Monday, June 22, 2009

Fort Mandan

Saturday night, a thunderstorm came through right at sundown. It missed us except for a few sprinkles, passing just to the north. This is the view from one of the famed (and much complained about by Mom) alkali lakes.

Westby does have its fair share of alkaline areas, big and small. (The above lake is huge.) However, I see the farmers plant their crops right up to the very edge, so it doesn't seem to affect the soil too much. And no matter what Mom says, I think the white-rimmed lakes that shrink to dry white patches during the summer, are kinda cute.

To make up for the surplus of alkali, this has turned out to be Land of the Lilacs. I've always been so jealous of Mom's big lilac bush, and even Tina's little one. But this year I got here early enough to catch the tail end of lilac season, and to make a startling discovery. This enormous line of bushes along one side of my house, which I admired all last summer for the luxurious, privacy-enhancing foliage, are really lilacs.

So are the banks upon banks of bushes everywhere, at almost every house here and in Plentywood. Who would've thought lilacs liked such chilly weather? And not only survive, but thrive to the point of being everyone's favorite windbreak? Now, instead of a purple flower envier, I am Queen du Lilac! Not to mention having quite a few chokecherries. (The second part of their name is false advertising, but I hear they make great jam. I'll let you know how that goes.)

So.....last Sunday. When at long long long last the stuff was ready to pick up, it turned out to be a whole bunch more than we planned on. We took the seats out of the back and moved them around, and before it was all done had to strap one of them to the roof. Even in this land of creativity and originality, we were the only vehicle driving down the road with a chair on top.

One of the few good qualities I inherited from my grandmother (not to imply that she had few good qualities - it's just that Tina got most of them), is my ability to pack amazing quantities of stuff into limited spaces. I outdid myself that day. The only bad part was that every time I straightened my back and mentally congratulated myself on a job well done, someone would bring me even more boxes! I rode home with my feet propped up on the dash, since there was nowhere else for them.

There wasn't too much time left before closing by the time we made it back to Fort Mandan. Not the real Fort Mandan, a replica. All the period clothing and artifacts were great!

Just as with the original fort, the replica was three-sided, and made of cottonwood. Two sides consisted of the rear walls of the bunkhouses, and one side was just a tall lonely wall.

Along only one side (why not all three?), punji-stick looking thingys bristled along the top, pointed outward. I don't get that. If attacked, did they just think no one would ever try to get over any side of the fort but that one? Or maybe whoever built the replica just ran out of pokey sticks before they got all the way around.

There's a very good reason why this is a replica, and not the real fort, or even built on the same ground as the original fort. See, by the time the Corps of Discovery got back from - you guessed it - discovering, their cute little fort had burned completely to the ground. And as the Missouri River eroded away the bank, even the sad little charcoal stubs disappeared. The site, wherever it is, is now underwater.

Over the winter, the Sioux Indians threatened to attack. A few bands did try to start a ruckus, but nothing major resulted.

The view if you were with the Corps of Discovery:

The view if you were with the Sioux raiding parties:

Following the short stroll to the fort, we started to sit down and watch the short documentary on the area. I probably would have been able to tell you all kinds of awesome stuff, but part-way through, a tickle on my arm turned out to be a tick. AAAAAAAAH!!!!!!! In my haste to keep it from crawling up my arm, I knocked it on the floor. The carpet, a mottled brown, made a perfect hiding place. We just couldn't enjoy the movie while feeling as if bugs kept crawling up our legs, so we gave up and left.

It's just as well that we did, since only ten minutes remained before the Interpretive Center closed. We took it at a brisk trot, and didn't see nearly everything. Jack really admired the hollowed-out tree canoe.

Even at warp speed, it was clearly a place we want to bring the kids back to. I'll make them pose for pictures with the cradle-board containing a 20-lb flour sack baby.

On the way home, our supper stop was a genuine Mexican restaurant that had live Mariachi music. Amazingly enough, it was hardly any more expensive than Taco Bell. Ah yes, Taco Bell, that place I don't go to any more, since there isn't one. Anywhere. While I'm back in Cali, I'm gonna eat Taco Bell morning, noon, and night. On the bright side, I do have one fast food establishment in Plentywood, about 25 miles away - a Dairy Queen. And a bit over an hour away I can visit Mickey D's and Burger King.

But I digress. This restaurant had a full-color mural of the history of Mexico spread across the walls, from the discovery of the location of Tenochtitlan, all the way to our day. And the chips are free!

On the way home, we went through a bug storm. Too bad for the windshield, even worse for the seat.

To leave you with one final image, let me just say in all honesty, not all of my panoramas have turned out. In fact, only the one panorama turned out, but now that I know how it works, I'll keep trying.

This is definitely panorama country!

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth


  1. hi aunt noni just a note to say that i looked at your blog and liked it!!!

    PS: tell uncle jack i sead hi god bless john k

  2. Why thank you, dear nephew! Did you and Donald happen to see the storm that is just about to hit us? WOW!!!

    Your uncle says hi, too.