Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sand Dune Buggy Bus

      Let me re-introduce myself since it has been so long since I have blogged.  I am Sister One, the oldest of four girls.  Three of us are still alive and we began blogging as a way to keep in touch with each other and our fast moving lives.  It was also an excellent way to keep in touch with Mom without actually having to pick up the phone and call.  As soon as a new post went up, she would be one of the first to comment and then she'd call to see if we had seen her comment yet.  I didn't realize how much I had come to expect her comments until she died and then I didn't write nearly as much because it just wasn't the same.  Aunt Sue died a short time later and our audience of two readers was gone.

      GEON is a perfect reason to blog once again and I am going to try to post about each day's events.  They are fully packed and we don't finish until 9:00 some nights, so I'm not going to promise anything.  As one of my students would tell me, "Suck it up, cupcake and just do it." So I'm just doing it.

      I was so excited when I first learned that Vicki and I had been selected for this year's GEON "Frontier Adventure".  That sounds so much better than Geography of the Frontier: Northwest Nebraska and Connections.  We had both gone in 2010 when it was in Scottsbluff and you can read about those adventures here: Part I and Part II.
     After our intense two weeks of Primarily Math in Grand Island, I was a lot less excited.  There were only two weeks in between events and I spent the first week finishing up my End of Course projects.

     The Monday before we were to go, Vicki found out that she had a detached retina and had to go IMMEDIATELY for surgery and would be unable to go.  

     I moped for the rest of the week.  To make matters worse, we had to put Pudge (aka Fluffbutt) to sleep.  Traci helped console us at the Silver bullet in Morrill.   

       The special was beef and noodles.  Beef and noodles will fix just about anything.  I was telling Traci all about GEON and she was very envious.  When I got home that evening, I checked my e-mail to discover a message from the infamous Dr. Randy Bertolas

  He is the coordinator for GEON but his real job is being the best geography professor at Wayne State College, not Wayne State University, but Wayne State College.  Notice the camera in his hand?  I don't think I've ever seen him without one.  At any rate, several people had to back out for various reasons, and he was soliciting suggestions for replacement "frontiersmen and women". 

 I shot an e-mail to Traci, my friend from childhood and our student intern last year. 

 Then I called her to tell her about it.  She claims it was midnight.  I don't think it was past eleven.  She should just feel special because I DON'T call people very doggone often.

She was accepted, so the prospect of a Vicki-less week brightened.

Traci wanted to drive because she has control issues. Traci volunteered to drive.
I must say it was the fastest trip I've made from Scottsbluff to Chadron since I owned my Trans Am.  I think she must be related to Mario Andretti (I think I just dated myself, didn't I?!)

We did arrive safely and carried all of our junk to our dorm room.  I've now experienced dorm life twice.  Not bad for all of the hours that I've racked up!  We went downstairs and the evening started with an icebreaker.  God, how I ABHOR those!  Then we had a brief lecture outlining institute expectations, the five themes of geography, and he dropped the bomb that we are also required to present at the state Social Studies conference in Omaha on October 13th.  Sorry Nicki, but I probably won't surprise you on your 40th birthday unless I learn how to clone myself before then --- and I just don't think the world is ready for two of me!

The official portion of the evening concluded with a picnic.  We had two fun teamwork activities and then we gorged ourselves on hot dogs, hamburgers, and venison sausage while getting to know the other participants. 

 I love it when people from the eastern end of the state come out west.  They are always taken with the tranquility and beauty of the area.  I just hope that they don't go back and tell anyone because unlike Jules Sandoz, I don't want a bunch of people moving in!

This morning we had lectures from Randy.  I wish I could produce power point talks like he does.  He had us laughing right away.  After that we heard from a retired soil conservationist.  He discussed the formation of the Sandhills.  Did you know that the Sandhills covers approximately one-fourth of our great state?

They span 19,600 square miles.  80% is range land grazing for 535,500 cattle.  10% is wild hay and another 5% is used for planting crops.  1% is said to be wetlands comprised of lakes and marshes.  There are literally thousands of lakes.  The majority of them are very shallow and are ten acres or less.

Because of all these lakes, the Sandhills are part of the Central Flyway for 24 to 27 different migratory birds.  In fact, we saw American White Pelicans on the lake just above.  

The Sandhills are considered to be the largest sand dune in the Western Hemisphere.  They can be as much as 400 feet high and stretch as far as twenty miles.  Some dunes have a 25% slope ... wouldn't that make for great sledding?!

