South Dakota

Every year, in areas where the buffalo roam, people get hurt. Most of the time, these attacks occur when people get too close to the buffalo. The big, clunky looking animals see like they would be very slow, and that can be deceiving for tourists who don’t know the reality concerning the buffalo. Every year, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I find ourselves in a couple of places where the buffalo roam. We take a yearly trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming, and there is a buffalo reserve up there. We love to drive through it to try to get a glimpse of these magnificent animals. The buffalo up there are generally relaxing in the heat of the day when we go through, and they barely notice us at all, but then we don’t get out of the vehicle except on a trail that is located a way from the area the buffalo are. Nevertheless, if there were buffalo near the trail, we would pass on the trail.

The other place we go each year is the Black Hills of South Dakota. The is a wildlife reserve there, and while there have been years when we drove through and saw no buffalo, or saw some that were far away, there have been other years when we found ourselves sitting in the car for twenty or thirty minutes, while the buffalo stood in the road, crossed the road, and even walked very close to our car. In that situation, I find myself feeling very nervous for the people who were brave enough, or maybe crazy enough, to take that drive on a motorcycle. They are truly at the mercy of the buffalo, should they decide that they don’t like the look of the motorcycle. They have been known to “attack” a car or pickup, and I’m sure even a motorcycle, but I can tell you that the motorcycle would not fare as well as a car or truck. Most of the time, if you stay with your vehicle, you are pretty safe, even if the buffalo are on the run.

It is the people, and there is always a few, who just have to walk out to the buffalo to get a closer look, who get in trouble. We have watched people take that chance with their little ones, and even grandma using a walker to get close. If the buffalo became agitated and charged them, they are defenseless. Most people aren’t trying to feed the buffalo, but a number of people who have been gored and even killed were trying to take a selfie with the buffalo. The buffalo is an animal you certainly don’t want to turn your back on, and that is how a selfie is done. While it’s not funny exactly, we found a t-shirt this year in the Black Hills that said, “Do Not Pet The Fluffy Cows.” We have also seen signs that say the same thing. That is exactly what buffalo look like…a fluffy cow. I suppose that is why people assume they are tame. No one really knows what might set a buffalo off, and sometimes it’s nothing at all. Maybe the buffalo is in a bad mood that day. They have been known to attack people who were in the places they should be, and minding their own business, but most often, buffalo attacks are caused when the buffalo is startled, or when people just get too close. This year, so far there have been three buffalo incidents. That’s tragic!! Please people, keep your distance and stay in your car.

Every year, while my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I are on our annual trip to the Black Hills, we end the vacation with a ride on the 1880 Train. We know the route well, because it’s always the same. We know what sights are coming, because we have seen the so many times before. They just never grow old. Every time is…just fun!! The train is on a short, 10-mile-long track, and it simply goes back and forth all day long. One might think that the train has been around for 142 years as of 2022, but it has not. The 1880 Train was actually founded in 1957, so where did the “1880” part come in. The train got its name thanks to its founder, William Heckman, who wanted to recapture the nostalgic fun of the 1880s.

The track that the train runs on follows the original route of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad laid down in the late 1880s to service the mines and mills between Hill City and Keystone, so the route is authentic…even the original narrow-gauge tracks, which were 3 feet across. These days they have switched to the more modern broad-gauge track, which is 4-foot 8½ inches. The broad-gauge track made it possible to run faster trains, with increased passenger comfort, compared with the narrower gauge…not that the 1880 train goes fast. This train is a leisure ride, and nobody is in a hurry. While it is a tourist attraction, the Black Hills Central Railroad is also the oldest continuously operating tour railroad in the nation. It operates three steam and two diesel engines throughout the season. So much goes into making that final day of our trip an amazing day, and we are glad the train is there to make it so special.

