Author Archives: Aaron Barth

Bighorn and Little Bighorn Confluence

In the latter afternoon hours of this last Tuesday, May 15, 2018, I found myself at the confluence of where the Little Bighorn River empties into the Bighorn River in southeastern Montana. It was the first time I had been to this spot. And I stared at it for a while.

The Situation Circa June 1876

The National Park Service Little Bighorn/Greasy Grass map.

This is the location where Cpt. Grant Prince Marsh parked the steamer Far West and waited under orders of General Terry for the outcome that would go down in history as the Battle of Little Bighorn/Greasy Grass.

Confluence of Little Bighorn and Bighorn Rivers

This is the approximate location where Captain Grant Prince Marsh secured the Far West steamer under orders of General Terry.

At the time of the action, Marsh and crew and the Far West were 15 miles from it all. Marsh’s biographer, Joseph Hanson, noted that Marsh and crew tied up the Far West at this approximate location to wait for the outcome. The waters had become too shallow to go any further. It required more than 3′ of depth.

During the wait several of the Far West crew took to fishing. And they could see little contours here and there of smoke and/or dust rise up out of the horizon.

We know what happened. And it is always a fascination to view history from the infinite perspectives it can afford us. It’s similar to or just like listening to someone else’s experience that we will never be able to experience ourselves. We sit and listen. We wonder what it was like.

When I came across this location, the one thought that cleared up in my mind was how Cpt. Marsh initially could not confirm the correct location of the Little Bighorn River in his ascent up the Bighorn River.

Water moves fairly swift, at least at this time in mid-May. Marsh operated in a pre-dam world, too. In June and late-June.

Boots and LBH River Mud

What the Redwing boots look like after making it to the confluence of the Little Bighorn and Bighorn rivers. There is no rival when it comes to eastern Montana mud. It is the best mud out there. The best.

Once he was informed of what had happened, he ordered the crew to cut grass and lay it on the Far West deck. Then he ordered that to be covered with sheets. All of this was in anticipation of the wounded who would be put on the Far West. 

Once boarded, Marsh set off and set a never-again-to-be-accomplished record of making it to the Missouri River shores of Bismarck, Dakota Territory, in the late-late hours of July 5, 1876.

From there the officers swiftly made their way a mile up to what is today the historic downtown of Bismarck to wake Col. Lounsberry, the owner and publisher of The Bismarck Tribune. 

Lounsberry then communicated what happened by telegraph to the New York Herald, and from there the story fired around the world.

I still have Little Bighorn-Bighorn river mud on my Redwing boots from this last May 15 outing.

Bismarck Tribune and Far West

The Far West was a part of the Coulson Line on the upper Missouri River. This is an ad the Coulson Line ran in the Bismarck Tribune during the Dakota Territorial years.


Hops Harvest

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Hoisting hops.

Over the Labor Day holiday, Molly and Me took a short road trip to the Ostlie Hops Farm in Foster County, North Dakota. The Ostlie crew had several hands on deck to harvest the mature hops. A couple guys from the Fargo Brewing Company were also harvesting. We learned that Fargo Brewing would brew with the hops being harvested that day. Keep an eye out for “Super Green” from Fargo Brewing.

This was the first time I harvested hops. It was great. And we learned a bit.

A drip irrigation system is a good idea. And so is planting prairie perennials in between the vine rows. I can’t remember who said it, but we heard that bees were nearby. North Dakota is one of the (if not thee) greatest bee commonwealths in the union. The bees are the pollinators between the prairie perennials and the hops vines.

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Mature hops vines suspended with a system of cables and poles

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Prairie perennials for the pollinators in between the hops vine rows 


Aristotle On Fear

Without revisiting the last couple blog posts, I know it has been a while since, well, the last post. There has been intense busy-ness (related to business) for almost 2 years now. But this evening a sort of settling down has begun, a getting the house in order, and a time for listening to conversation of others. Adam Smith likened it to appreciation and empathy. It also calls for a return to the grand stretch of human endeavors through decades, centuries, and millennia.

In regards to the settling back down, I have relocated book piles from a rented to an owned space. The book piles span range and time throughout the planet. From the 20th century there is Albert Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, and from the 21st Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure: A Memoir. On my lap, in front of me, is a translated volume of The Rhetoric and Poetics of Aristotle. It’s the Modern Library College edition, with the introduction by Edward P.J. Corbett.

In this translation, I flipped through all the pages many years ago I dog-eared. Which also leads to pages I had notation on: I think it was in 1999-2000 that I decided it was more than okay to scribble and add to the text of books. My philosophy went something along the lines of, “Stop with the book fetish. Write in and mark them up. It only adds to the text. That’s a good thing.”

