It’s amazing how much we can fear the things we don’t understand. As an example, the Indians who lived around the geysers of Yellowstone. The early Indians thought that the hissing and thundering were the voices of evil spirits. Even though the geysers were frightening, the Indians regarded the mountains at the head of the river as the crest of the world, and the man who gained their summits could see the happy hunting-grounds below, brightened with the homes of the blessed. They loved this land in which their fathers had hunted, and when they were driven back from the settlements the Crows took refuge in what is now Yellowstone Park, but they were still not safe.
The soldiers pursued them, intent on avenging acts that the red men had committed while they were being so wrongly mistreated. A small group of the original fugitive band gathered at the head of that mighty rift in the earth known as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone…a group that had succeeded in escaping the bullets of the soldiers, and with great courage they resolved to die rather than be taken and carried away to be held in a distant prison. They built a raft and laced it on the river at the foot of the upper fall, and for a few days they enjoyed the plenty and peace that were their privilege in former times. A short-lived peace, however, for one morning they are awakened by the rifle fire, and they knew that the troops are upon them.
Boarding their raft they thrust it toward the middle of the stream, perhaps with the idea of making it to the opposite shore. If that was their intent, the rapid current kept them from attaining their goal. A few among them had guns, but their bullets had only a slight effect at the troops, who stood watching in amazement from the shore. The soldiers didn’t fire, but watched, with something like dread, the descent of the raft as it passes into the current. Then, with many a turn and pitch, it whirled on faster and faster. The death-song rises triumphant above the lash of the waves and that distant but awful booming that is to be heard in the canyon. Every red man has his face turned toward the foe with a look of defiance, and the tones of the death-chant have in them something of mockery and hate. The Indians went defiantly to their deaths, refusing to show the slightest amount of fear.
The raft was now between the jaws of the rocks. Beyond and below are vast walls, shelving toward the floor of the gulf a thousand feet below. The beauty of the falls will be their last vision…brilliant colors shining in the sun of morning that sheds as peaceful a light on wood and hill. They believe they are heading to a place where humans don’t shoot human, and where they will be free again. The raft was galloping through the foam like a racehorse, and even the hardened soldiers could not hold back the shudder as they imagined the fate of the brave Indians. Now the brink is reached. The raft tips toward the gulf, and with a cry of triumph the red men are launched over the cataract, into the bellowing chasm, and the rocky floor that waited below.
In the days before running water in homes, people had to go to river to bath, or bring water into the house from the river, creek, or well, and heat it on the stove so the family could bathe. Since families were usually large, the whole process took time, and heating water over and over again was not really feasible. What that meant was that the family pretty much all bathed in the same bath water. For the last guy, that had to be…well, disgusting, but that was the way it was done back in the old west, and even in more recent times when there was no running water in homes. For the little kids, however, I seriously doubt if it mattered. Getting wet was getting wet, and it really just didn’t matter what the water looked like…at least to the little boys. Girls might have felt differently. I think I would have.
Personally, if I had a river or creek available, I think I would use that…in the summer anyway. Then again, there is very little privacy in a river or creek…and you can’t exactly put up a curtain around a river. I can’t really imagine how they lived that way exactly. I guess in that way I’m a modern girl, and don’t try to take my shower away from me. Maybe that’s why Bob and I don’t go camping…no running water, or if there is, it’s very inconvenient. As I have said before, I love hiking and being outdoors, but I like the modern conveniences of a hotel room afterward.
Of course, when homes got running water, bathing in an old tin bath tub went the way of all things old west. Nevertheless, for babies…it doesn’t matter if they are bathing or just playing in a bucket, pan, or clothes basket. Kids just like to play in them. I don’t think there is anything so amazing about that, like a throwback to the old west days of bathing in a barrel, but rather that kids just like finding different places to play. Things like an old box, barrel, or clothes basket are perfect. In that way, they remind me of cats. If you have ever watched a cat, you will find that they see a space, and if it looks fairly close to a good fit, in they dive. Babies tend to be that way too…but, the thing that is the funniest about that is when the baby tries to fit into a box that is seriously too small. Nevertheless, it’s a baby or cat thing.
With all the rain we have been receiving, our area, along with many others have received multiple flash flood warnings, as well as flooding in many areas. When river water crosses a road, we are told not to drive through the flood, because it can take your car and cause your death. So many warnings are given to us in a flood situation. So much has been learned over the years about how to stay safe. So much has been learned about early warnings. So a lot of preparation is put in place, and yet, sometimes it’s just not enough. Such was the case on June 19, 1938.
