Friday, August 29, 2014

summer bouquet

Labor Day weekend is here, the end of summer, the end of summer flowers. I am enjoying the last days of summer flowers here, lots of city parks and lots of flowers to see and capture in my virtual blog bouquet.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

the flood

As you walk through the tall grass and tall cottonwoods by the creek it is hard to imagine the community that was here, here before the Flood of '72. Jackson Park subdivision, 40 homes, about 100 people. 

But they are all gone. All but 2 of the 40 houses were washed away that fateful night in the flood which killed 20 in this small subdivision and 238 over the area.

A piece of sidewalk crosses the dirt path. The corner of a foundation sits near an apple tree. 

And a stone doghouse back in the trees. Reminders of the flood, left here on purpose when the Lions Club took over this piece of land to make a park, a memorial to those who died here.

Here in Rapid City there are reminders of the flood everywhere you look.

A survey marker at Canyon Lake marking the high water mark. 

The Journey Museum has film of the flood.

The local library has an extensive collection of flood information, including stories, oral and written, collected from survivors:

I was trying to collect a few things to take, when I saw a trailer float by the window.

It was so dark and the water was so loud - like 4 freight trains going by - the lightning would light up the sky but you couldn't hear the thunder. Houses were floating by, some with people on the roof, some houses would be burning inside. Propane tanks would float by and hit a tree and explode. People were in trees calling for help but there was nothing we could do until the water stopped.

My husband tried to go to work but was turned back, something about a flood - so I turned on the radio and heard, 'If you see a dead body don't touch it.'

We tried to go back to the house in the days following the flood, but the National Guard said we had to have a tetanus shot first.
The three funeral homes in town were inundated with bodies, the dropping off place. Folks would come looking for their loved ones, sometimes having to go to all three sites before finding their family, then to try to identify the bodies. Funeral directors from other towns came to help. The city mandated there was no time for church funerals, just get them in the ground and have a graveside service.

A city defined by a date - June 9-10, 1972, a.k.a. The Flood of '72. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

rapid creek

Rapid Creek runs out of the Black Hills down through the valley of Rapid City, South Dakota - the city taking its name from the creek.

From one side of the city to the other is a paved bike/walking path that follows Rapid Creek as it twists and turns on its way from west to east, connecting the city's parks - Canyon Lake Park, Sioux Park, Founders Park, Roosevelt Park, Memorial Park, Centennial Park. I have never seen such an extensive and beautiful park system in a city, and it all began with the Flood of '72.

After the water poured out of the hills that fateful night, flooding the city, after all the destruction and cleanup, the city mandated no re-building in the flood plain - 5 blocks wide and 8.5 miles long, the entire breadth of Rapid City. This open area was cleaned up, grass and flowers and trees were planted, pathways paved, and people came. People use it for taking walks, riding bikes or skateboards, picnics, fishing, canoeing, golf, frisbee golf, a beautiful green playground for folks and pets alike. We have also seen several weddings in the parks just the short time we have been here.

The Leonard Swanson Memorial Pathway is 8.5 miles long, is named for Leonard Swanson who was the public works director for Rapid City during the flood of '72, and Urban Renewal Director for several years after the flood.

The beautiful park system is a positive outcome of the devastation, but maybe a reminder too for the local citizens. June 9, 1972 - the day that changed Rapid City, South Dakota.

Monday, August 25, 2014

dinosaur park

Dinosaur Park, circa 1936, built by the city of Rapid City and the Works Progress Administration, originally created to capitalize on the tourists coming to see nearby Mount Rushmore.

The park is located on Skyline Drive. The brontosaurus overlooks the city and can be seen for miles. Admission is free and the view is spectacular. The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

the secret is out

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

Atomic City = Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a secret city founded during World War II to help create fuel for the atomic bomb.

The local prophet came out of the woods in rural Tennessee with a vision of the future. No one believed John Hendrix or his ramblings, but it all came true… long after his death and 40 years after his prediction that the "valley in rural Tennessee would be filled with great buildings and factories and they will help toward winning the greatest war that ever will be."

The government came to rural Tennessee in 1942 and found an ideal spot hidden in the Appalachian mountain ridges, connected with a main railroad line, far enough from the coast… they came and surveyed and claimed the land, 56,000 acres, in the name of the government, eminent domain:

"Entire communities and the ways of life that infused them were to be wiped away in a matter of weeks. For some residents of East Tennessee, this was the third time they were evicted from their lands—both the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Norris Dam having already claimed their share years earlier."