A group, led by William Heckman was unhappy with the increasing prevalence of diesel engines since the 1940s, so the formed the group to ensure that “there should be in operation at least one working steam railroad, for boys of all ages who share America’s fondness for the rapidly vanishing steam locomotive.” It was a dream to preserve history, and I think it is amazing. The name “1880 Train” was originally a nickname by Heckman, but the name was so fitting, that it was made permanent. The Black Hills Central Railroad experienced a rebirth in 1990, with the line and facilities thoroughly cleaned and upgraded, and the existing locomotives restored to prime condition.

The ride is so pleasant. It takes you on a scenic journey through the beautiful Black Hills, giving you glimpses of rugged scenery, following the route of Battle Creek. You are given views of towering forests, pretty meadows and trickling creeks, as well as the remnants of old mines, allowing a glimpse into the remarkable past of mining in the region. A variety of wildlife poke their heads out from their hiding places, because they are just as curious about you as you are of them. From the train car you see the white tail deer, mule deer, wild turkey, mallard ducks, and cottontail rabbits that make their homes in the area. The train takes you over 15 road crossings where the locals and the tourists stop, take pictures and wave. The whistle sequence of long-long-short-long when approaching a crossing, introduces you to another part of history. This sequence is Morse code for the letter Q, and dates back to the time when the queen traveled by ship in England. Ships with the queen on board would do this sequence on the horn to announce to other ships in the harbor to get out of the way. The Queen had the right-of-way. When the queen switched to the railways, the same signal followed, and the Engineer did the sequence coming into a station to allow Her Majesty the right of way. The warning signal has been around for almost 200 years now! I wonder if it will change to a letter K when the Queen steps down. Time will tell, I guess. Nevertheless, Bob and I will continue to ride the 1880 Train every year, because we just love it.

There was so much controversy over the control of the Black Hills. The Indians were told that the White man would stay out of the Black Hills, but when gold was discovered there, all bets were off. Before his defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn, while he was still a Lieutenant Colonel, George Custer rode with his crew to the Black Hills of South Dakota in search of a location for a fort. That Custer Expedition of 1874 became a defining moment in the story of the Black Hills coming under the control of the United States. Things really got started in 1872, when Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano, basically set the stage for the expedition to the Black Hills. Delano was responsible for the Sioux territorial rights in the region. Delano sent a letter dated March 28, l872, which stated, “I am inclined to think that the occupation of this region of the country is not necessary to the happiness and prosperity of the Indians, and as it is supposed to be rich in minerals and lumber it is deemed important to have it freed as early as possible from Indian occupancy. I shall, therefore, not oppose any policy which looks first to a careful examination of the subject… If such an examination leads to the conclusion that country is not necessary or useful to Indians, I should then deem it advisable…to extinguish the claim of the Indians and open the territory to the occupation of the whites.”

It was the beginning of major trouble in the Black Hills, because Delano’s remarks were in direct contradiction of terms defined in the 1868 Laramie Treaty which states: “…no persons except those designated herein … shall ever be permitted to pass over, settle upon, or reside in the territory described in this article.” Delano singlehandedly broke the treaty with the Indians and blew up the situation in the Black Hills. Basically, he thought the Indians wouldn’t see the value in the Black Hills that he saw…gold. Well, the gold didn’t interest them, but the land did. Delano stated that the major reasons for exploration was that “Americans and representatives in Dakota Territory felt that there was too much land allotted for too few Sioux (estimated to number from 15 to 25,000 in 1872); and the existence of mineral and natural resources in the area.”

