Tag Archives: Richard Rothaus

Following ET in New Mexico from North Dakota


One of the only known Pizza Hut ET commemorative glasses in North Dakota’s Sheyenne River Valley.

Throughout last week I’ve been following the media trail of four friends — Andrew Reinhard, Richard Rothaus, Bill Caraher, and Bret Weber — who were mustered into a modern archaeological dig in New Mexico. The goal was to dig up a pile of ET Atari games that were buried after the craptacular game hit the shelves in 1983. When this game hit the shelves, it signaled the beginning of the end for Atari, as Atari lost (according to the Wikipedia page) over a half-billion dollars after buying the rights from Spielberg; over-producing a terrible game; and banking on the idea that customers would rip them from the shelves. They did, to a degree. But the video gamers returned them for a refund as well.

So I kept up with the social media and stories, noting to myself that the archaeology of ET Atari games was more popular than the actual 1983 game. I was also happy to read that Caraher made Rolling Stone. Check it out in the link here. CNN covered the story too. Daniel Politi of Slate.com also covered the story, as did Dominic Rushe of The Guardian, and NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story here. Eric Mack of Forbes covered Andrew Reinhard here (well, the picture is of Andrew). And The Onion covered it here.

The more local Fargo Forum ran a story on it here, too. And you can get direct, unadulterated coverage of the ET dig from Bill Caraher’s blog here. So while holding down the bunker in North Dakota, and while reading these stories, I would often take sips from the ET glass pictured here. The glass comes from my fiancée’s sister’s Valley City home. I think it was a thrift store find some time ago. I still have to set down and get an official oral history.

Humanities Updates from the Northern Great Plains

CHRBefore this morning gets away from me, I thought I’d provide two humanities updates taking place in the great state of North Dakota, central North America. The first is a link-reference to the progress of our Punk Archaeology manuscript; and the second concerns the official press release from NDSU’s Center for Heritage Renewal on our continued Dakota book discussions. Of this latter, the discussions bring together the public and scholars to consider the Dakota Conflict and the subsequent punitive campaigns from 1862-1864, and where we, Native and non-Native relations, are today.

For more details, check out the uploaded hand-bill image to the left. Of this, the most recent discussion took place this Sunday past at the Opera House in Ellendale, Dickey County, North Dakota. This brought out a variety of topics, and the most attentive-grabbing and engaging at all of these events is that of Native historians and knowledge-keepers and scholars. After Tamara St. John, a Native historian and genealogist, spoke at this event, an attendee remarked on how (and I’m paraphrasing) they are starved for this kind of information.

For those of us up to our elbows in the history and historiography of the US-Dakota Conflict and Wars, we understand and often wrestle with accurate and precise and appropriate terminology, definitions, and so on. When we chat about this stuff with non-specialists, one of the most common remarks I have heard is this: “How come we weren’t taught any of this — attempted genocide, attempts at cultural destruction, attempts at forced assimilation — in our public education here in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota?” I’m uncertain. But I do always insist on using attempts and attempted when talking about genocide, cultural destruction and assimilation. I do this because the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota, the Seven Council Fires, are alive and well today. We are pushing ahead as well with these discussions, and every time we have another conversation and chance to talk about this, legitimate history is happening. And if that is happening, so is that large, amorphous thing we call culture and the humanities.

When it comes to the public school systems, I’m sure there are plenty of politics behind all of the curriculum decisions from yesteryear and now. Perhaps that is something we in the future can consider, and perhaps in the future bring before various departments of public instruction in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. That would be at least one long-range goal to consider.

Nonetheless, the next discussion will be held at 2:00PM (CST) on November 10, 2013, at Sitting Bull College,  in the Science and Technology Center Room 120/101, Fort Yates, Standing Rock Reservation, North Dakota. And here is a photo from the discussion from last Sunday.


Adventure Science Raw Text Message Exchanges: Reinhard, Rothaus and Barth from April 22, 2013

Right now, as I type, Richard Rothaus is delivering a presentation at the annual Preservation North Dakota meeting. This is taking place at Richardton Abbey just off of I-94 in western North Dakota. Rothaus is speaking about the Adventure Science operation that took place in western North Dakota in late-April 2013. A couple weeks before he and Andrew Reinhard headed out, Rothaus texted and asked if I wanted to provide a kind of mobile base camp support. Because at the time I was bogged down with readings and technical reports I said “Yes, of course.” It turns out that providing mobile base camp support for an Adventure Science project on the death highway (85) in the industrial petroleum play land of western North Dakota also allows a person to get a good back-logged chunk of reading in.

Andrew Reinhard on the morning of April 22, 2013.

Andrew Reinhard on the morning of April 22, 2013.

Anyhow, it was later decided by Reinhard, Rothaus and I that after the first day of the Adventure Science outing, perhaps the best understanding of how things almost went to hell was captured by the exchange of text messages between the three of us. Some quick context: spring was increasingly realized, although by late April 2013, winter still held the evenings, nights and mornings. This meant that everything would freeze at night (the ground included), giving overland trekking crews a solid footing in the morning. By mid-morning the sun would warm the ground enough to thaw everything, enough so I had to move the truck off a dirt two track on to solid asphalt because it started sliding from a stationary position due to the melt. This proved to be highly educational to Rothaus and Reinhard who were completing the first leg of the project: they slid down from the finger-ridge buttes, and found it nearly impossible to climb up the slippery slopes. They restructured the way they would approach the routes.

