Monthly Archives: January 2013

Punk Archaeology Handbills

Around the Fargo-Moorhead area, here is a glimpse of some of the first Punk Archaeology handbills to go up. This one is secured to the entrance of the Rhombus Guys Pizza joint on Main Avenue in downtown Fargo in Cass County, North Dakota. For more details, click here. On February 2, 2013 (a Saturday) at Sidestreet Grille and Bar in downtown Fargo, ND, music will kick off around 7:17pm, and the panel discussion just a bit later. And like any quality un-conference time, it may start just a little before, or a little after. Swing on down if you’re in town. It is happening. And it will be awesome.

Various handbills in the entrance of Rhombus Guys in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Punk Archaeology handbill lower right.

Various handbills in the entrance of Rhombus Guys in downtown Fargo, North Dakota. Punk Archaeology handbill lower right.

Gandolf the White Blizzard

It is the evening of January 11, 2013, and I am on the second floor of The Arts Center in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota. In the past couple days the Weather Channel and regional meteorologists have been psychologically preparing the public for the first intense blizzard of the year. The Weather Channel has subsequently named this blizzard Gandolf — yes, I’m serious. Originally I intended on making the Eisenhower Interstate 94 drive from Fargo to Jamestown after an NDSU departmental meeting concluded in the late afternoon, but eureka rattled through my brain earlier in the morning and I thought it would be better to make the drive then and there. My hope was to beat the thermometer from Fargo to Jamestown, knowing that the light rain would turn to ice as the temps dropped below 32 F. And if I didn’t make it to Jamestown, how would I be able to attend the art gallery reception for Walter Piehl on Saturday evening with Molly at The Arts Center? Yes, I needed to act.

Ice forming on the windshield and radio antenna during the early stages of Gandolf the White Blizzard.

Ice forming on the windshield and radio antenna during the early stages of Gandolf the White Blizzard.

The drive turned into a white-knuckled affair, a ’93 Chevrolet S-10 rear-wheel drive pickup providing joyous stress. I found that by keeping the speedometer at no more than 40mph, the rear wheels would stay secure to the pavement. During the drive, I also thought about how author Chuck Klosterman killed off several main characters (spoiler alert!) with a blizzard in Downtown Owl, this piece of fiction set in a small town in rural North Dakota in 1984. Then I thought about the book, Children’s Blizzard. Then I tried to stop thinking such thoughts, and I continued driving.

Note: when driving in winter rainstorms that are turning to ice, there are two opposing thoughts that bash at each other in the brain. It goes something like this: after a driver is 30 miles into a 90 mile drive, and just after the rear wheels slip a little at 50mph (the pick up will jerk a bit), the driver considers two options: turn around and endure another 30 mile drive back, or press on and gain another 30 miles. In the long term, if the driver retreats and makes it back home, they will have logged 60 miles, which, essentially means one could have been 2/3s the way to the destination. So I pushed on. Would I end up sliding off the road and into the ditch? Stop thinking about these thoughts. I did, and I made it to my destination. My advice: don’t do this. Ever. Anyhow, the photo pictured above is what the windshield looked like in the early stages of Gandolf the Grey, this between 8:30AM-to-12PM in Cass, Barnes and Stutsman counties, North Dakota.

Walter Piehl and his art.

Walter Piehl and his art.

The below short video clip is an intensified Gandolf, when a winter rain storm receives more training to ultimately become Gandolf the White Blizzard. As I re-visit the video over and over from a historic building in downtown Jamestown, North Dakota, I can’t help but thinking how 100 years ago an individual in the building would have heard similar sounds from this very vantage. Note, for example, the subtle chug-chug-chug in the audio, this coming from a train just a block north. The large grain elevator (not visible) is located along the tracks. Yup, 100 years ago it was possible during a winter blizzard to hear the same blasts of shivering whispers blow through the small cracks in commercial brick construction, and also hear the thump-thump-thump of the iron horse on the Northern Pacific Railroad.  Historically, it is important to respect White Blizzards — lest they teach us mortality instead of just humility.

Two Artistic Notes

About a week ago a group of us dropped in on the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture at 111 South Grand Avenue in downtown Bozeman, Montana. The center has been re-adapted from its original progressive school function. Today, or as of January 2013, there are a variety of art pieces and galleries within, and two pieces of material culture caught my eye. They are machines that dispense art.

The first was a former pull-handle cigarette machine that had been converted into an art, music, writings and idea dispensing machine. Go to this website here for more details. This is what the former cig machine looked like.

Art Dispenser

The second was a paper towel dispenser that now serves as a poetry dispenser. This is what the poetry dispenser looks like:

Poetry Dispenser

I pulled a sheet of poetry from that dispenser, and here is the poem in full.

Bloodied and Humbled, by Alexis W.

