... on the road from Melrose to Montana and back to Melrose
Dear friends and family,
Heading eastward we are going to pass through some of the same states we have visited already. This route is different from the westward one and we are looking forward to much more beautiful places to see along the way.
We are happy you are enjoying the E-mails. It is great fun for us to recall our days with you.
Back in glorious South Dakota we made a stop at the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. This is the world’s largest mammoth research facility where more than 55 Columbian and woolly mammoths have been unearthed. This site is approximately 26,000 years old in-situ (left-as-found) for mammoth bones in America. We took the guided tour to see the bones of giant bears, lions and other Ice Age creatures that are still being uncovered. The exhibit hall was full of great information and there is a glassed in area downstairs where we could see some of the scientific work being done. This really was a fun, educational stop for us that we thoroughly enjoyed.
We continued eastward on route 18 to stop at the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge South Dakota. This second Indian school that we stopped at was also void of students because the school year had ended. In the middle of the 19th century, the westward movement was sweeping the United States. In the Black Hills of South Dakota lived a group of people called Lakota, meaning “Allies”. After numerous battles the Lakota came to terms with the United States Government and they signed a treaty to live on the Reservation land. Chief Red Cloud had met a Jesuit missionary and the chief petitioned the Government to allow the missionary and his fellow “Blackrobes” (the Jesuits) to teach the Oglala Lakota. In 1888 Holy Rosary became the first Catholic Indian Mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation. The school later honored the name of this great Lakota leader and the school became Red Cloud Indian School. The school now serves 600 Lakota students and their families with two elementary schools, a college preparatory high school, Heritage center museum and gift shop and 15 church sites.
We were given a tour of the campus and the adjoining cemetery where Chief Red Cloud and his wife Mary Red Cloud are buried. Other well-known Indians of the Lakota tribe have also found their resting-place here, and there is a special section for all the Jesuits that have worked at the school and died here. The Indian sculptures and wonderful crafts were very nicely displayed in the gift shop and museum and we found this to be a peaceful place to stop. One of the brochures we were given is called Footsteps to Wisdom. This booklet has 9 prayers, some written by past graduates. One I will share with you that was written by Lisa Bear Runner, Red Cloud Class of 1990.
“Prayer of the Polar Bear”
Now I lay me down to hibernate, and, Lord, I thank you for my nice, thick, warm fur, and for making me a champion swimmer! (No-one, to the best of my knowledge, has ever seen such a swimmer in Bear History.) Without my great sense of smell, I could not protect myself or the other Polars. But, Lord, why did you give me such poor vision? And such poor hearing? I could sure use them to hunt better. But, oh! Dear Lord, you are to kind! And thank you for believing in bears. Amen, and God less!.
I will be taking this booklet home to go over the other verses and prayers many times, I am sure.
From Pine Ridge South Dakota we headed east along highway18 through the towns of Rosebud, Mission, Gregory and Bonesteel before we crossed the border into Nebraska. Our first stop was about four miles outside the town of Valentine. Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge was on our list of places to stop in this part of the country. In 1912 this refuge was established to make a home for six buffalo, seventeen elk, and several deer. The refuge is now 19,000 acres and is the home to not only the above mentioned animals off springs but there are white-tailed deer, prairie dogs, prong-horn, Canada geese, waterfowl and about 200 species of birds. We made our way around the wildlife drive to see buffalo and elk off in the distance. Our lunch was at one of the beautiful rest stops where we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and had a magnificent view of the Missouri River.
Leaving the refuge we drove about 250 miles to Sioux City Iowa to spend the evening and plan for our visit to Boy’s and Girl’s Town the next day. After our continental breakfast at Motel 8 we headed south back into Nebraska and on to one of the best places for kids in this country.
Boys and Girls town is located in Omaha on about a 900-acre site. Although this is national headquarters there are 19 other sites in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Made famous in 1938 by Spencer Tracy the village of Boys Town was founded by Father Flanagen in 1917.
The tour of the campus was in our own car as a young guide sat in the front seat giving directions to the various buildings and gardens.
The village has 76 youth homes divided for boys and girls. Each home has 6-8 residents with a family teaching couple. The ages, races and religions are mixed in each home and homes are kept clean by the residents.
Along the way we saw the Garden of the Bible which contains hundreds of plants. Each group of plants is labeled and its passage reference to the Bible. The residents maintain the gardens as well as the surrounding grounds.
The Hall of History displays photos, newspaper clippings and artifacts telling the story of Father Flanagan’s dream. Spencer Tracey’s 1938 Best Actor Oscar is on display here as well as autographed baseballs from famous visitors like Babe Ruth and Leo Gehrig.
The inspiration for of Girls and Boys Town’s most famous symbols came from a drawing Father Flanagan saw in 1941 in ”Ideals” magazine. He received permission to use the drawing of an older brother carrying his younger brother on his back. In 1977 Italian sculptor Enzo Plazzotta was commissioned to create a modern version of the statue. Five bronze castings were made in Italy and the 6-foot statues are each mounted on 3-foot green marble platforms inscribed with the Boys and Girls Town motto “He ain’t heavy, Father…he’s m’ brother”. Three of the statues are on the campus and one at the Boys Town National research hospital. I guess I missed asking about the fifth statue.
After a wonderful tour we visited the gift shop, had a soda and were on our way to Iowa and the famous bridges of Madison County.
We really are having a grand time and we hope you are enjoying some of the sites we are seeing also. Stay with us as we continue our trek eastward heading home.
Stay well and take care of each other
Shirley, Donna, Louise and Casa
To read the previous E-mails click here
December 1, 2006