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Circus Trip 2018: Bannack State Park

Day 8, Monday, July 23, 2018

After a night spent in Dillon, Montana, I departed for my day’s destination.  I was going to Bannack State Park, which preserves the ghost town of Bannack.  Bannack was founded in 1862 after gold was discovered there.  It was remote then – it was connected by the Montana Trail wagon road to Salt Lake City, but was also rough and dangerous, due to the risks posed by Native Americans and weather extremes.  Bannack is still remote now!

The Bannack Sign

Bannack is named after the local Native American tribe that inhabited the area; the Bannock Indians.  When they sent the paperwork to Washington, D.C. the agent misspelled the proposed name and nobody ever corrected it.  Bannack it remains.

The town has quite a colorful history; it was the capitol of the Montana Territory for a brief period in 1864, until it moved to Virginia City.  And here’s a story for you!  The Sheriff of Bannack, Henry Plummer, was a criminal who had served time for manslaughter at San Quentin prison.  Apparently no one found out about his history when they elected him as Sheriff.  In Bannack, he was suspected to have been leading a band of road agents who were allegedly robbing and murdering travelers.  Some claimed that Plummer’s band had committed over one hundred murders!  That’s where the story gets stranger though; modern historians believe this number is very inflated, since only eight deaths were documented during the period in the area.  People believed what they wanted to though, and Plummer and two of his deputies were hanged without trial, and over twenty more received an informal trial and then were lynched by vigilantes.

The Bannack Jail

One man named Joe Pizanthia was killed when the vigilantes turned to mob violence.  They tried to question Joe, but he refused to leave his cabin.  A large crowd gathered, and two men volunteered to bring Joe out.  Joe ended up shooting them when they attempted to enter.  That got the crowd all worked up, so they borrowed a cannon, shelled the cabin, and injured Joe.  Then they dragged him out, and shot him over one hundred times, set the cabin on fire and then threw his body onto the flames.  Wow – they didn’t mess around!

Stranger still is that many suspected the vigilantes of framing Plummer and his deputies in order to hide the fact that they were the real bandits…  Yikes…

Today in Bannack, sixty log, brick and wooden homes and business remain.  Many of the buildings are open to visitors during the day and you can wander freely through them.  It was so cool to be able to explore these buildings!

With so many deaths among the suspected road agents, and the people murdered on the road, there are bound to be ghosts there. One story in particular that stuck with me wasn’t about the men murdered here.  The Bessette House was owned by Mitty Bessette, who arrived in Bannack in 1864 and died of old age in 1919.  The house was used as a quarantine house in the early 20th century, housing people during outbreaks of influenza, scarlet fever, diphtheria and whooping cough.  The house is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of children who died during these epidemics.  Some visitors hear the sound of crying babies coming from the house.

Bannack Home Interior

It was hot while I was there, but I enjoyed wandering and checking out the various places.  In a ghost town that is covered in snow each year and winter winds, it was great to see how well preserved it is. They even have some original outhouses!

I found one of the toilets!

 

The birds are plentiful there, with many birds nesting in the rafters and beams of the various old buildings.  Good from a birding perspective, but not so good from a historic preservation angle.  Birds are pretty hard on buildings.

Bannack has two cemeteries.  There is one at the top of the hill above town; it was the original cemetery.  Almost all of the stones are gone now and there isn’t much to see.  Down the road a little ways from the town site is the second cemetery.  This one has graves in various states of decay, it is always interesting to see cemeteries that are mostly rocks and sagebrush.  They are so different from the ones at home.  I spent a bit of time checking out the headstones there.

It only costs $6 to visit Bannack and it is free for Montana residents.  They also sell an informative guidebook for $2 more. I loved visiting Bannack!  Writing this makes me want to go back and see it again!

A Chipmunk!

 

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The Dock

I had a super fun and busy weekend, so I have had no time to catch up on blogging! I just wanted to share this photo, from my walk with a friend on Friday evening.  I am so lucky to live where I do; I can walk down to the water and have this view!

I hope you all have a great week!

Book Review: Killers of the Flower Moon

I recently read Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann.

The book was an exploration of the murders in the 1910s and 1920s of Osage tribal members in Oklahoma.  I had NEVER HEARD of these murders – it was surprising to me that they have been so completely forgotten among the collective memory in the United States.

