Monthly Archives: August 2013

Historic Baseball Ticket Stub: Metropolitan Stadium, August 25, 1961

Side 1Yesterday I was cleaning off my desk and I came across a raincheck stub from an August 25, 1961 Minnesota Twins ball game at the old Metropolitan Stadium (a plaque in the Mall of America marks the location of the original home plate). This got me thinking about how sports have increasingly been looked at as windows into the past, even popularized lately by the movie 42: The Jackie Robinson Story(Jules Tygiel has an exhaustive history cranked out by Oxford University Press here.)

This old Metropolitan Stadium ticket also got me thinking about how the “Met” was built south of the Twin Cities in Bloomington, in a farmer’s field, in the 1950s. This, in a broad sense, represented the increased urban flight from the city proper to the suburbs (something Adam Rome goes on at length in The Bulldozer in the Countryside — environmentalism was a reaction to the hyper development of the suburbs in post-WWII America). The Eisenhower Interstate system also allowed for Americans to bypass the central downtowns, and its gravity reshaped a variety of cities throughout the nation.

Side 2And this 1961 ticket could also — through various connections — reflect the prologue to the American Indian Movement that started in Minneapolis. This ticket is a piece of material culture that represents the white flight from the city to the suburbs. The Federal government, in turn, relocated — or attempted to — Native America (the original Americans) from the reservation to these downtown urban areas.

This leap from a 1961 rain check baseball ticket needs quite a bit more data to give more strength to the AIM connection, but when blogging in the morning, the mind tends to wonder and wander aloud with questions (this, of course, is where scholarship and history begins…).

Gadgets In Edgeley, North Dakota: Visiting Dawn and Theresa Paul

This morning, while reading about Caraher’s physical concerns as a field archaeologist, I took the third slug of coffee from the first home roasted coffee batch. To home roast the coffee, I used a corn/maize air popper, and learned how to do this just over a week ago when Molly and I visited Dawn and Theresa Paul who reside in Edgeley, south-central North Dakota. It works great, and there appears to be a huge body of DIY internet information on this (which, like numerous things, I only now am discovering). Here is what the roasting looked like this morning.

Roasted coffee from this morning. Green coffee beans just above that.

Roasted coffee from this morning. Green coffee beans just above that.

Anyhow, I thought I’d give you some quick backdrop on Dawn and Theresa and then share another project they finished in Edgeley. Dawn and Theresa used to live on St. Croix. When they first said this, I responded with, “You’re talking about the Virgin Islands and not Minnesota, correct?” (When someone says they are from Oslo, I always do the same thing and ask, “Norway and not Minnesota, right?”) Yes, they were talking about the Caribbean. They both lived on the island for quite a time, developing a house and setting themselves into a variety of projects. Eventually, though, they wanted to relocate to the northern Great Plains (I think this in part had to do with Theresa’s family connections to the area). They claim to be “retired,” but after visiting with Dawn for over an hour I balked at this assertion, or at least modified it. I said, “You’re retired, but busy as ever.” He agreed.

Below are photos of a rehabilitated and restored circus conversion van. Dawn and Theresa can give you the details way better than I can, but the short and skinny of it is this: they discovered this vehicle years back, the vehicle having been abandoned or nearly abandoned. It is a motor home that early 20th-century circus people would use while traveling the circus circuit. This particular van was owned by “The Great Arturo” of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus shows. The Great Arturo, I learned, was center ring.

Circus people would often winter down in Florida, and then return to the circus life when things warmed back up. Dawn and Theresa decided to do a complete restore on the vehicle, and you’ll occasionally see them traveling the minor and major roads on the northern Great Plains. Here are some photos:

The cockpit of the sweet circus ride.

The cockpit of the sweet circus ride.

Don entering the sweet ride.

Dawn entering the sweet ride.

The front 1/3 of the sweet circus ride.

The front 1/3 of the sweet circus ride.

An interior shot of the sweet circus ride. Note the stove range to the right; sink to the lower left; toilet further back; and bed at the way back.