The American economy wasn’t in good shape at that time. Experts think that the Delano letter and other previous reports and rumors regarding the wealth of the Black Hills were the real forces behind the expedition of the following year. General Alfred H. Terry of the Headquarters of the Department of Dakota in Saint Paul formally ordered the exploration of the Black Hills on June 8, 1874. Enter Custer…who was told to look for a site for Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, which ended up being located 7 miles south of Mandan, North Dakota, not in the Black Hills at all. Of course, the fort was likely to be used to protect the settlers and prospectors who were expected to flood the Black Hills. Custer’s expedition departed on July 2, 1874. Custer’s expedition, which was a mile long, included Custer, wearing a buckskin uniform, on his favorite bay thoroughbred at the head of ten Seventh Cavalry companies, followed by two companies of infantry, scouts, and guides. In all they were more than 1000 troops and one black woman, Sarah Campbell, the expedition’s cook. The 110 canvas-topped wagons were pulled by six mule teams. In addition, they had horse-drawn Gatling guns and cannons, and three hundred head of cattle brought along to provide meat for the troops. The expedition even had a “Scientific corps” with them, which included a geologist and his assistant, a naturalist, a botanist, a medical officer, a topographical engineer, a zoologist, and a civilian engineer. Two miners, Horatio N. Ross and William T. McKay, were attached to the scientific corps. In addition, Custer brought a photographer, newspaper correspondents, the company’s band, hunting dogs, the son of US President Ulysses S. Grant, as well as his younger brothers, Tom and Boston. All to look for a site for a fort!!!

It seems to me that with each Independence Day, the fight for our freedom grows more and more fierce. Our current political situation is not a matter of Republican against Democrat, but rather, Good against Evil. I suppose one might have their own opinion as to which side is which, but those who know me, know exactly where I stand. I am a firm believer in this statement by Thomas Jefferson, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” The good news for the good people of this nation is that we know how to pray, and we know how to fight. What we don’t know how to do is to give up. It may take us a little while, but with God’s help we will prevail…and God is on our side.

Pretty much every year, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I go to the Black Hills for the holiday. The fireworks display in Custer, South Dakota is one of the best we’ve ever seen. The amazing thing is that Custer is a really small town…in fact, it has a population of only about 2,314 people. That said, for them to put on such an amazing fireworks display is really cool. Pageant Hill starts filling up early, so if you are driving up there, you need to go well before dusk. Bob and I would rather walk up there, because it’s easy to find a place to sit when you don’t have a car, and when the show is over, we don’t have to wait for all that traffic to get back to our room. That fireworks display is one of the main highlights of the trip.

Of course, the fireworks display is not the only thing Bob and I like to do in the Black Hills. Our main focus is hiking. There are so many beautiful trails in the area. We take a different one each day that we are there. There is no better way to experience freedom and liberty, than a hike in the woods. It is so peaceful out there, and absolutely beautiful. There are many places that you just can’t see driving down the road. Wildlife, mostly birds, because the bigger animals make themselves scarce…thankfully for the most part. I like seeing deer, but I draw the line at the mountain lions. There are no bears in the Black Hills, except at Bear Country USA, which is a wildlife park, and the bears don’t run free in the Black Hills. Bears don’t run free there, but we definitely do. Happy Independence Day everyone!! Let Freedom Ring!!!

My husband’s uncle, Bobby Cole was born in South Dakota, where he lived for all of his young life. I don’t know all the details of how he met my husband’s aunt, Linda “Knox” Cole, except that they met in Colstrip, Montana, when her parents were living there. It is my thought that Bobby was working at the coal mine in Colstrip, when a certain girl caught his eye. Once he met Linda, he was smitten. He knew she was the love of his life, and he was right. They were married on December 29th, 1965, and their marriage would last until Bobby’s passing on May 30, 2014. Of course, I don’t know these details for sure, except that my husband, Bob Schulenberg told me that they met in Colstrip. I also know that Colstrip is a coal mining town…or at least a coal processing town. So, it made sense that mining and coal was the reason Bobby was there. And in the end, it was fate, I guess…or a really good move.

Bobby was raised on his parents’ farm, so the country lifestyle was in his blood, but like many kids, the idea of a change of pace can be very appealing…not to mention getting away from home. Kids, once they graduate from high school tend to either want to move out and get a job or head off to college. For Bobby, the choice was to move to Colstrip, Montana was the best decision he ever made. Once Linda and Bobby met, they never looked back. The dated a while, and then went to Las Vegas, Nevada to get married. Following their wedding, Linda and Bobby would go on to have two children…a daughter, Sheila and a son, Patrick. Since that time, their lives were blessed with multiple grandchildren. While they passed away at a younger age, they lived a good life.