At that time, they didn’t have pickups that drove the rail system to check the tracks for problems. Instead a track walker was sent out to areas where there was a possible problem. Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer Creek are prone to flash floods because their small capacity can quickly and easily be exceeded during heavy rains. A track walker was sent out to make sure everything was ok on the trestle at Custer Creek in Terry, Montana, and he reported that all was well there. Just a few hours later, a sudden downpour came through the area. The rising water in Custer Creek washed out the bridge and when the Olympian Special came through, it went crashing into the raging waters with no warning at all.
Two sleeper cars were immediately buried in the muddy waters, and the moonless night extremely hampered rescue efforts. In the end, 46 people lost their lives. The rear cars stayed above the water, but many passengers were seriously injured. To make matters worse, they could not be evacuated until the following morning. To hear of a train going into river in a flood is…at the very least, rare. I’ve heard of trains derailing…we all have, but this was different. On a moonless, pitch black night, my guess is that the engineer had no idea what was about to happen. The shock must have been sickening to say the very least. Just knowing that people were going to die and there was nothing you could do about it, must have been the most horrible experience of an engineer’s life. Completely unimaginable.
These days there are different safety measures in place, but that still doesn’t guarantee that such an event couldn’t happen again. I don’t know what the solution would be in these situations, but I’m sure that if there is one, technology will find a way to fix the problem. In those days, with the technology they had, they had done all they could, and yet, lives were still lost.
It’s a yearly tradition for my husband, Bob Schulenberg and me…a time to re-connect. We make this trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming every year on a weekend near our anniversary. Some years have been harder to take this trip than others. When you have a parent that is not feeling very well, and you are a caregiver, you struggle with me time. There is always that feeling that you might be needed here. This year is a little bit hard too, because I suddenly have one less parent to care for, making this anniversary trip a little sad, but much needed after the stresses of planning a funeral and saying our goodbyes. I only wish that my family could all take this weekend to unwind too, because I really think they all need it badly.
In reality though, this trip is about spending time with the love of my life…my dear husband, Bob. When I think about the fact that we have been married for forty years, all I can think is, “Where did the time go?” Forty years seems like such a long time, and yet, it seems like just yesterday that we said, “I do.” I guess that is the way it is when the marriage is right. I feel so blessed to have been in such a marriage all these years. The squabbles and tough times never manage to stay in our lives very long, because the love always shines through. Love just couldn’t get any better than that…now could it?
So, as we head out, with a slightly heavy heart and high hopes for a wonderful weekend, I am reminded of just how beautiful the Thermopolis area is. We love the fact that there is so little to do there. Very few shops are open on the weekend, so we just relax, soak in the hot tubs, and walk the trail along the river and up by the mineral pools. It is kind of a forced way to relax, I guess, but with our busy lives, sometimes that is the only way to make us relax…how sad is that? Nevertheless, through all the caregiving work of the past ten years, I must say that my husband, Bob was my biggest supporter, helper, confidant, and comforter. Could love possibly be more strong and compassionate than that? When he said, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”, he took those words very seriously, and for that I am eternally grateful. So, now…today, and this weekend…is our time to re-connect. It is our time to relax and enjoy being together again, with the love of our lives…each other. I could not be any more blessed if I tried. I love you Bob Schulenberg!! You have filled my life with love and blessings. Happy anniversary weekend!!
Every year in late February or early March, Bob and I take a three day weekend and head to Thermopolis to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It isn’t a long trip, but rather, a peaceful getaway. We have taken longer trips, and enjoyed them immensely, but the nice thing about going to Thermopolis is that there is very little to do in this small town, so you find yourself relaxing and doing the simple things. We like to take long walks along the river, and up by the hot springs. Most of the time I like to be alone…just the two of us, but today was a little different. It’s not that was were with a group of people, but rather the people we interacted with that were so interesting.
First there was the man with his dog. The dog was so happy to be playing in the water again after such a long cold winter. Every time his master threw the toy into the water, the dog could hardly contain himself. He ran splashing into the river, grabbed his prize and brought it back to his master for another go. Then we watched two little boys who were happily throwing rocks into the river. Each one tried to find a bigger rock than their last one had been. They were quite the pair.
