Picture above: About 600 head of buffalo at Great Plains Buffalo Ranch, Reva SD (Phil Jerde)
Most of the time it is a horror to remember the atrocities of history in this world. Wars have been endless as nation after nation has attempted to conquer the known world of their time and to wipe out other people who get in their way. European history is a trail of bloody warfare as peoples and nations have dragged the boundaries of countries back and forth depending on who is in control. More than once the nation of Poland disappeared from the maps of Europe as the result of conquest and absorption. World War I was a war between ethnic groups before it became world wide. The Serbian War in our own time was an effort at ethnic cleansing that took the lives of thousands; in Cambodia the death toll of the Khmer Rouge is unknown. Bloody death and hatred seem to be more the norm than times of peace.
But I find it interestlng in this time of mass shootings and racial violence that no one has brought up the prejudice and violence against Native Americans. Now, of course, no group of people is innocent of prejudice. Indian tribes fought each other to near extinction, taking slaves from the defeated. But when we try to understand the whole premise of immigration it is good to remember that the Indians on this continent wanted nothing more than for Europeans to “go back to where we came from”. We are moving closer to dropping the observance of Columbus Day in October because it is not something Native Americans want to celebrate. As interlopers on the American continent, Europeans have a lot they are responsible for when it comes to attempted extinction. Read Helen Hunt Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor and Dee Brown’s Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.
Too often the excuse for making amends is something like, “Well, I wasn’t born then. I am not responsible for what happened.” But that is what it is — an excuse. Just as we carry the genetic code of ancestors long gone, we also carry responsibility for what has been done in the past. Many of the issues on Indian reservations today are the scars of policies implemented long ago.
Montana has seven Indian reservations and several surrounding States have many more. Indians did not become U.S. citizens until the Indian Citizenship or Snyder Act of 1924. From 1492 until 1924, hundreds of Indians were systematically killed. The Sand Creek Massacre saw 200 Cheyenne — men, women and little children killed. Colonel John Chivington, governor of Colorado Territory, wanted the Indians removed from the area. Saying “Nits make lice,” he gave permission for his soldiers to kill Indian children. It was the business of this country in its expansionary period to rip away the lands of the Native peoples because it was “good business”. Treaties were land grabs until the Natives no longer believed the words of white people and they still don’t.
Unfortunately we can never right the sins of the past, but we do have to recognize them as part of the fabric of our history. History is the continuing attempt to make life better for those suffering and walking in solidarity with people of all races and colors who are part of the history of the United States of America.
For many people in our world the Bible is just a collection of stories, fables and parables from Middle Eastern writings. It is the story of a man Christians say was the Son of God and the stories are all about God’s action among a group of people called Israelites. Many of these stories are words to live by, but are they true? well, probably not. That is one way of looking at the Bible. Others believe the Bible is a book of faith, inspired by God and that Jesus’ teachings of love and compassion are teachings to practice and live by regardless of what the outside world teaches.
The parable of The Good Samaritan, found in the gospel of Luke (10.25-37), is so familiar to us in our society that there is even a “Good Samaritan” law. A good Samaritan in legal terms refers to someone who renders aid in an emergency to an injured person on a voluntary basis. Putting that law into the boundaries of the parable, if the man beaten by robbers died on route to the Inn where the Samaritan took him, the Samaritan would not be liable. Most people know this story. But knowing it and living what it says, well, there is a difference.
The lawyer asks Jesus the question “who is my neighbor?” The problem here is that you cannot define your neighbor as someone you love or do not love, because as one scholar writes, “you can only be a neighbor.” The lawyer was looking for a way out. He wanted a boundary for his obligation of loving the neighbor, but Jesus wipes out any idea of boundary with the parable.
We all know the story and the lesson Jesus is trying to get across to his listeners. To take time to retell, I would only be dancing around the real issue here, the bottom line as we say. Anyone who has followed the news the past year knows that we are seeing this parable acted out before our very eyes in the situation on our southern borders and many other parts of the world where refugees are struggling to find a place where they can live free from fear and suffering. This is not a political issue, but wherever this is happening, human beings are being used as pawns by people in power. In the U.S. both parties have legitimate issues of concern, but the human beings, especially parents and children have been caught in the crossfire. Our nation has come to a standstill on the issue because no one is sure what to do and because it has become so politicized no one wants to antagonize the other side and both sides blame the other and we are very close to violence in how to deal with this. In the meantime human beings, children, parents are held in cages and separated. And, in a world torn by war and genocide and racial hatred this parable will not allow us to be passive.