An interior shot of the sweet circus ride. Note the stove range to the right; dresser just behind that; sink to the lower left; toilet further back; and bed at the way back.

Jessica Christy’s Art This Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota

Jessica ChristyThis Saturday, Jessica Christy (an artist who also happens to be one of my cousins) will be showing her work at DK Gallery in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

This is a copy of the official handbill she is circulating. I figured since she is doing these spectacular Warhol-Factory-esque prints of the USDA’s finest canned beef w/ juices, then it would be okay for me to copy the handbill and post it on my blog.

According to the USDA description, canned beef with juices (USDA item #110),

…consists of coarse ground beef cooked in its own juices for use in a variety of applications, including barbecue beef, pizza, soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, vegetable stir-fry, casseroles, and similar items.

That does sound juicy.

One might make the argument that we, as an increasingly hybridized digital corporate-nation, are becoming a bit disconnected from where our stuff comes from, food included. This in turn is problematic because a government is, as laid down by our founders, a nation by the people, for the people, whereas a corporation is beholden to do one thing and one thing only: make money for the shareholders. I of course would not make this argument, and I would advise against bringing up the idea in polite company. But if someone else wanted to, they certainly could.

Never mind all of that, though. We need to move product here, folks, so let’s get to it. See you Saturday! Don’t forget to bring your Andrew Jacksons!

Prairie Turnips

A prairie turnip.

A cluster of prairie turnips.

Where some see a prairie-scape of oblivion, others see a culinary buffet. Just last night I was cruising around in some old digital photos on the desktop, and I came across a couple shots of prairie turnips. I photographed them a couple years ago in the kitchen of a downtown Bismarck apartment I used to live in (the historic Mason Building), I think around 2008 or 2009.

During those summers, Tim Mentz, Jr., of Standing Rock, showed me on the northern Great Plains how to identify the prairie turnip. You can read the landscape for prairie turnips in July. This is when the vegetation sprouts above ground, making them visible. They also grow in certain areas on a hill (it may or may not have something to do with the ph levels of the soil — I’m in the humanities, folks). This, of course, leads to the idea that if you have two different people look at the same landscape, they will see it in a variety of different ways. I like listening to what others have to say about the landscape. Tim Mentz, Jr. always had my ear. We would often joke, too — when a bull was once staring at us and uprooting the topsoil with his front hoof, I asked Tim, “What does that mean?” Tim responded with, “That means we give him distance.”

It is customary to braid the turnips by the root ends, and then hang them to dry. Just like mushrooms (and other dried goods), they will reconstitute in liquid or water. I made turnip soup out of this batch.

With the husk pulled back, this is what the edible flesh of a prairie turnip looks like.

With the husk pulled back, this is what the edible flesh of a prairie turnip looks like.

Archaeological Mosquito Ramblings

One of the only known photos to survive the pedestrian survey from southeastern Montana, summer 2008.

One of the only known photos to survive the pedestrian survey from southeastern Montana, summer 2008.

Pedestrian archaeological surveys necessitate long-distance hiking (hence the name, pedestrian survey). This evening I was trying to remember the first time I started thinking about how the work of archaeologists is to re-assemble or attempt to reconstruct how people worked in the past. In this blog entry, I’ll assert that I started thinking about this during a pedestrian survey in Carter County, southeastern Montana, summer 2008. I remember two archaeological comrades on that project, Mark Luther and Chandler Herson.

I also remember the fantastic mosquito swarms, and this in turn led me to recall a segment from John Finerty’s War Path & Bivouac (1890), a chronicle assembled by the Hibernian-American correspondent with the Chicago Times. And this is what happens when the humanities intersects with the social science of archaeology. When it came to contending with mosquitoes during pedestrian surveys in eastern Montana in the summer of 2008, I also thought about how Finerty interfaced with them while attached as an imbedded reporter with General Crook’s frontier column. While traversing the snowy range, Finerty said mosquitoes “bothered us terribly while the sun continued visible.” In another instance, Finerty said mosquito repellant was created by burning “damp sage brush and weeds,” this raising “a tremendous pungent smoke,” working “wonders with the intolerable pests.”