The Osage Nation were one of the tribes who were relocated first to Kansas, then to Oklahoma during the early to middle 1800s; previous to their time on reservations, they had moved around quite a bit over history and had been a dominant power in the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys.  This book does not delve into that earlier part of their history.  As it turned out, the Osage Nation earned millions at the turn of the last century when oil was discovered on their reservation land and they auctioned off mining rights to white speculators and oil companies.  The tribe also went to court to create some protections for its members, including stipulating that rights to land (and the oil wealth that lay beneath) could not be sold outside of the tribe; they could only be inherited by tribal descendants.

However, in the days of the patriarchal U.S. Government, which was still permeated with racism, the government appointed “guardians” to oversee the money that tribal members received from the oil extraction.  The government’s agents assumed that tribal members could not be trusted to effectively manage their money.  Unfortunately, this guardian system had an unintended consequence – murder.  Several Osage Nation members were killed and while rumors flew about who was responsible, they went years without being solved.  After the tribe requested assistance from the federal government, the newly formed FBI investigated and eventually uncovered the truth.

The author did a great job of telling the story, weaving in strong character development and excellent research.  I can imagine it was difficult to research this topic, as the news articles, primary sources and witnesses have been mostly lost to time.  To put it bluntly, in those days, few outside the Native American community cared about a “dead Indian.”  I appreciate that this book has brought these murders back out into the light, and gives us a chance to examine one of the shameful pieces of our history.  I would highly recommend giving it a read.

 

National Pet Day!

Today is National Pet Day.  I guess that’s a thing!  So I’ll celebrate.

Cora is one of the sweeties kitties ever – to humans.  She can be a bit of a bully to other cats.  But she loves to snuggle at night, and loves to comfort her people with licks.  She loves to sit in her puff next to the computer when I’m writing.  She also loves to eat – man does she ever love to eat. That’s why she is a little – ahem – round…

I love you Coraline!

Girlfriends

I met Taryn in college.

Taryn and Me with the bow

I used to work with Shelley at my first HR job out of graduate school (not counting internships).

I met Katie and Katy when I joined a young professionals networking group sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce round about 2008.

I met Mikaela when I started having her cut my hair. (And why do I not have a photo with her!!!?)

I met Kiera because she managed the staffing agency that I used at a previous job.  Kiera introduced me to Lelani.  We have stayed friends long after Kiera moved to Seattle, then Boise.

Bliss was my real estate agent’s wife when I bought my current house.  I also met her mother JoAnne.

Shelley, Me, Bliss, JoAnne and Katie, before the race!

I met Paula through her cousin Brandon, a long time friend.

As it turns out, many of these amazing ladies have come together to lift me up and support me over the years, and some have become friends with each other too.

Taryn met Paula on a weekend trip I took to Portland to see them both.

Katie and Katy met through the networking group too.

Waiting to start

 

Shelley met Katie and Katy when we started doing our half-marathons together.

Shelley met Mikaela when she asked me for a hairstylist recommendation.

Katie met Mikaela because they were both pregnant at the same time and in the same birthing support group.

Lelani met Katy through networking, or a mutual friend, or I don’t even know.

Bliss and JoAnne met Shelley and Katie from walks and half-marathons.

Bliss and Katy both work in the medical field.

Lelani met Paula on a long weekend trip with me.

Lelani and Paula outside an awesome shop!

There are others too – this tribe of mine.  Women I see frequently or rarely, but who I know have my back. I love that even though some of these amazing ladies live far away, and I might not see them often, when we come together it is as if we spent no time apart. I love that we do things together, and do things separately.  I love that these women are all strong and independent and give me people to look up to.  I love that we all at times feel like we have our shit together, and at other times feel like we are failing.  I love that we listen without judgment, give advice when asked, and sometimes provide that kick in the butt that is needed.  We have lost mothers and fathers, said goodbye to beloved pets, had medical scares, have found love and lost love, been challenged by children, have found and left jobs, have navigated career hardships, and have moved away from each other.  I love that we laugh so hard we cry, and at times cry so hard we laugh.  I love that we all need each other.

I am blessed to have these women in my life.

Circus Trip 2018: Old Montana Prison

Day 7, Sunday, July 22, 2018

After I visited the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, I still had plenty of time in my day.  I headed over to the Old Montana Prison.  For some reason, I have a morbid fascination with old prisons, and this one didn’t disappoint!