Jesus was crucified because he preached a revolutionary message about equality and love. Those in power do not want people seeing the world in this way. History is always about power struggles. We who live in the western world have not been immune from these struggles. Love does not allow limits on the definition of neighbor. There are no boundaries for mercy and love. The command to Love overrides all others. We must put love of neighbor into action. Any attempt to love is always a risk.
I think what frightens me most about this situation is that people turn away because they believe there is nothing anyone can do; or my political party is right in dealing with this issue; the stories we are hearing are lies; the media does not tell the truth; there is no one I can believe anymore. In the meantime this country we love is coming apart and I firmly believe there is a special place in hell for those who abuse children (i.e., Jeffrey Epstein), persecute the poor and the helpless and that includes all of us who say nothing and who do nothing. That frightens me.
This parable creates a reality that challenges our passivity and self-interest. Loving the neighbor as oneself is difficult, but no alternative is allowed. Who is going to be responsible for all of these children when they are released? I don’t know how things got so bad so quickly, but somewhere along the way we are duty bound to attempt to make amends. I am not sure that is even possible.
I am a retired school teacher who comes from a long line of school teachers. My parents never said “if you go to college” ,it was always “when you go to college” and they sacrificed a great deal to be sure we would be able to earn a degree. My grandparents on both sides of the family were immigrants and the most important thing they wanted for their children was an education and their children and grand-children and even great-grandchildren have not disappointed that dream.
When I taught school (for over twenty years), I taught with some of the finest people I know. Not only did these teachers work for lower wages (and still do), but they were teachers because they cared about kids (and still do). Nearly every vocation today requires training, studying, learning beyond the basics. Technology has opened up new ways for students to train. People are not tracked into the four year standard program only. They are many different ways of reaching a higher level of learning in the career path of the student’s choice. Beauticians, barbers, nail technicians, oil field workers, certified nurses’ assistants, in fact every route we take to employment these days requires people to be able to meet certain standards before they are allowed into the work field. A degree in agri-business helps the farmer or rancher to better understand the economics of the world markets, how to find the crop most suited to the climate in which we live, how to use satellites to produce a better yield. Anyone who wants to find a way to turn their passion into a livelihood needs basic skills before they can start building toward something more polished. Actors go to acting school, musicians study business so when they make money they know how best to manage it and that takes education.
For generations children were expected to continue in the career their parents and grandparents held. But even in the Middle Ages, the guilds organized their trades so you began as an apprentice, then a journeyman before you became a master craftsman. It was education learned at the side of a master, but it was its own form of education.
During the Renaissance (1500s), the religious leader Martin Luther, a German monk who earned his Doctorate in one of the many medieval universities which were even then making their appearance, talked about the holiness of any vocation. He said the maid who swept the floor to the glory of God was just as important as the priest serving the Mass. He told people that no trade or job or task was less than another. The purpose of our lives is often answering the question, How can we be productive in a way that does not kill the human spirit? How do integrity and a conscious fit in to our working lives? I think of Bruce Smith, the Dawson County Agent, the community lost to cancer just a couple months ago. Bruce’s life was how to make the production of food, its growing, its availability something reachable to all people. His work with 4-H was all education so the young could learn how to be the farmers of tomorrow, sustaining the family farms, making them a viable reality. He had studied the subject in college and then had several experiences that continued to build on what he had learned on his parents’ farm.
Education is not the enemy. Without learning, work would return to the often mind-numbing, repetitive tasks of a generation or two ago. Today’s generations need to see beyond the stars as humanity continues its call to make the world a more humane, caring, open society. When people can see work in this way, it really moves beyond only money producing and moves into something which gives us life-long direction and purpose.
It seems as though I am happiest when I get behind the wheel of my Ford Explorer and set out for some “windshield time”. I decided it had been about six years since I had headed out on Highway 200. The road takes me from Glendive to Circle, Jordan, Sand Springs, Winnett, Lewistown, Stanford, to Great Falls and all points in between. I had a beautiful day to travel.