With this work of Aristotle, I flipped to page 103, where he begins with the subsegment of Fear. This is Aristotle’s Book II, Chapter 4. With Fear, he says,

To turn next to Fear, what follows will show the things and persons of which, and the states of mind in which, we feel afraid. Fear may be defined as a pain or disturbance due to a mental picture of some destructive or painful evil in the future. Of destructive or painful evils only; for there are some evils, e.g. wickedness or stupidity, the prospect of which does not frighten us: I mean only such as amount to great pains or losses. And even these only if they appear not remote bus so near as to be imminent: we do not fear things that are a very long way off: for instance, we all know we shall die, but we are not troubled thereby, because death is not close at hand…

…fear is caused by whatever we feel has great power of destroying us, or of harming us in ways that tend to cause us great pain. Hence the very indications of such things are terrible, making us feel that the terrible thing itself is close at hand. (it was at this point that our kitten, Leonard the Lionheart [he’s just over 2 months new to the planet], planted himself between my chest and stomach; Leonard is now purring; I’ll do my best to continue typing) …the approach of what is terrible is just what we mean by ‘danger’. Such indications are the enmity and anger of people who have power to do something to us; for it is plain that they have the will to do it, and so they are on the point of doing it. Also injustice in possession of power; for it is the unjust man’s will to do evil that makes him unjust. Also outraged virtue in possession of power; for it is plain that, when outraged, it always has the will to retaliate, and now it has the power to do so. 

And here is a section that, whenever I read it last, I underlined the following sentence:

And fear felt by those who have the power to do something to us, since such persons are sure to be ready to do it. 

So these remain a few of Aristotle’s thoughts on fear. The old chap, Aristotle, had perspective, both in the micro and macro. It soothes the brain to read this sort of stuff. One kind of thinks that George Lucas channeled the stuff of Aristotle here when conceiving and drafting the character Yoda. Or at least I do on this end. It’s late. I’m tired. Good evening to you.

 


Post Maah Daah Hey 2016

Yesterday I helped a friend with the supply and gear during his 107-mile jaunt through the badlands of western North Dakota, on the increasingly famous Maah Daah Hey trail. It’s adventure recreational tourism, or even extreme adventure recreation. Bicyclists convene at the northern portion of the Maah Daah Hey trail head on a Thursday and Friday (taking up lodging at the Roosevelt Inn or campsites at the CCC or the north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park), and prepare for an early Saturday morning rise to begin the ride.

I started situating this whole activity in the context of the world, and came to the agreement with the friend I was helping that this indeed is a 1st world activity. By that we meant that adventurers who partake in this extreme recreation have the resources to pay the admission fee and train and then take vacation to expend calories — a lot — to complete a 100+ mile mountain bike jaunt through rugged terrain during one of the hottest times of the northern Plains year. Compare that with, say, a country where inhabitants could live, perhaps, an entire year from the cost of admission. Or, when inhabitants of this other country expend calories, it’s toward agriculture, or raising and growing commodities — stuff that will continue to sustain life.

We then started recognizing this, and affirming the goodness of the race, since it was indeed that, and noting that it provided healthy outlets for hundreds of athletes to explore and push their bodies and minds to different stages of exhaustion. This is one of those common and collective experiences. We agreed that the Maah Daah Hey was a good idea. The views during this entire race were extraordinary. And it was fun in the morning to hear the Theodore Roosevelt re-inactor address the bicyclists. The TR actor recited the famous Man in the Arena, and told the bicyclists to continue to do good deeds and think good thoughts. This is simple yet powerful medicine. I enjoyed it.


Maah Daah Hey 100: Supply and Gear

A couple weeks ago a friend, Tayo, texted and asked if I would be his supply line for the Maah Daah Hey 100+ this coming Saturday, August 6, 2016. His original text read, “Do you have any interest in spending a night in the badlands and being my support vehicle for the Maah Daah Hey 100 bike race the first weekend in August?” I asked about exact dates. And then checked with the calendar. And then quickly talked myself into doing this after chatting a bit about it with my wife (she was enthusiastic too).

The trail name, Maah Daah Hey, is from a local language, the Mandan people. The trail name translates into something along the lines of an area that has been or will be around for a long time. I know this because I Google’d it. But there is likely a ton more nuance to the phrase than is captured by this one, Google’d definition.

So what does one need before doing the entire supply and gear (SAG for short) for a comrade and friend? It first requires time to think about what to bring and how to prepare. The Maah Daah Hey association has built up an impressive road map and guide for both riders and the SAG support vehicles. While the rider zips through an impossible and marked course in the rugged badlands of western North Dakota, the SAG vehicles zip around on the scoria/klinker covered roads to meet their riders at the next check point. I was reading that just a bit ago and decided to blog these thoughts.