Life will leave you,

If you’re lucky,

Bloodied and humbled

Now bloodied washes off

The wounds from which it came will

Mend over, scars will fade

A commentary on

The unimportance of the physical

But the humbled will stick

A commentary on

The strength of the mind

And if, for some reason, it doesn’t

If you’re lucky

Life will come to leave you

Bloodied and humbled


Some Notes On Chico Hot Springs, Montana

Steam rises out of the outdoor pool at Chico Hot Springs, Montana.

Steam rises out of the outdoor pool at Chico Hot Springs, Montana.

This last weekend I had the opportunity to be absorbed by a delegation from North Dakota and gladly pulled into the gravity of Chico Hot Springs, Montana. Once there, and while sauntering around the complex, I finally paid attention to a shiny placard (just next to the entrance I had been through multiple times) that noted Chico’s National Register of Historic Places status. So that compelled me to track down the registration nomination, and this is what we have.

The hot springs at Chico exist because of geology.  Water is heated sub-terra, and this eventually makes its way to the surface, flowing into places within and beyond the borders of Yellowstone National Park. At Chico, it arrives to the surface at around 112 °F. Water was first tapped and channeled at these springs as early as 1866 (10 years before Custer was shown mortality at the Battle of Greasy Grass — aka, the Battle of Little Big Horn). In 1900, a complex was built at Chico.

The historic buildings at Chico include the main hotel (1900) in the Georgian Revival style, an auto garage (1916), a smoke house (1915), a boiler house (1910) and horse barn (1916), pools, shower house and pool building (1917). Teddy Roosevelt visited the hotel in 1902 (he seems to be everywhere throughout the American West).

A 2013 photo of the historic 1900 Chico hotel, and mountain backdrop.

A 2013 photo of the historic 1900 Chico hotel, and mountain backdrop.

By 1969 a concrete-lined channel was added to divert hot spring overflow and regulate water temperature. Between 1900 and 2013, the owners of Chico added several structures to accommodate demand and growth. Before the Euro-American arrival on the scene, though, hot springs had been utilized extensively by Native America. The following is the description of how local Native America used the hot springs in and around Chico, this description from the National Register nomination for Chico:

…Springs, and in particular hot springs, were revered and often visited as places of spiritual cleansing and renewal. Water as a basis of life was important to Indian spirituality, as the Crow sang: bire daxua kok (water is your life).

Considering the experience had at Chico Hot Springs in 2013, it’s appropriate to say that this cleansing and renewal continues. The public placard next to the hotel lobby entrance at Chico reads as follows:

Generous verandas, period furnishings and healing waters invite the visitor to experience turn-of-the-century hospitality under the shadow of Emigrant Peak. The hot springs, long appreciated by native peoples, got their commercial start during the territorial period when miners stopped by to bathe and “wash their duds.” In 1876, an inventive settler tapped into the 112 degree water, piping it under his greenhouse to grow vegetables for local residents. A hotel was planned in the 1880s, but in 1892, there were still no facilities and families camped nearby to enjoy the springs. Percie and Bill Knowles inherited the property in 1894. They ran a boardinghouse for miners and in 1900, built the long-awaited hot springs hotel. Under Knowles’ active promotion, uniformed drivers ferried such guests as Teddy Roosevelt and artist Charlie Russell from the Emigrant depot to the springs. When Bill Chico NRHPKnowles died in 1910, Percie and her son Radbourne transformed the luxurious hotel into a respected medical facility. Dr. George A. Townshend joined the staff in 1912 and under his direction, the hospital and healing waters gained renown throughout the northwest. After the 1940s, new owners and new directions included gambling and dude ranching. In 1976, Mike and Eve Art began recapturing the once-famous hotel’s turn-of-the-century ambiance. Chico Hot SPrings, with its Georgian-inspired architecture and warm Craftsman style interiors, is one of Montana’s best preserved examples of an early twentieth century hot springs hotel and health resort.

I can only add that one ought to go to a hot spring within the continental interior of North America. It is worth your while.

Closer to Paul Sharp

At first read Paul F. Sharp’s 1955 work might look like an extension of Frederick Turner’s frontier hypothesis. Yet the intellectual turn Sharp laid out in 1955 reacted to Walter Webb’s 1931 idea about man and nature. According to Webb, man entered the environment of the American West, and then reacted accordingly. In this way environment rather than man dictated the coarse of action. Yet Sharp tested this hypothesis by considering how man entered the North American west north and south of the 49th parallel. If Webb’s earlier ideas held true, then British Canadian culture and American culture (or Anglo-American culture) would have played out quite similarly on both sides of the geo-political border. The fact remains that they did not, though, since American culture and British Canadian culture were structured in two different ways. In the American West, chaotic and localized development ruled the day. North of the 49th parallel, though, a structured British-Canadian will set the course of its western development.


My first review from December 5, 2012 was analogous to how a Canadian might have regarded Sharp — here is just another Turnerian, Frederick’s same whiskey in a different cask. Yet the closer to an object, including Sharp’s 1955 work, the more amplified the details and subtleties become. I suppose this is an excuse for anyone to reread and revisit a good novel or piece of scholarship (or a novel piece of scholarship), Sharp’s work included.