Besides enjoying the beautiful scenery (ok, I lovely my prairies and the Yellowstone Valley) but I have to admit the vistas around Stanford and then following the mountains into Great Falls were really green and lovely. It was raining in the mountains and the clouds were like a watercolor painting. I also decided to try something a little different to get me out to stretch. Last winter I ran across an article in the paper about a website that highlighted historic sites in rural areas of Montana that rarely, if ever, get attention for the stories they tell. The website had a map which divided the State into six sections and then pinpointed the things to see along the way. I have seen a lot of the sites mentioned thanks to my father who stopped at every historic sign and site there was, but this time I wanted to photograph them and then I am going to keep track on the map each time I stop to look at something. I mapped out my route using the website and a road atlas.
I started with Glendive, then the Charleston Hotel in Circle, the museum in Jordan, the sign that points to the Cat Creek oil fields where oil was first discovered in Montana, then the communities of Winnet and Stanford. There was road construction at Utica so I will try to hit that on my way back, also an old Post Office site in Lewistown that has links to the Meti Indians in central Montana. They have a fascinating history and if you have never read about Louis Riel, you must.
Now to take you there:
This is update. Go to thinking of ALL the trips I have made to this area with the folks, when boys were in college and the 20 years since then. Pretty amazing. Now my thoughts will move to the east a little to Rapid City. Not sure when I will be back this way again.
Sunday evening, April 28th. After a wonderful worship service today with prayer and praise and confirmation and a guest preacher, I took off for a few days of R&R and some quality windshield time. I had most everything picked in my big suitcase and then at the last minute decided I didn’t want to take it and decided to break down my clothes into smaller pieces. So I repacked, muttering all the time I was doing it, but the stuff I am taking are easier to manage now. At least I think that was the reason I did this. I drove in rain and snow most of the way to Bismarck. Also fog in spots. The closer I got to Bismarck the more snow there was on the ground but I made it and all went well.Attempting to find the doctor’s office for tomorrow and then my hotel I ended up going wrong way on a one way! I got lots of honks, of course, but fortunately it was a short block and I was able to pull into a parking lot and get turned around. I did that one other time in Bismarck. I don’t know the town very well and there is a lot of construction (excuses). The sky is clearing tonight so we hope for a good, clear dry day tomorrow.
Monday noon, April 29th Well the “dreaded” MRI is done. I drove 200 miles to get to an imagining machine that was open and not like a coffin. I am more stiff and sore from having to lay quietly for 30 minutes than anything else. Washcloth over my eyes, pillows for arms, neck and knees. I got through Psalm 23, 121, and part of 46. I am going to have to memorize some others. Someone suggested Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Good idea! Treated myself to breakfast at McDonald’s afterwards.
Bismarck did not get snow last night. But cold and windy today. Spitting moisture right now. Plan to head back to Belfield tomorrow and then south on Highway 85 to Belle Fourche. Spend the night there. I want to put flowers on Ardis Sell’s grave in Buffalo for Geri. I try to stop when I go that way.Later this afternoon I hit the streets — woo hoo! They have an antique mall here which I have loved for years. I bought a primitive wooden basket. And I was talking about downsizing?? What happened! Barnes and Noble, Bible Book Store AND I had to buy a toothbrush. Forgot mine at home. Yuck! Can’t stand not brushing my teeth!
Supper with Tami Conrad and then get packed up for another drive tomorrow. Nice.
Tuesday evening, April 30th Brr! Today was cold and windy and I did drive in scattered snow until just outside of Belle Fourche. It was a biting cold and I would have been shivering in my boots if I had had some with me. It was nice having the extra hour as I came west again. I could get up at 7 a.m. and feel very smug about it because after I got going it was really 6 a.m. So I gained an hour when I rolled out of bed!
I had gassed up the car last night so this morning I just picked my stuff and took off. I drove to Dickinson and stopped at the Dakota Diner for breakfast, French toast, egg and sausage. And a cup of coffee. All of it went down very well and it was nice to stop for a bit. Verna called me on her car phone. They were heading for Bismarck this morning. Lots of truck traffic on Highway 85 South. Most of it heading North. Squalls of snow throughout, buttes shrouded in fog and mist. I stopped in Buffalo SD and put some flowers on Ardis Sell’s grave at Buffalo SD for Geri. It is a pretty spot and open to the prairies.