There were the fishermen and the strolling walkers, but the one who was the most interesting person who crossed our path was the little girl who was so excited about rushing the ducks, that she didn’t see that I was photographing them until it was too late. She quickly apologized, but I told her that she didn’t ruin my picture, but rather enhanced it. She then decided that the would do the same thing with some geese a little ways away, and I quickly snapped those shots too.
Normally, I enjoy just being in our own little space on the Thermopolis retreats we take, but the people around us this time, who were all excited about the fact that nice weather had finally arrived…all expressing their own individual version of their excitement, were just too interesting to ignore, and we were quickly drawn into experiencing it with them. It was their expressions of the joys of being alive that made each of them interesting in their own way. And I found joy in simply watching them. Spring seems to have finally graced us with its presence, and after the long cold winter, that makes me feel amazing.
We have, in our family three boys who while they weren’t bad boys, did have a flair for antics. I’m going to call them The Three Musketeers of Mischief. As those of you who have been active in the Family Stories page I set up on Facebook might already know, these three boys were full of mischief. In case you don’t know who I am referring to, that would be Greg, Forest, and Elmer. They are all fairly close in age, although sadly, we lost Forest July 3, 2005, and because they were all close in age, they liked doing the same things, which mostly included being places where they probably shouldn’t have been, but because they were the kind of boys they were, they survived their own mischief…mostly due to sheer luck, but probably a goodly amount of skill too.
One time, these boys had gone swimming in the river, where it runs through Mills. That was the thing to do in the summer. They got to the train trestle and decided to cross it to the Amoco Refinery to get some wax to make wax hands with. Forest and Greg had gone across the train trestle many times, and so were pretty good at running across them, when necessary, but Elmer was more of a novice at running the tracks…until that day. As they were going across a cart that hauls workers and such, came up behind them. Greg and Forrest ran on across, but Elmer was still going along pretty slow. The other boys yelled out to Elmer to run!! He went a little faster, but not nearly fast enough. As it came closer, and they yelled louder, Elmer decided it was time to get outta Dodge, and he learned in a really big hurry how to run on the trestle. Greg says he was probably better at it than he and Forest were. Not that Elmer thought that information was any kind of good news.
The wax hand incident didn’t have such a good ending though. One time, Greg and Forest were making wax hands, by building a fire in the back yard, but it was raining, and the fire wouldn’t stay lit. They decided to go into Greg’s house and use his mother’s new stove, since his parents weren’t home. The stove worked very well, but when they were finished playing, they began the clean up work…a little late, unfortunately. Greg’s parents got home, found the mess, and they were…well less than pleased. Forest was sent home immediately, and Greg had a meeting in the shed with his dad…yikes!!
Yes, these boys were definitely the Three Musketeers of Mischief…in their younger years. They all outgrew these childish pranks, and turned into great guys. And really, I don’t think their childish pranks were any worse than any of the rest of us. Just boys being boys, and kids being kids. They did make life interesting whenever I was around them though, so I can’t say their pranks bothered my much at all.
My dad always liked exploring. I guess I get that trait from him, because I do too. He loved to see what was around the next corner, or over the next mountain. He loved to travel, and wanted to share that love with his family. As a result of his need to wander some, we enjoyed a rich and unique view of the country we live in. Dad’s curiosity and imagination made every vacation an adventure. When we were in grade school, and the teacher said to write a story telling about our summer vacation, we had plenty to say. We had been so many places. It was something we took for granted really. It never occurred to us that our friends didn’t go places too. Looking back now, I can see just how blessed we were.
I have been told that my dad’s family all liked to wander a bit. His dad worked on the railroad. Like many people who work on the railroad, part of the draw is seeing the country. I can understand that, because that is a part of me too. I love to see new places, especially on foot. Hiking in the back country where you can be walking along in the trees one minute and then suddenly there is a river with a beautiful waterfall that most people don’t even know exists…well, the feeling is exhilarating.
Dad loved to follow historical markers and trails. It was something that filled the explorer need in him. I think Dad was a bit of a history buff, as am I. It is very cool to research the past and learn about things that happened so long ago, and yet not so long ago. When you look back in time, is a hundred years really that long? It’s basically one lifetime. To see how people lived just a hundred years ago. So many things change in a hundred years. It makes you realize what you have and how very blessed you are.