But back to the text exchange between the three of us. As evening gave way to the setting sun and night, I started becoming really concerned. Reinhard and Rothaus had wet clothes from the day’s hike, and to overnight in below-freezing temps would be a certain dance with hypothermia. That would be bad. So I started sending off text-messages to them. On April 22, 2013, just off Highway 85 north of Grassy Butte, North Dakota, the text-exchange went something like this:

Reinhard and Richard Rothaus start the overland Adventure Science trek on the morning of April 22, 2013 in western North Dakota.

Reinhard and Richard Rothaus start the overland Adventure Science trek on the morning of April 22, 2013 in western North Dakota.

4:08PM, Rothaus to Barth: “We are in mud hell. This will take awhile. Hang tight. Could take till 7 or 8.”

Barth to Rothaus: “Okay. I’ll sit tight.” I somewhat jokingly added, “Let me know when I should call the National Guard.”

6:38PM, Rothaus to Barth: “We are up on a plateau heading toward 85. Will come out south of you. HAng tight. We are beat but good.”

Barth to Rothaus: “Okay. Good to hear. Can you see 85 from your locale?”

Rothaus to Barth: “No. But we are getting there. Andrew [Reinhard] is solid. I am short on oxygen. So no serious worries.”

6:50PM, Rothaus to Barth and Reinhard: “We will come out about a mile south. We are probably 2 it less to road. Still could be mud.”

Barth to Rothaus and Reinhard: “Okay. Tell me when you get to road. I will come pick you up. Would it be wise to hotel it for one more night? I’m fine either way. If yea, let me know and I will book rooms. 16 [F] tonight. 18 [F] tomorrow night.”

Reinhard to Rothaus and Barth: “I defer to richard. Almost at the rim. See you at 8:00.”

Barth to Reinhard and Rothaus: “Okay.”

7:36PM, Reinhard to Barth: “Barth: we can see 85 but it will take at least 2 more hours. Can you book 2 hotel rooms? This is crazy country.”

Barth to Reinhard: “Yup.”

8:05PM, Barth to Reinhard and Rothaus: “We’re back at the Quality Inn tonight!”

8:47PM, Barth to Reinhard and Rothaus: “Are you two walking together? Or is it going to be more like midnight when you get to the road?”

9:02PM, Reinhard to Barth and Rothaus: “We are together. Now on a ranch road so 1/2 mile easy walk. I think i see your truck. Move it forward ten feet so I can confirm. Tonight you drink all the beers… Saw you!!! We will come out there.”

Barth to Reinhard and Rothaus: “You south or north of me? Okay.”

Reinhard to Barth: “(I think)”

Barth to Reinhard and Rothaus: “It’s not as though I was looking up the number for the sheriff or anything.” You south or north of the truck?”

9:18PM, Barth to Reinhard and Rothaus: “The sun sets in teh west, so north is to your right, and south to your left.”

9:32PM, Reinhard to Barth: “South now I think. Maybe 1/4 mile? I am 100 feet og the road in the grass. I lost the ranch road. And Richard. He should head W to the road.”

Barth to Reinhard: “Can you both see me? WTF?”

The April 22, 2013 sunset in western North Dakota. Taken on Highway 85, just north of Grassy Butte.

The April 22, 2013 sunset in western North Dakota. Taken on Highway 85, just north of Grassy Butte.

Reinhard to Barth: “I will try to find a road sign. I am by a yellow road sign that is on southbound side indicating road turns to left. I will walk north to where i think i saw your truck until i see a mile marker”

Barth to Reinhard: “Okay. I turned on the roof light. Just get to 85 first.”

Reinhard to Barth: “Kk richard is headlampinf so i can meet him, i will look for your light too”

Barth to Reinhard: “Okay.”

Reinhard to Barth: “I see richard”

Barth to Reinhard: “Okay good. You guys see traffic on 85?”

9:45PM, Reinhard to Barth: “Line of 6 vehicles just passed northbnd.”

Barth to Reinhard: “Did a solo semi just pass? I’m gonna go back and forth on this road a couple times till you see me. Top light is on.”

Reinhard: “Yeah. Waiting on richard. Maybe 1,000 ft to go for him. Orange? I see yoy. I am .200 ft n of uou. Stop. We will come to you”

Barth to Reinhard: “Sounds good.”

Within a minute Rothaus and Reinhard were back at the truck. Temps were below freezing by this point, and they were exhausted. We drove back to Dickinson that night, and had a late-late dinner at Perkins.