When I got to Belle Fourche I went on to Spearfish to hit my favorite shoe store and take a walk along Spearfish Creek. I even taped the sound of the creek — water over rocks — so I can listen to it later. Mexican food for supper.
Tomorrow will be a long day down to Newcastle WY, across to Wright then down to Douglas and then I will hit for Cheyenne. Hope to have supper with the kids and then go on to Denver for a couple days. It will all be good. Just wish I had brought a warmer coat. Folks here are re-donning winter jackets and stocking caps. Brrr!
Wednesday evening, May 1st Woke up to snow this morning! Yuck! Highways were slushy but once I was out of the Black Hills area I pretty much ran out of it. Sun did come out. There was snow all the way to Cheyenne, but the highway was dry by about noon. It was about 350 miles of driving, but the windshield time went well. I am listening to a good Michael Connelly audio book that really holds my attention. Got to Cheyenne and had supper and a good visit with Cole and Margy. Evan had confirmation tonight and Abby had a zoology lab so I will see them when I come back on Saturday. Had a nice visit about their moving to Rapid City. Lots of changes in their lives. am surprised at the cost of motels wherever I am going. I am going to have to figure something else out — maybe a pup tent!!
Thursday evening, May 2nd The MRI was the big test. Getting through that without going claustrophobic was the first hurdle. Driving through the snow and slush yesterday was hurdle #2, driving into Denver today on I-25 with six lane traffic was hurdle number 3, but it wasn’t too bad today. There was construction and it was busy, but all in all I was given room to do what I had to do to get from one lane to another. Thank you, God, for watching over me and the other drivers. Then this evening Aunt Dorothy had me chauffeur her around a little. Will do more of that tomorrow. It was a beautiful day — no wind, 60 degrees. Lovely. Even put my candles back on! Yeah! This was what I wanted!! Not sure how long it will last but I will take it! Even ran through a car wash to get all the crud off the car from Wednesday’s drive. Had a really good Mexican dinner. It really was seasoned well.
Then Aunt Dorothy wanted to play Scrabble. I should have known better. The Anderson’s are a competitive lot and even at 96 with macular degeneration she beat me twice. She is a dynamite speller (yeggs) and has a great vocabulary. Who knew “yeggs”?? We always laugh and have some good visits. She was two years younger than Dad so they were always close and I am the oldest niece by some 16 years so that makes a difference as well. Good day!
Friday evening, May 3rd Day’s end and I am closing out things in my room before I start some packing. Head back to Cheyenne in the morning. Made my connections with Paul (lunch at 12:30) on Monday. Monday evening family dinner with Lisa Jerde Spillman and crew. I keep thinking I don’t know when I will be back to Cheyenne again. Cole and family were what kept me coming. The addition of other family and friends was a real treat, but now things are changing.
Today we did the driving and shopping routine. Aunt Dorothy is a great navigator. She doesn’t drive any more, of course, but remembers where everything was located. We went to a dollar store and then to Chuze, a huge fitness center. A friend of Dorothy recommended we get the hydro massage — 10 minutes of heaven. Lay in a chair and the water rolls up your back to the base of the skull and then back down. There are varying speeds and pressures. We wanted another 10 minutes but there was a waiting line! I like that.
Then we went to the International Market where I love to shop. They have odds and ends from all over the world. Unique, exotic and fairly good prices. A little steep, but then what isn’t?
Dorothy was having trouble with a connection to her DVD player and TV. Her friend and her husband came and tried to work with it but not much happened. Dorothy is satisfied as long as the tv works so that is what they went with for now.
Then back into traffic. I actually haven’t minded the traffic this time. Seemed somewhat more bearable. We went to Black Eyed Peas restaurant. Had some good catfish. They had a varied menu. Wouldn’t mind going back there to check out more of the food.
Two more tense games of Scrabble. We each won one. I really enjoyed playing. She is so good at it. I have been too off-hand but she got me to watch the counters and think before I plop some tiles down. More strategy — fun. Got some good words in. No “Yeggs” tonight. She remembered that word from mysteries she had read — means a criminal or burglar. She is 96, as I said and so sharp. Fun to be with her.