The scientists came to rural Tennessee, their groundbreaking ideas and experiments with splitting atoms had worked on a tiny scale in labs, and on a small scale in fields and forests, now to make them work on a massive scale.

shift change

The girls came to rural Tennessee, on trains and buses, having been recruited out of their own small towns across the South. Think Rosie the Riveter goes to the sticks. Why girls? Well most of the guys were away at war. Some young men also came to the site, recruited from high school or from the military. Some of the reasoning behind hiring young women:

"If you tell a young woman of 18 from a small-town background to do something, she’ll do it, no questions asked. Educated women and men, people who had gone to college and learned just enough to think that they might 'know' something, gave you problems."

watching the dials and gauges

Resources were scarce, everything being used for the war effort. But resourcefulness abounded. For example copper was needed for magnets - 8 feet tall magnets - but copper was appropriated for shell casings. The scientists and engineers put their heads together - what else would work? Silver!

"Who had a few tons of spare silver lying around? The US Treasury, so the District Engineer met with Under Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Bell to discreetly request around 6,000 tons of silver."

Oak Ridge postcard

Another resource used exclusively for war was nylon, and more resourcefulness on the part of the girls:

"Some young women even drew seams up the back of their legs to simulate stockings or hose, much of which had gone to war, where their fabric was needed for parachutes. If you were a woman handy with a needle and thread, you might get that fabric back in another incarnation: Many young brides had taken to fashioning wedding dresses from the very parachutes that had brought their loves safely back down to earth. Fashion’s contribution to the war effort, come full romantic circle."

warning sign

Secrecy was priority. Each worker only knew what their specific job was, not the big picture. The surrounding locals watched the activity, wondering what was going on behind the fence, "Everything's goin' in and nothin's comin' out…"

The girls took pride in their jobs and the fact that they were helping to shorten the war, even though they had no idea how that would happen. They made the best of the rest of their time, making lifelong friends, making homes out of the temporary housing.

Oak Ridge postcard

This book describes the science of atom splitting and uranium and fission (admittedly a bit over my head), but the best parts are those about the girls and their day-to-day lives in this most unusual of cities. The author found some of these surviving women, listened to their stories, and did an excellent job putting it all together in this book, American history that is so unbelievable, it reads like a novel. 

Oak Ridge postcard

Note: None of these pictures were seen until after the war was over and the secret was out.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ellsworth AFB

B1 Bomber

AF robot

B52 landing

F 16s


Ellsworth Air Force Base Community Appreciation Day.

Saturday was a beautiful sunny day to visit the Air Force base. Buddy has been watching the planes from his job site next to the runway and enjoyed the chance to see the planes up close. There was a good turnout, lots of exhibits, and a beautiful view of the nearby Black Hills.

more pictures HERE

Friday, August 15, 2014


It is apple season back home, brings back memories - 1979:

My neighbor and I had our babies two days apart, and when they were old enough to start eating, she took me to the local cannery and we made applesauce for the babies. Fresh apples, cut in half, cutting out only the blossom end (cause that's where the poison is) - leaving the seeds and peelings (cause that's where the vitamins are). We dumped them into the huge sinks at the cannery to wash them, they were then put into huge vats to cook, and run through a grinder. Then into the jars and to the processor. If we hadn't brought our own jars, we could have bought tin cans for the same purpose. Our babies ate the prettiest pink applesauce (color from the red peelings).

Thanks Imogene for the memories!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

reading time

"No one can find it. That's the first thing. The Recording Room is on the eleventh floor, at the end of a rat-hued hallway that some workers at the newspaper have never seen." ~the opening lines of The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland.

That is where you will find Lena, the last transcriptionist for the giant New York City newspaper. At one time there were many transcriptionists in this Room, but it is a dying profession, dying like the printed word of the newspaper.

"Three black phones are mounted on a panel and linked to recorders with electrical umbilical cords so that reporters can call in to dictate their stories."

Lena sits alone with only a lone pigeon on the windowsill and the voices coming through the phone line.

"There is basic equipment required: a headset, a Dictaphone to play the tapes that must be transcribed, and patience, a willingness to become a human conduit as the words of others enter through her ears, course through her veins, and drip out unseen through fast-moving fingertips."

