It still hasn’t rained, but we haven’t had any fires around here this week. All that smoke in the air is coming from the over a million acres that are burning in Montana. The news media is so focused on Hurricane Harvey in Texas and now Hurricane Irma in Florida that they completely ignore the huge fires burning all over the west. I’m writing this on Monday, September 11th, the sixteenth anniversary of the Islamic terrorist attack on our country that killed thousands of Americans and thankfully, the news media is reminding us of that terrible day.
This column is going to be all about history, mostly in the Dakotas. On Labor Day, Sen. Ryan Maher, who is also a history buff, loaned me three volumes of the Department of History Collections of South Dakota. Ryan has been doing research on Ben Ash and wanted to share Ash’s stories with me. One of the stories is “Ben Ash and the Trail Blazers” by J. Leonard Jennewein when he gave the speech dedicating the Ben Ash Monument on Highway 212 west of Faith where the Bismarck Trail crosses the highway. Ben Ash and his partner, S.C. Dodge, left Bismarck for the Black Hills in December of 1875 to mark a trail to Deadwood, spending Christmas on the Moreau River.
South Dakota historian, J. Leonard Jennewein, was the son of Fred Jennewein, one of the 1902 cowboys and curator of the old Bison Museum when I was growing up. Fred, an old cowboy with a patch over one eye looked like a pirate and was one of my heroes. As a little kid, I probably made Fred’s life miserable because I hung out at the museum all the time, absorbing all the fascinating stories he had to tell. The museum had lots of old guns, saddles, and other cowboy memorabilia, Indian artifacts, several ancient Indian skeletons, and a picture of Fred done by Oscar Howe, the only portrait of a white man painted by Howe. The museum was built by my great grandfather, Carl Hallan, and the front of it was covered with historical cattle brands etched into the stucco covering the building.
The old museum was torn down years ago and all the exhibits were sent to the state game lodge at Custer. After Reub and I were married, I discovered that one of the Indian skeletons was taken from our pasture west of the house, so I called down to the game lodge to try to get it back so we could put her back in the grave she came from. Someone stole all the old guns and all of the skeletons from the game lodge, except for one thigh bone that they didn’t know which skeleton it belonged to. It doesn’t matter which race you are, stealing bones of the dead is just wrong! Thankfully, the thieves evidently didn’t know the value of Oscar Howe’s art so they didn’t take Fred Jennewein’s portrait and it now resides at the state museum in Pierre, along with what the remainder of the Jennewein collection.
Sen. Maher gave me a copy of a Rapid City newspaper that printed the Western South Dakota Stockgrowers’ roundup schedule for the spring of 1895. The roundup started along the Little Missouri on May 15 and finished on June 25 at Squaw Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation. I’m guessing that Fred Jennewein, Dode Willey, Andy Thybo and Reub’s grandpa Delos Olson were all involved in that roundup too. The Stockgrowers convention is in Rapid City next week and they’ll find this interesting!
Sen. Maher also gave me this copy of a poem printed in a Canton, South Dakota newspaper on June 17, 1910, written about trying to travel to Moreau. The Moreau River was named after a French trapper who was stabbed to death by his Cheyenne wife, but I can’t find any reference to a town of Moreau that is mentioned in the poem. Read this yourself, because if you listen to someone else read it, it will make no sense at all:
I started on a journey, just about a week ago
For the little town of Moreau, in the state of South Dakota.
Said I: “I want to go to Moreau, can I go today?
And get to Moreau by tonight, if there is no delay?”
“Well, well,” said he, “explain to me” and I’ve no more to say.
“Can you go anywhere tomorrow and come back today?
For if today you’d get to Moreau, surely you’ll agree
You should have started not today, but yesterday you see.
So if you start to Moreau, leaving here today you flat,
You won’t get into Moreau till the day that follows that.
Now if you start today to Moreau, it’s a cinch you’ll land
Tomorrow into Moreau, not today you understand.
For the train today to Moreau, if the schedule is right,
Will get you in to Moreau, by about tomorrow night.”
Said I, “I guess you know it all right, but kindly let me say,
How can I go tomorrow if I leave the town today?”
Said he, “You cannot go to Moreau any more today
For the train that goes to Moreau is a mile upon it’s way.”
I was disappointed. I was mad enough to swear.
The train had gone to Moreau and left me standing there.
The man was right in telling me I was a howling jay.
I didn’t go to Moreau, so I guess I’ll go today.