In eastern Montana, a grey silt has built up from millennia of the eastward-flowing Rocky Mountain run-off. This is incredible mud with incredibly terrible drainage, and it holds rain-water well. Thus, millions of these mud pockets hold rain water after said rain, and they create brilliant breeding grounds for the mosquitoes. On August 21, 1879, Finerty, reporting from eastern Montana, said, “The gigantic mosquitoes nearly ate us alive that night. They and the rains make life very uncomfortable in northern Montana.” Even at full gallop on a horse, Finerty said mosquitoes took to drafting in the breeze: “We went at a gallop [on horse] most of the time, but even the breeze created by rapid motion did not free us from the winged tyrants.” I, as well as Chandler and Mark, can testify that these mosquitoes operated in full-force during the summer of 2008. The mosquitoes, no doubt, made sure that our hearts were in it for the archaeology, and the historical sense of place.

A Panoramic of the James River Coteau


I’ve been fiddling with the “Panoramic” feature on the iPhone 4s. I realize that everyone but me knew about this. But I thought I’d upload at least one photo snapped yesterday approximately 5 miles east and 2 miles south of Kulm, North Dakota. The photo is looking to the northeast and east, just on the ridge of the coteau that drops into the James River Valley proper. To my immediate east, the water goes into the James River. To my immediate west, the water ultimately finds its way to the Missouri River. Both water streams merge around Yankton, South Dakota, and ultimately empty into the Mississippi, then the Gulf of Mexico. Hydrology kind of connects us to the land that way.

To get to your “Panoramic” setting, at least on an iPhone 4s, turn on the camera, tap the “Options” button top-center of the screen, and then tap “Panorama.” Then start experimenting.

The Stump Lake Pavilion of North Dakota

This last week, from Sunday evening to Friday evening, I camped with a small cadre of highly trained artists at Stump Lake (the Dakota called it Wambduska Bde, which means “Snake Water” or “Creeping Thing Water,” this translation courtesy of good friend Dakota Goodhouse), Nelson County, North Dakota. When we (meaning Molly McLain and I) first approached Stump Lake, and since it had been our first time each, everything was new. So it came as a kind of pleasant shock to find a massive historic pavilion situated at the end of the road at the campsite. My eyes widened large when I first saw it. The pavilion has been used as a roller-skating rink since, I was told, it was constructed. And while I was there, I heard banter about the pavilion either being on, or wanting to be on, the National Register of Historic Places.

A panoramic photo of the pavilion at Stump Lake, North Dakota. Photo from August 2, 2013.

A panoramic photo of the pavilion at Stump Lake, North Dakota. Photo from August 2, 2013.


I also heard from Dwight, one of the overseers of Stump Lake campsites, that a raging international polka festival goes on at Stump Lake every summer. Dwight also chatted with me about the stories old timers have told him about their experiences at the Stump Lake pavilion. Dwight said one individual told him how throughout the 1930s they used to polka at the pavilion throughout the night, running down to cool off with a swim in Stump Lake, and then returning to the hard wood polka floors to continue dancing. Does this seem like something out of Prairie Home companion? Of course, anyone from North Dakota knows that the Prairie Home Companion is actually based off reality that has and continues to take place in said North Dakota. It is where Garrison gets all of his best stuff.

An exterior shot of the pavilion from the last week of July 2013, Stump Lake, North Dakota.

An exterior shot of the pavilion from the last week of July 2013, Stump Lake, North Dakota.


There are numerous Bohemian enclaves throughout northern Dakota (check this one out here). One just has to devote the time to stop and listen for the accordion. Note: a future research project will have me investigating whether or not the pavilion is on the National Register of Historic Places. If it is, then yes, the universe is in accord with itself. If it is not, well, then there is more work for all of us to do. Might this be an excellent place to consider a future ND Humanities Council Chautauqua, too?… Perhaps, folks. Perhaps…

Pavilion interior, from hardwood floor to exposed rafter ceiling.

Pavilion interior, from hardwood floor to exposed rafter ceiling.