Flowers are out here and trees are flowering. Further south, of course.
The weather was gorgeous today. Supposed to get colder and rainy starting tomorrow, so time to start heading for home. Looking forward to my days in Cheyenne. Sirens, sirens all the time. Fire truck right now 9:58 p.m.
Saturday evening, May 4th May the fourth be with you!!
Left Denver about 10. The traffic on I-25 from Denver to Cheyenne was unreal! A Saturday!! It was busy onThursday, but today was something else. Had a little fuss with Days’ Inn and ended up at Super 8 where I got a nice room. The price some of these places charge is ridiculous.
Hit Hobby Lobby for my yarn stash and Wal Mart for odds and ends. At 5 p.m. Evan and I went to evening worship so he could do his last sermon note. Cole and Margy were tired. They had finished moving Margy’s Mom to an assisted living.
Then we went to Pizza Hut for a bite to eat. Visited. Abby is finishing up year one of college. Thinks she will do one more year community college.
Beautiful day!! Almost no wind. Strange for Cheyenne!!
Sunday May 5th Happy Cinco de mayo! Attended Ascension Lutheran Church in Cheyenne this morning for confirmation — Evan’s. I was there when he was baptized and have pictures to prove it!! 14 years ago!! Handsome young man. Vacillates between silly and all business as is typical at that age. Very loving man — typical Anderson male — family all the way! We sang “What wondrous love is this”, “All are welcome”. Holy communion with my family which is always special. Fun that Pastor Paul confirmed Abby and Wes Aardahl confirmed Evan — that Eastern Montana connection is insoluble. Wes gave a good message, speaking mainly to the kids.
Ate at a marvelous buffet at Little America. I treated Evan. I told him to enjoy. This won’t happen again until he graduates from High School! The family is gearing up for their big move to Rapid City. Cole and Margy are going to look at houses the week-end of the 17th of May. Cole starts work there on the 17th of June so not much time between now and then. Besides the anxieties of moving they seem ready to go. Evan thinks it will work as he is going into high school and there will be plenty of other kids just starting as well. The weather today is lovely again. Rain tomorrow.
As I was driving down main street in Cheyenne I was thinking how much it was like Bismarck in lay-out. I was thinking about their history and of course being railroad towns had a lot to do with it. Cheyenne is close to Ft. Laramie and Bismarck to Ft. Abraham Lincoln other things too. Couple times I had to think twice as to which town I was in!!
My mind is starting to turn to back to work. I will go to Great Falls the end of the month — this is more traveling than I have done in a long while.
Monday, May 6th Fog tonight.
Reading Becoming Michelle Obama. Enjoying it for a variety of reasons. She talks about her relationship with Obama and how it developed and adapted to their life together. About her understanding herself. Asking the questions who am I? What do I want? And what do I want in relationship to family, friends, career? Thought provoking and really revealing.
I know there are lots of reasons by people these days do not affiliate with Christian denominations. Many have been wounded by the sexual abuse scandals, others do not find acceptance because of sexual orientation, or skin color or political differences. Some have been hurt by unkind comments or personal innuendos. In other words, they have failed to find Jesus Christ in those places which bear His Name and supposedly preach God’s good news of love.
Living in community is not an easy place to be. It is very difficult living with people we really don’t like (even if we are related) or working with a boss or co-workers that drive us nuts, or trying to work within an organization and attempting to bring people together when it seems no one wants to be there. Community builders are people in the sociological world who study groups of people and try to find ways to unite them politically, religiously, building a better place where this community can thrive. It is hard work and yet as human beings it seems to be the common denominator of our lives — drawing people together to do a good work, to live together in peace.