Before all this, though, Tayo and I spent the last week hypothesizing how we might locate or bum an appropriate SAG vehicle. Even a modest weekend outing in western North Dakota requires a bit of gear. And something that requires gear requires the proper vehicle to haul that gear. The last time I did something recreational like this was with Adventure Science, the 100 Miles of Wild: North Dakota Badlands Transect. In this 2013 outing, I helped the team with supply and gear. It was during the late winter or early spring. With the snow thawing, it turned the badlands silt into super slick mud during the day and afternoons. Then, at night, it would refreeze. And the process would repeat itself. It’s been doing this for a long time. Which, when thinking about it, makes the Mandan description applied to this place all the more fitting. It’s the first week of August, though, so we don’t need to concern ourselves with the thaw and slick mud. I checked the weather forecast, and it said no rain too.

I touched base with a friend who has a huge pick up truck (but small by Bakken Oilfield standards). He said go ahead and use it over the weekend. So this evening my wife and I picked it up and drove it over to Tayo’s to load most of his gear. It’s now parked. And I’m taking this blogging break from laying out my own gear. I still have to toss a couple changes of cloths into a backpack.

I want to continue narrating this and uploading it eventually to this blog. I won’t be hooked up to internet. So I’ll type out updates on Microsoft Word and later upload them. That’s the ambition. It’ll provide Tayo and I with a bit of future history and memory. Tayo will be way too focused on the ride. So again, this little log will be quite a bit of fun.


Cinema and BBQ Updates from Summer 2016

It’s been a while since I blogged last. Which is fine. Because energy has been devoted to many, many other constructive things (like a very important capital campaign, overseeing a heritage riverboat, working with National Heritage Area folks, and so on). So this evening, while doing dishes after another exceptional lump charcoal grilling session (we used a baharat dry rub from Turkey on some chicken drum sticks from the Bis-Man Food Co-Op), I started piecing together a theme I caught in the latest couple movies I watched. These movies both took place in the periphery — either time or space — of the First World War, or WWI, or the Great War (since that was supposed to be the war to end all wars). So that’s the theme.

The movies themselves are good: they situate the viewer in the complex web of nation-state geo-politic, and also the internal struggles that individual empires experienced as nation-state making really grabbed at the grass roots level — or with radicals — just after the turn of the 19th century. One was a movie called Water Diviner, and the other was a Sundance series, Rebellion.

I liked Water Diviner. Russell Crowe is the lead in it, and he appropriately plays an Aussie. An Aussie who, after receiving word that his sons all perished in the ANZAC amphibious assault on Gallipoli, and after his wife so sadly takes her own life after learning that her sons perished, decides to visit the nation state of Turkey. I won’t spoil the film for you. But I will say that I sent the movie title to a Turkish friend, and he responded with something like, “That was a great flick.”

The series Rebellion also walked a tightrope in explaining the complexities inherent in trying to narrate the attempts of Irish groups who desired to overthrow the British yoke during the First World War. It indeed is a very, very nuanced, and complex story. Something that only extended literature or cinema can — if done right — accomplish.

The take away from these two films is not my flimsy review (if we want to call them even that). It’s that cinema is revisiting the First World War and the immediate aftermath quite seriously. And that’s a good thing. Because understanding it still illuminates today, the 21st century. And why things are the way they are. This, in turn, opens up conversations to ways in which we might consider changing them. For the better.


The Bunny and the Egg

It is Easter Sunday, which means over the last couple days I have been eating chocolate eggs and chatting with friends over the best ways and methods to prepare and eat PEEPs (some friends prefer the dry age PEEP, as it changes the resistance a bit). This afternoon friends and family will gather so we can grill (with cowboy charcoal) the t-bone steaks and chicken. Holidays are good and important that way: gives us all another reason to get together.

I caught this NPR piece on the etymology of Easter, the name. It comes from a northern European goddess, Eostra, who was an annual pathfinder for fertility and spring — life, as it is also called. The article mentions the Venerable Bede, and it has been a while since I read any Bede. About a decade to be precise. Bede was one of the many books in my graduate historiography (the history of history) seminar at the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks. We read Bede’s Ecclesiastical history of England, stories about the troubled world of Northumbria from the 5th to the 8th centuries. Those Vikings continued making inroads and eventual settlements in England. As our common narrative goes, it wasn’t until 1066 that the Norman Viking William the Conqueror finally brought the country together (it didn’t go well for Harold at the Battle of Hastings, an arrow in his eye and all).

Bede, though, also wrote The Reckoning of Time, and it is here (according to the NPR) where the bunnies and eggs start making an appearance. Again, not that I’m really going anywhere with this. But it is kind of fun conversation for the Easter grilling this afternoon.