This is the kind of legacy my dad passed on to his kids. He had an interest in the outdoors and the history of our great country. These were things we got to learn about. As kids we may not have had a real appreciation of the history, but those lessons he taught us have never gone away, and when we were older, there was an appreciation that grew out of the seeds he planted. The grew into a love of history, at least they did for me, and now when I read about the past, I can picture some of the places the events took place, because I have been there, and almost feel like I’m an explorer too.
My family recently re-connected with a side of the family that we had been out of touch with for a few years. Since that time, we have been going over some of the old memories that have a tendency to live in the hidden parts of your mind for many years, and then when the first little recall is triggered, they come flooding back like a tidal wave. We have talked about my dad and her mom, brother and sister, now both living in Heaven, and of course still getting choked up at times, but still very much enjoying the memories. We talked about all the great times our parents used to have.
My sister, Cheryl had asked my cousin, Shirley if she remembered the Onion and Mustard Sandwiches that they had eaten and loved as kids. Shirley said she did, and that it was her dad, my Uncle Jim, who started those with onions and butter, and then somewhere along the way they tried it with mustard and liked it too. Now to me, that’s is totally disgusting, but to each his own…as long as they don’t try to feed it to me, of course, I suppose the fact that I don’t like onions could have something to do with my reason for not wanting anything to do with this concoction.
That conversation turned to a blog I wrote a couple of days ago called The Dance. That story got Shirley to thinking about the dances my parents and hers used to attend, and sometimes the kids got to go too. And the New Years Eve parties with dancing and fun for all, but the thing that really dominated the memories in this conversation was the “contests” our dads used to have to see who could come up with the most outrageous food combinations, and them eat them…good, bad, or horrible!! And whether these concoctions were designed to torture my Aunt Ruth, or my dad and my Uncle Jim, we aren’t entirely sure, but all I can say is I would love to have seen the look on their faces, when one turned out to be “the horrible” because I’ll bet it was great!! And to top it off, these stubborn…or is it crazy men, ate those goofy concoctions…just to prove that they would.
Those memories are so funny, and now that they have been stirred again, we will be reliving them for many years to come, I’m sure, but what really strikes me as wonderful about this whole thing, is listening to my sister and my cousin going back and forth with memories and sharing a laugh…even if it is a virtual one via Facebook. It just warms my heart to have this precious cousin back in our lives again. And as the years go by, I know the memories will continue to flow like a river over parched land, quenching the thirst in our hearts where we keep our parents who have gone on ahead of us, until we all see them together once again, in Heaven.
When my dad was a boy, he and his family, including his sisters Laura and Ruth, and his brother Bill, lived on a farm in the Great Lakes Region. The winters were bitterly cold, and long. The snow got deep, and you only went places if you had to. This didn’t stop the kids from getting out and playing in the snow, which is typical. Bundled up warmly, their big sister takes the boys outside to pull them on their sled for a while. I’m sure the free time that provided to their mother, who had been cooped up with these bored children, was a blessing.
Living on a farm back then, the kids needed a good imagination to entertain themselves, because there were no video games to play with. Kids had to make their own fun, and my dad and his brother were very imaginative. What began with two sweetly innocent little boys, would soon graduate to the pranks and antics of boys with big ideas. Once summer arrived, the possibilities were endless. From setting off dynamite on the forth of July at daybreak…a prank that makes me wonder how many times their mom wanted to throttle them, to sneaking out by the river with buddies to cool off and maybe try their hand at smoking. You put a group of boys together on a summer day with nothing much to do, and they will be sure to come up with something…a thought that makes me cringe.
Of course, there were the chores too, and my dad and his brother were never real troublemakers, just typical boys.The did use the dynamite to work the place too. The would blow tree stumps out of ground that was needed for some other uses, and they fixed fences and gate posts…sometimes after the sunk the post into the ground with one of their dynamite adventures. They took care of the family pets, and other such chores, like cutting and stacking wood. But they always found time to play, and of course ride the horses…a mode of travel that was far more common to that era that this one. My Aunt Ruth, however, was the one who seemed to me anyway to be the one to thrive on the horses. She can be seen in many of the old pictures riding a horse or in a wagon hitched to two horses, to take her to a quiet place where she could sit and enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun.
That was just a different time and place, when life wasn’t so fast paced. When people worked hard, and then took time out to relax and enjoy the beauty of the country they lived it. It was simply life on the farm.