One of the ways this happens best, I think, is when we can move outside the realm of ourselves. The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi has a section that has been a learning tool for me: Let me not seek so much to be loved as to love, to be understood as to understand, to be consoled as to console. Did you read it? — Life is not about me. Life is all about others in my life. One of the reasons building community is so difficult is that we all are so wrapped up in “me”. What makes “me” happy. I want to do it “my” way. No one understands me or loves me or is there when I need consoling. The building of community has to be an outward view whether you are attempting to increase church goers or build a baseball program or develop a community program to help the poor, the homeless, the jobless, the hungry.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German Christian theologian, (died at the end of a rope after being part of a plot to kill Hitler), wrote a book about the importance of community. In it he talked about our brothers and sisters who form Christian communities as monks and nuns. They take a vow to live with each other in close quarters for the rest of their adult lives. If there is someone you can’t stand, you have to try and figure out a way to get along. You can’t just say, “Well, I’m done here.” You have to make it work and often that comes from a lot of time spent on your knees in prayers of relinquishment.
I think of cities and towns who have recently suffered from mass shootings. Whether it is a Christian church in Louisiana or Sri Lanka, or a Jewish synagogue or a Muslim mosque in New Zealand, when this happens the community is breaking down, breaking apart and the lessons of love and working together to survive have to be learned all over again. You cannot claim to be a part of any community when “hatred for our brothers and sisters” are part of the credo by which people live.
Human beings banded together for survival thousands of years ago because they knew they needed each other. The issues of community are not about me nor are they about you or “the other” or “the stranger”. It is about “us” and the problems will only be solved when we can set aside what divides us and speak instead to what unites us. Which these days should be a battle for survival in a world that seems to have developed a massive number of cracks in our basic foundations.
Many of the photos you have seen over the years on this blog site have been taken on the Aus ranch north of Glendive. Merle Aus and his wife Rose Marie built up their ranch over many years. They have had a comfortable home where everyone has been welcome in the true western style of hospitality. Merle has been a friend for many years and a member of the Lutheran congregation I pastor. Yesterday Merle, a gentleman cowboy, died at age 94. His daughter who now runs the ranch said of her dad, "He is riding a good horse again." I see him tall in the saddle. I will miss him. There is a country western song I like that reminds me of Merle:
(by Dan Seals). A campfire some coffee from a tin cup in my hand
Sure warms the fingers when it's cold
A-playing an old guitar a friend I understand
Sure smoothes the wrinkles in my soul
A-sleeping in the moonlight a blanket for the bed
Leaves a peaceful feeling in my mind
Waking up in the morning with an eagle overhead
Makes me want to fly away before my time
And I think God must be a cowboy at heart
He made wide-open spaces from the start
He made grass and trees and mountains and a horse to be a friend
And trails to lead old cowboys home again.
God rest his soul. He rests in the arms of Jesus.
From this photo you can tell the ice went out on the river as I last recorded March 23rd, 2019. I missed the brake-up but got down there in the afternoon and it was roaring past. Very impressive. As I edged up to the bank a couple of trees were shaking as the water went past so the force of it was something to behold. I am hoping some point in my life along the Yellowstone I will get to see the actual break-up. There were a lot of folks around by the old Bell Street bridge. Someone had seen a deer out in the river. It went down once, but then broke through and made it to the opposite shore.
The bitter cold of February and the snows have all but disappeared. The prairie winds are still plenty chilly and you want to have a jacket when you go out, but the clouds in the sky are rain clouds and not snow. The forecast is rain mixed with snow, not freezing rain followed by two to three inches of snow. Brrr!
The high school proms in the small high schools are over and the thoughts of the seniors are now turning to graduation. Rural America celebrates graduation in a big way but there are also confirmation services at churches, college graduations, weddings and other life passages we celebrate through June.
For all the hustle and bustle in the church we are fast approaching Holy Week and Easter, a time of great joy in the Christian life. When Lent begins we drop all the "Alleluias!" from the liturgy and then return them at Easter. It is a time of great piety for the church. I continue on as interim at Zion. The call committee is looking for a pastor. That is a slow process as well.
My house has been for sale now for one year. I am now trying to sell it myself but don't know just how that will go either. I have lived here for 20+ years but know it is really more house than I want. I will have a small house built this summer -- about 800 square feet. The past year I have been down-sizing. A friend introduced me to the expression, "Swedish death purge" and I love it. I have my treasures and they will not go until "death parts us", but otherwise, not so much holding on to, anymore.
So if you know of someone who wants to buy a one level house close to Makoshika Park in a quiet neighborhood, in a rural community, small yard, 3 bedroom, etc., etc. just let me know! I am ready to deal!