The Old Montana Prison was in use from its construction in 1871, all the way to 1979.  Much of the present facility was built using convict labor, and the sandstone walls are 24 feet tall and extend 4 feet down into the ground to prevent prisoners from digging their way out.  Construction of the exterior walls began in 1893.  The oldest buildings currently standing at the prison are the original women’s building from 1907, and a 1912 prison building.

 

The prison is huge, and you can wander on a self-guided tour to see the cell blocks, cafeteria, women’s block, exercise yard, warden’s office, workshops and more.  I don’t think I would want to visit at night though; I’m sure the place is haunted!  The exhibits in the prison included information on the 1959 riot there, which resulted in the death of Deputy Warden Rothe and the murder-suicide of the two inmates who initiated the plot.  Several guards and other staff were held hostage for about 36 hours, before the Montana National Guard stormed the prison and ended the riot.  The inmates were rioting over the poor conditions at the prison, which got worse after the riot ended.

 

Another notable story is that of “Turkey Pete” Eitner, who was convicted and sentenced to life for murder in 1918. He became a model prisoner and was eventually put in charge of the turkey flock, which he proudly cared for.  His mental illness led to him believing that he owned the flock, which he then “sold” for a profit.  More entrepreneurial ventures followed, and he soon “owned” the prison.  Prisoners were permitted to humor him, and they printed checks on the prison printing press to pay for various things, and Turkey Pete “paid” for all the expenses at the prison.  When he died in 1967 after being incarcerated for 49 years, he received the only funeral ever held within the prison, and his cell was retired.

Turkey Pete’s Cell

The Old Montana Prison site also has four other museums on the site, and your admission fee of $15 (you get a discount with AAA) gets you into all of them.  The Montana Auto Museum has over 160 cars ranging from the invention of the first cars to muscle cars and sports cars.  Many of them are very unusual, including historic campers, and a replica of an 1886 Benz, which had one of the very first internal combustion engines.  I am not that into cars, but it was fascinating!  I was also impressed that they could get them all crammed into the building.  That would take a lot of planning to determine in which order they needed to be moved in, as well as some very good three-point turn skills.

 

The Frontier Museum has artifacts of items that were used by ranchers, farmers and frontiersmen during the Old West period.  There are firearms, saddles, spurs, a wagon, and Native American artifacts.  The Powell County Museum has artifacts that include mining industry items, and a local wood-carver’s collection.  Lastly, Yesterday’s Playthings has exhibits on model railroads, and dolls and toys.  Outside, you can explore an Old West Town, with homes and businesses that have been moved to the site.  None of these other museums take too much time, but are worth peeking into!

 

The museum complex also has a very unique museum shop.  The current prisoners in the Montana State prison system have the ability to make an assortment of arts and crafts, which are sold to the public through the museum store.  There are some very beautiful and intricate items, including paintings and tooled leather bridles.  I was in awe of their talent!

 

 

Soon though, I had to be on my way.  I drove to Dillon, Montana and found a KOA campground for the night.  I wanted to be close to my destination for the next morning!  I got there in enough time to enjoy the swimming pool and sit listening to the creek that ran alongside my campsite.  It was a nice place to park for the night.

Me at the Pool!

 

The creek at my campground, Dillon, Montana

 

Two Months Gone

It’s been two months since my dad died.  Life goes on – in many ways it speeds by faster than we ever expect or even want it to.

I still miss him terribly and think about him everyday.  I think about the new job that I will never talk to him about.  I think about the financial things I can’t ask him for advice on.  I think about how much I know my mom misses him and I hurt for her.

I don’t cry every day anymore, but I still cry.  It hits me at unexpected times.  Sometimes I think I’m doing ok, and then I’m suddenly not.  Like writing this post – although I suppose that could have been expected.  His marker at the cemetery niche arrived two weeks ago and when I went to visit him, I cried harder than I have in a while.  There wasn’t any new, fresh realization that he is gone, just a fresh wave of pain.

Blogger Lauren Herschel summed grief up pretty well with a theory she heard from her doctor.  The ball in the box.  The ball starts out being a really big ball in the box, and there is a pain button on the side of the box.  When it bounces around, it hits the side of the box all the time and causes pain.  Gradually, the ball gets smaller, and it doesn’t hit the side of the box quite as often.  When it does though, it still hurts just as much.  Grief is like that.  You can read about it, because she does a better job explaining it (with pictures).

So as time marches on, I find myself smiling again, and laughing.  There is joy and happiness in life, and I don’t want to miss that.  But I still miss you dad.