Since we were running ahead of schedule, we both coincidentally decided we needed a pit stop...just as we were going by the rest area that also housed the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Back in the winter of about 1805, Lewis and Clark built a small fort, right near a village of the Mandan Indians. Back in those early days, relations with the Native Americans were mostly friendly, so the expedition and the Mandan tribe got along very well.

The sites were closed until later in the day. but even just getting to see the huge 12-foot-tall statues was fun!

As we were to find shortly, just about everything in North Dakota was closed at that time. Due to Blue Laws that are actually utilized, not just sitting idly on the books, nearly every type of business establishment has to close until noon on Sundays. Drug stores and food stores are apparently exempt, since we were able to go to Burger King. But the malls, the stores, almost everything was locked up tight until noon. (The car dealerships had to close all day.) It was like strolling back in time around 100 years ago.

Jack's appointment was at 10:00 am, and we were there an hour ahead of schedule. (I TOLD him we didn't have to get up so early!) All the stuff we needed to pick up wasn't going to be ready for several hours, even beyond our appointment time. We managed to console ourselves with a trip to the North Dakota Heritage Center.

No images of Sacajawea, also sometimes referred to as Sakakawea, (or Sack-wack-ajea according to Devon), are known to exist. Still, the image of of the courageous girl in her mid-teens, carrying her tiny baby on her back, has been an inspiration to artists ever since.

God's amazing providence led to Sacajawea being in place to lead the expedition through the uncharted territories of the west. Born into a Shoshone tribe near what is now Salmon, ID, she was among the prisoners taken in a raid by Minetarees. They were forcibly marched all the way across to North Dakota, not too far from Bismarck. Sacajawea was only twelve.

At the age of 13, Sacajawea was married to Charbonneau, a French trapper. She was pregnant with her first child when Lewis and Clark arrived in the area and hired her husband as a guide. Charbonneau needn't have flattered himself - it was really Sacajawea and her ability to speak the Shoshone language that interested them.

Upon reaching Shoshone lands, Sacajawea shared a joyful reunion with her brother, now Chief Cameahwait, and a dear friend she hadn't seen in many years. Taken along with Sacajawea, her friend was about the same age. Not being willing to submit to capture and lifelong slavery, this brave young girl escaped, making her way all the way home to Idaho - on foot! Even on today's roads, that's over 800 miles. Following the Missouri River, with all its twists and turns, it was much farther.

The museum started with prehistory, North Dakota being very rich in fossils. That scary looking fish thing is a Mosasaurus. Imagine going swimming with THAT in your lake!

It seems like just about everything back then had big horns or big teeth, since if you were very small you were often very lunch.

Native Americans used to catch eagles by hiding in a covered trap and placing a stuffed rabbit on top. When the eagle landed to collect the rabbit, the brave would reach up through the roof of his hideout and grab the eagle's legs. Do you see those hands reaching up out of the roof? Who wants to try it? Any volunteers? No? I can't think why. Eagle feathers were then collected for ceremonies, and the eagle was usually killed.

Food was not always so good way back when. The kids learned to make hardtack from their auntie, and it's not half bad...fresh. Add a few months of poor storage and worms, and it's not nearly as tasty. So I have heard.

Medical care back then was not exactly first-rate, either. This battlefield surgeon's kit has some fearsome-looking gadgets in it, most centered around amputation. That was their magic cure-all. If any part of your body offends you, cut it off!

After a little tour through the children's section, which had displays of toys and clothing from the early 1800's through the present day, we went on to the Cold War wing.

Since I'm old enough to have lived through the end of the Cold War, that was extra interesting. There was a replica fallout shelter, with the items inside coming from an actual shelter built by a local family. And have you ever wondered why they put nearly all their missiles up in this area? I guess I always just thought because it was kinda flat and easy to build stuff. Nope, if the Russians targeted our missile sites, they figured fewer people would get killed in North Dakota and surrounding regions. While that makes more sense, I suppose, than putting them in downtown LA or New York, it must be a bit disconcerting to hear that you're so expendable.

There were old Russian maps of our missile sites, especially heavily dotted in the area we drove through to get there, the keys they would turn to launch the missiles, and diagrams showing the underground facilities the crew occupied while on missile duty. Near each missile site, there was an ordinary-looking house with a bunch more underground stuff. The military first attempted to buy the sites they wanted for their missiles and little houses, and if that failed, would condemn the property and seize it.

It's shocking to hear about that sort of thing happening in America, even within my own lifetime, but in times of great fear, our freedoms can become restricted. (The internment camps during WWII also spring to mind. Members of my extended family spent time there.)

With everything from an Edmontosaurus leg to a 1950's era metal garage, it was sure an educational visit. We hardly minded when they told us our stuff wasn't going to be ready until TWO O'CLOCK?!? Ok, maybe I minded a little. At least all the shops had opened by that time, except of course for the car dealerships, so we kept well-occupied.

That was only the first half of the day. Coming up: Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and Fort Mandan.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

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