Lena lives vicariously through the reporters who call in from faraway places with exciting stories. Until she transcribes a shocking news story close to home, about someone she just met on the bus a few days before. The story about the blind lady who was killed after she climbed into the lion's den at the zoo. She cannot get the story out of her head, she remembers the woman's face, the woman's words that day on the bus…

This story of course hit home with me. The profession, the isolation, listening to the world outside while trapped in this little room looking out…

Don’t get me wrong, there are many things I love about my job, the work is interesting, the flexible hours and flexible location, the lack of commute time and traffic and work clothes, all unbeatable. I love my job, I love my job.

And I love this book, I had never heard of transcriptionists at a newspaper, but it makes sense. Of course they are no more, now we can only read about how it was done in the old days, in The Transcriptionist.

"Ross Wakeman succeeded the first time he killed himself, but not the second or the third." ~the opening line of Second Glance by Jodi Picoult

Modern development of an ancient burial ground brings up a lot of feelings and memories and something else - ghosts. Many of the local townspeople are involved in the story and history of the area, their stories all intertwine and connect. Interspersed throughout the book are quotes from what looks like official documents of the Vermont Eugenics Society, their purpose and actions in 1926 Vermont made the small town what it is today. Eugenics described as "the practice of selective breeding among humans."

Much like farmers manage their herds for superior stock, the population of Vermont was studied and charted and patterns emerged - patterns of families with undesirable traits, traits that caused them to be supported by the state in institutions such as prisons and 'homes for the feebleminded'. The plan was to sterilize these individuals so as to breed out the bad traits, mandated by the 1927 Sterilization Bill, leading to less state-supported individuals.

OMG! Did this really happen? Or is this just an author with an overactive imagination? A quick Google search confirmed it, the facts are there. Of course my next thought was - this sounds like Nazi Germany. More searching found that indeed Hitler used the United States' eugenics studies for his own master plan.

Created with good intentions, eugenics led to disastrous consequences. Among those was the Holocaust, in which Adolph Hitler's Nazi Germany murdered over six million Jews, homosexuals, people with disabilities, and others judged to be undesirable, all in the name of creating a 'master race' of humans. Vermont Eugenics
Back to the story - Second Glance has suspense and love and science, a murder mystery, with some little-known history thrown in, albeit history that is better forgotten, but makes for a very interesting story.

"My father trusted me with the details of his death. 'Ania,' he would say, 'no whiskey at my funeral. I want the finest blackberry wine. No weeping, mind you. Just dancing. And when they lower me into the ground, I want a fanfare of trumpets, and white butterflies.'"  ~ opening lines of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

This story starts out as a simple story about Sage Singer, a baker, a loner who works nights. One of her customers is a nice old man, Josef Weber, a favorite in the neighborhood, retired teacher, coach. But then the twists and turns start, the stories come out. Mr. Weber is not his real name, he has been in hiding since WWII, a former Nazi guard during the Holocaust, and he wants her to help him die. Is he the same guard that Sage's grandmother remembers as a young girl, but refuses to speak of? The story flashes back to the 1940s, the stories of the guard and the girl making their way through Nazi Germany, until their stories intertwine and become one. There is also the present day story, the one of Sage the baker who struggles with Mr. Weber's request. Should she do it? Why her? He wants forgiveness for all the people he murdered, her people, her forgiveness.

A very interesting story, a story of families, justice, morals, revenge, forgiveness. Also interesting is that the two books I read recently by Jodi Picoult both took me to the Holocaust, this one a more direct route than the last. A good read, thought-provoking, history lesson. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

spearfish falls

Spearfish Canyon, one of the many scenic drives here in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Spearfish creek runs the entire length of the 19-mile canyon drive, with a short hike over to Spearfish Falls well worth the trek.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Stugis, South Dakota, with an estimated 500,000 attendance.

After watching and hearing the bikes all week, we had to go see what the fuss was all about. Much ado. Like a car show (everyone taking pictures of bikes), with festival food (sausages/peppers and onions, corn dogs). Bikes parading up and down the streets. A few bars but not near as many as Key West. Guess you have to be a biker to appreciate all this. 

The hype is high for next year's rally - the 75th annual. Predictions are for 800,000 to 1 million people to attend. Hopefully we will be far away from here by then.

So checked that off the list, been there done that. They take a group photo twice a day, we got in!

here we are in the group photo - bottom right purple shirt