Eventually, life would take Linda and Bobby in an unexpected direction. After the hotel they owned in Kennebec, South Dakota, burned to the ground, they decided that since Kennebec was a small town and business was going nowhere, it was time to leave. They moved to Winnemucca, Nevada, and lived there the rest of their lives. Today would have been Bobby’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Bobby. We love and miss you very much.

My grand-niece, Melanie Harman is married to my grand-nephew, Jake Harman. Jake is quick to say that Melanie is an amazing woman who puts up with him constantly yelling, “Mom help!!” It is only every now and then that she tells him to “shut it!!” You see, Jake is not calling for him mom, but calling Melanie “Mom,” because she is the mother of his children, and she often says she has four children, and not three, because Jake is just “a big kid” at heart.

Melanie is always putting others ahead of her own needs…everyone in fact, and especially her kids. When Jake first met his sweet wife, the first thing he noticed about her was just how sweet and kind she was. She was also quiet, but Jake says that the longer they are together, the more like him she becomes. That is common, as people are married a number of years. Jake says that she can be randomly rude, just like he is. They are joking, of course, and it usually brings a round of laughter for them and those who know them. Melanie is Jake’s best friend, and he says he falls in love with her more and more every day. Jake is a jokester, yet even with all his picking on her, he marvels that Melanie still chooses to wake up to him every morning. Jake attributes their marital success to God, because as Jake says, “Only God could make some one as perfect as her, and only God would bless a sinner like me with her.”

Melanie is a hard working woman. She works 6½ hours a day as a bus aid then 4 hours cleaning buildings for Cleaning Solutions. Then she goes home to take care of her three kids or as she says four, because as Melanie says and we all know, Jake often acts like one!! To demonstrate that fact, the family recently made a trip to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On their way back to Casper, Wyoming, there were about 100 Wall Drug billboards and at every single one of them Jake would tap her arm over and over and say, “Mom…Mom…Mom!! Look…look!!” Melanie would look at it and then look at Jake and say, “You do that one more time, and I’m going to beat you!!” She never did, of course, because she is full of love…even for people they don’t know.

Sometimes, when Jake is driving his bus for the disabled, the family comes and rides the bus with him when he is on the route busses. Melanie can talk to anyone, and that shows on the bus. No matter who starts talking to her, she never tells them to stop talking to her or leave her alone, no matter how mixed up they might be. Melanie always listens and talks with them. Melanie has a kind heart and that shows in all she does. The developmentally disabled can see that kindness in a person more than other people can. They can tell that it’s okay to talk to some people. They see that kindness in Melanie, and so do I. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The other day, while in the Black Hills, I was spending time in one of my favorite pastimes…people watching. Keystone, South Dakota is an interesting mix of people, and somehow everyone gets along and mingles with ease. There is no animosity in Keystone. Everyone is in a relaxed, party mood and even when they are waiting in line to order food, and the line is really long, and things are taking some time, nobody gets upset. They are kind to each other and they are patient. I watched people from all walks of life. There were bikers standing next to what appeared to me to be a doctor and his family, and there were smiles all around. People helped those who needed help, opened doors for each other; and by the way, color made no difference. In the year following a year of riots, unrest, racism, and rudeness, this was Heaven.

Of course, we were in South Dakota…a Republican state that did not close down for Covid. I’m not going to get too deeply into politics here, but it is impossible not to notice the difference in the states. I was in Keystone when President Trump was at Rushmore, and there were protests, but no real violence, no riots, and no vandalism. People were just different there…more polite, more civil, more caring. Even in the midst of a protest, when people were calling out their own views, there was no violence. That means something. It means that people can disagree without being hateful. It also means that certain things were not going to be tolerated, and those who would act out should know they would be arrested. Of course, the police were everywhere, and having a police presence is crucial to keeping order. I am aware that there are good cops and bad cops, but in Keystone, it seemed that the police officers were good and caring, because they wanted the honor that went with being good cops.