One more note, and some unsolicited advice for policy planners, upper and lower level politicians, and so on: if you do not physically live and work in the Bakken and plan on visiting, and if you want a true cross section of it, don’t do it in an airplane. Take the same roads that the rest of us take. Go in the winter. And then do it again in the summer. Stay for at least a week, and spend a couple nights in a crew camp, and a couple nights in a hotel. Even grab a cup of coffee and watch semi-tractor trailer activity, too. You’re not going to be able to understand what goes on out in the Bakken unless you do this. A person is able to experience and understand a lot more with boots-on-the-ground than they are at 5,000 or 10,000 feet.

Remembering Whitestone Hill 150 Years Later: August 24, 2013

On August 24, 2013 (a week from tomorrow), the State Historical Society of North Dakota is hosting the 150th year of observances at Whitestone Hill in southeastern North Dakota. You can drive to the site, and there is an official Facebook page which you can link to here. I also thought I’d just copy and paste the August 24, 2013 line up below. Here it is, verbatim, and I’ve also provided links with the particular names (just click on them to learn more):

Whitestone Hill 150th Commemoration event, Saturday, August 24, 2013
Schedule – August 2013
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Demonstration stations: all day
Dakota Lifeways, Dakota food demo, military life re-enactors, settler life re-enactors, Dakota drum and dance, Dakota War information, interpretive signs –either a prototype or actual sign that will be installed on site by SHSND
9 a.m. Kevin Locke – opening prayer 
9:15 0r 9:30 a.m. Ladonna Allard – Life in the James River Valley 
11 a.m. Richard M. Rothaus – “The Military Context of Whitestone Hill–Tactics, Artillery, and Non-Combatants.” 
11:45 a.m. Aaron Barth – “Remembering Whitestone Hill” 
1 p.m. speaker to be announced – Identity and Story of the Native People of Whitestone Hill
3 p.m. Speaker Panel – Preservation of Whitestone Hill – Past, Present and Future. Alden Flakoll, Board member of the Whitestone Hill Battlefield Historical Society, Dakota Goodhouse, Program Director for North Dakota Humanities Council, Ladonna Allard, Tourism Director for Standing Rock Reservation, Tamara St. John, Tribal Historian for Sisseton Wahpeton Tribal Historic Preservation Office, Diane Rogness, Historic Sites Manager for the State Historical Society of North Dakota.
4 p.m. Kevin Locke – dance
5:30 p.m. Buffalo supper, RSVP required

Notes from the Basecamp (04/23/2013)

Basecamp water wagon and supplies.

Basecamp water wagon and supplies.

On April 4, 2013, Richard Rothaus and I chatted via e-mail about some base camp logistics for Adventure Science’s 100 miles of North Dakota wild, a pedestrian overland trek through ephemeral drainages and butte plateaus in the nation’s #2-producing oil field that is western North Dakota. We came to the conclusion that I could 1) be useful and helpful in coordinating points of drop off and extraction, and evening details for Rothaus and Andrew Reinhard; and 2) in the interim, between dropping off the team and setting up camp, I could read for comprehensive exams (also known as “comps”). On the April 21, 2013 drive out to western North Dakota, I also thought it would be a good idea to capture some traffic samples that are part and parcel to the borderline anarchy of any blossoming petroleum industry throughout the planet.

After dropping off Rothaus and Reinhard yesterday (04/22/2013) morning, I drove the field vehicle around to where they would arrive that evening, and set to reading for comps (“comps” is one part of the intellectual bootcamp, or disciplinary training, when working on a doctor of philosophy, in my case with North Dakota State University and the University of North Dakota). Winter in North Dakota is holding on a bit more than usual, and it is getting the attention of folks in both the city and in the countryside. The late winter means a late spring, and so the snow has been gradually melting.

While reading for comps, and while temporally in late spring and spatially in western North Dakota, I revisited a short passage from the first chapter of Elwyn B. Robinson’s 1966 History of North Dakota (University of Nebraska Press), entitled, “The Grassland Setting.” In this, Robinson says,

For hundreds of millions of years the Williston Basin [of western ND] and the area surrounding it were intermittently covered by a salt sea stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic. Sediment carried into the sea by flowing water was deposited on the bottom and slowly compacted into strata, or layers, of sedimentary rock made up of clay, shale, sandstone, and limestone. (Robinson, 1966: 2)

Basecamp 2 TrafficIf wandering around in the badlands today, the tops of all the buttes represent the bottom of that ancient and dried up sea floor. Erosion from glacial advances and retreats helped shape what we see and make up our landscape on the northern Great Plains, and also what Rothaus and Reinhard slogged through all day. I noticed the slipperiness of this clay and mud about mid-morning (04/22/2013): while sitting in the cab and reading, and while the mid-morning sun warmed the badlands, the snow and mud went from frozen to melt, and this caused the field vehicle to start sliding from a standstill. This feeling is at first a bit unsettling, at least before realizing what is happening. I fired up the vehicle and drove it to a less-remote location, namely a raised and ditched off-road of Highway 85, not too far north of Grassy Butte, North Dakota. That solved the vehicle sliding problem.

From here I collected some traffic samples, capturing the number of vehicles that passed by in two separate 15-minute windows. Below is a short clip of the traffic (arguably a way to humanize the social science).