There are also good people and bad people, and there are those who are paid to be evil. And those are the worst kind of all. People talk about the naivete of the rural people of our country, but I think they are some of the best people there are. Those good old fashioned values, caring about your neighbors, helping others, and not looking at the color of someone’s skin, those are the kind of people I see in rural America. I wouldn’t want to live in a big city, because I think you lose a lot of that loving, caring lifestyle. That is what we need to work toward getting back in this country…a more caring lifestyle.

A couple of days ago, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I went for a hike through a South Dakota ghost town called Spokane. It was founded in 1890 to extract precious gold, the mine proved richer in silver, copper, zinc, mica and graphite. The town hit its stride in 1927 with its biggest year ever totaling $144,742 in profits which helped fund the school building whose bones can still be seen, at least for now. The tow is rapidly deteriorating, so they won’t be around much longer. By 1940, the mine and town were all but abandoned. The town limped along, with the manager’s house being the last one to be abandoned in the 1970s. The Spokane Mine was discovered in 1889 by Sylvester Judd more or less by accident. As the story goes, “he had placed a rock (likely galena or cerussite) from the outcrop on his wooden stove. He was amazed when he found molten lead coming from the mineral.” The town was formed the same year the mine began operations, in 1890, but it was not the town or it’s dilapidated buildings, but rather the tragic history of the place that caught my attention.

A man named James Shepard, or Jim as he was know to family and friends in Spokane, heard about the gold rush in the Black Hills and decided to take his family from North Carolina, to the town of Spokane to stake his claim. A local man named Frank Cox had not kept up assessment work on the Spokane Mine, which he himself had “jumped” when it had been neglected by someone else. It isn’t the best way to stake a claim, but it is legal apparently. Jim had enough to stake his claim to the mine, so he claimed it and on June 21, 1908, when he drove his stake at the site. Jim was well liked and since he did things right, people respected him and his family.

Frank Cox’s wife, the Sunday school teacher, observed the staking of the claim by Shepard while riding to the schoolhouse and informed her husband. Then the real trouble began. That evening, Jim rode his horse to bring his free-roaming milk cow back to the house. According to his account, when he had his guard down, Frank and his son Henry stepped out from behind some trees. Frank yelled, “You son-of-a-bitch, you have driven your last stake!” and shot Jim with a shotgun. He was able to ride home, where his wife, Jessie, frantically helped him into bed and rode for help.

Jessie went to the Hoffman home and told them that Jim had been shot. Edgar H. Hoffman, who was 12 years old, never forgot that night. “Mrs. Shepard was a tall, dark mountain woman. Her clothes and the saddle were soaked and spotted with blood,” he said. A neighbor rode to the nearest doctor, but that was 17 miles away in Custer. It was an awful stormy night with heavy rain and lightning flashes. Not an easy way to make such an important trip. The next morning, the doctor and sheriff arrived to just in time to hear hear Jim’s dying words…words that incriminated Frank and Henry. The town was horribly shaken by the murder. The crowd could only be described as “angry and hostile” at Jim’s funeral.

“In order to prevent violence, the minister had the congregation point the finger of guilt at whoever they felt had committed the murder. Everyone pointed the finger at the Cox house. From then on, the Coxes were ostracized by the Spokane community and they sent their son away to relatives,” wrote Inez Shepard Shafer, Jim Shepard’s only surviving child.

In the July 10, 1909 edition of the Keystone Record, it was stated that the trial was “one of the longest and hardest fought preliminary hearings ever held in Custer County. It was thought at first by friends of Cox that he would have no trouble in proving an alibi, as he was at the Ideal [mine] all day Sunday and slept there that night. This is true, but there was about an hour and a half in the evening he was unable to account for, and about the time the shooting was supposed to have taken place. It is unfortunate for all concerned, and if Cox proves his innocence, and many believe he will, the chances are we will never know who killed James Shepard.”

For years, my husband, Bob and I went to visit his Aunt Linda and Uncle Bobby Cole in Kennebec, South Dakota once a year. It was something we all looked forward to. Kennebec is a really small town, with very little to do, so we had the chance to slow down our busy lives, play cards, drink coffee, and visit. For us it was a nice change, for Linda and Bobby, I suppose it was life as usual. Another nice thing was that no babysitters were needed. Our girls Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce were little at that time, and would need to be watched if we went out as couples. The played with Linda and Bobby’s kids, Sheila Gregory and Pat Cole. Everyone had a great time.

Linda and Bobby owned a small hotel in Kennebec, so a place to stay was no problem. Unfortunately, the hotel was hit by lightning, and the resulting fire was bad enough to make the hotel uninhabitable, so the trips to Kennebec just stopped. While they knew the strike was close, Linda and Bobby didn’t know it had hit the hotel, until they smelled the burning wood from the upstairs rooms. The hotel was deemed a total loss. Very few rooms were unaffected…by smoke damage, if not fire damage. The last time I saw the hotel, it was a charred shell of what it had once been. It was a sad time for everyone, because it was the beginning of change…a change that would end the yearly trips to Kennebec. After weighing the options, Linda and Bobby decided to move to Winnemucca, Nevada. While my in-laws tried to see Linda and Bobby during their snowbird days, with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in my mother-in-law, and the advancement of COPD in my father-in-law, their snowbird days came to an abrupt end too.

The kids were all grown and married, so the trips we made were just Bob and me…and those trips were few and far between. Nevada was just not a place we got to very often, and they didn’t travel much anymore either. After her sister, my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Linda couldn’t bear to see her sister not remembering her anymore, so they couldn’t make themselves visit. That was probably the saddest part of all this change. Even before my mother-in-law passed away in January of 2018, Linda passed away in September of 2016. The husbands, Walt Schulenberg, my father-in-law, passed away in May of 2013 and Bobby passed away in May of 2014. In just a short time, they were all gone, and even more had changed than before. Now, all we have are the memories that surface from time to time, especially on birthdays. Today would have been Linda’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.

Our aunt, Linda Cole was the middle child of my husband, Bob’s Grandma and Grandpa Knox. She and her husband, Bobby moved to Kennebec, South Dakota early in their marriage, and raised their two children, Sheila Gregory and Patrick Cole. In Kennebec, Linda and Bobby owned a hotel, and when people came to visit, they always had enough room for everyone to stay. My husband, Bob and I took our girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce to visit them once a year. It was a nice trip for us and they got to see family too. Running a hotel didn’t leave much time to travel, so the family that came to visit them was often the only time the saw the rest of us. Linda’s sister, Joann Schulenberg and her husband, Walt, my in-laws went often too. We all went in the summer, so it was often really hot in Kennebec. Nevertheless, the visits were fun, and I will always be glad we went.

Later, after a fire burned most of the hotel down, the family moved to Winnemucca, Nevada, where Linda and Bobby both found work in the casinos. They really liked working there and also enjoyed gambling on their days off. I don’t know how they fared in their gambling, but they didn’t really spend a huge amount of time at it. They liked the warmth and easy winters, and enjoyed the place they had out in the country. It was quiet, and that was nice after the noise of the casinos.

My in-laws visited them periodically in their travels as snowbirds, and the sisters got to know each other again. For so many years they had lived far away from each other, that they were more like acquaintances than sisters sometimes. The girls’ younger sister, Margee lives here in Casper. She and Linda talked on the telephone often, and they were very close. It was hard on the sisters to be so far away from Linda, but as time goes on, you get used to things.

In May of 2014, Linda lost her husband, Bobby, and then Linda passed away in September of 2016. It had been a number of years since her sisters had seen Linda, and that made her passing especially sad. It always seemed as if there would be time, but when time ran out, it left only sadness where Linda had been. We can only look forward to seeing her again in Heaven. Today would have been Linda’s 73rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.

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