Following that, we heard from one of CSC's English professors who is the resident expert on Mari Sandoz.  We were required to read Old Jules, Crazy Horse, and Cheyenne Autumn.
I hadn't ever read anything by Sandoz before, so I tackled Old Jules first.  As much as I disliked Old Jules (he was really quite the bastard), I ordered three more books by Sandoz.  I couldn't put the book down even though I disliked him.  Crazy Horse is exceptionally good too, but it makes me rather ashamed to be white.  I really have a hard time with some of the atrocities committed by whites.  

One of the highlights of the day was going to where Old Jules had a dugout.

It was across the Niobrara, but that didn't stop us.

Naturally I had worn my boots instead of my toe shoes.
It didn't stop me though, I just took them off and plowed ahead.

This is Karen on top of the spot where Old Jules' dugout was that he lived in before he had a sod house.  We were both surprised at how small it must have been.

I, of course, found an exceptional spot for a geocache.

We waded back to those waiting on the other bank.

I was soaked up to my knees, but it was well worth it!

 We have to hand it to our bus driver ...

... she didn't even flinch when she was confronted with this:

 It's hard to see, but it was pure mud.

"No problem," she said and we forged ahead, only fishtailing a slight bit.

She made it through very narrow auto gates --- 
and yes, they are auto gates --- not cattle guards.

She went up steep inclines (which we now know could be as much as 25%) to get us to the middle of nowhere.  She drove through pastures on non-existent trails.

Of course, if any of the administrators from this school district should be reading this blog, rest assured that I just made all of this up and photoshopped the pictures!

We dubbed the bus our Sand Dune Buggy Bus!
I just wish that the driver worked for our district!  She was fantastic.
We also had a very spunky guide who personally knew the Sandoz family because he left home at nine and ended up living with one of the brothers.

He entertained us with stories while on the bus.

Our first stop was the historic well where Old Jules was seriously injured.

Shari read us the part where he was dropped into
 the well and then basically left to die.

I have to say that she appears to be doing much better than she was in 2010.

We visited the cemetery of the Sandoz graves and signed the register.

   Shari read to us from Old Jules pertinent parts regarding each relative.  I enjoyed listening to her read.  I have to admit that I've never been read to in a cemetery before.

Mary, you'll be happy to know that I thought of you today!

We continued through the Sandhills.  Last April I bought a truck 
on an on-line auction site unseen.   

I don't recommend that anyone do this --- my truck doesn't look quite this bad, but I still don't recommend anyone do this.

As a kid, my family spent many, many week-ends at Smith Lake.
I was so happy when we got to stop by I texted Sister Two with this message, "I don't want to brag, but I'm at Smith Lake."

She responded with, "I don't want to brag, but I'm in an air-conditioned office."

I definitely got the better end of the deal here.  It was beautiful.
I can remember lots of camping trips in the old turquoise Studebaker camper.

Somehow, Jen (our dear departed sister) always seemed to find the snakes and leeches.

Sister Two and Sister Three usually ended up with this scene:

and Dad would be overjoyed.  I don't think he enjoyed fishing with us much.
Camping yes, but definitely not fishing.  

Zedu, if you're reading this
 (and I really hope that you are because 
that would increase our readership to 8),
this picture is for you.

Go get 'em, Figaro!

We continued our drive

and eventually wound up
 at the gravesite of Mari Sandoz and Old Jules' orchards.

 Here we learned that Traci is a Grasshopper Whisperer.

After a brief stop at a water tank for a quick, refreshing drink and a toast,

we headed home, thinking about all that we had experienced today.

I know that we all set wonderful examples for our students

and didn't engage in any climbing activities that might be dangerous.
We got back to Chadron and went to eat at my favorite restaurant, Angela's where I got to visit with Dr. Blundell.  It's always so much fun to see professors that you have had.  She is going to help me out with my plan for the dark side studies.

We got back to the dorm and Jedidiah Smith came to visit.
It was a great day and I can hardly wait until tomorrow  we
have to report back to class in six short hours!


Cris Potmesil said...

I'm smiling so big thinking of you and Traci having this experience together. :)

Mary said...

I only have one word.....Creepy. Glad to know you thought of me while in a cemetery......again....creepy.

sister 3 said...

Sounds like a blast! I love all of the pics especially Traci and the grasshopper. I can't wait for the next installment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister One,

1) Where is a picture of you in a Cowboy hat? Traci work on that please.

2) I will stand by my happiness in being in air conditioning...its 100 degrees outside crazy woman!!

3) How ironic is it that Vickie is the one with a detached retina...after the summer you have had?

4) The bus driver looks very familiar...who is she?

Sister Two

Sister Two

Mardell said...

Oh gosh, I was quite ok with revisiting communing with Mother Nature until I just read this first blog segment. I am a history and geography buff of this particular region so I am now getting fleeting glimpses of a person totally outfitted in "green" and on second sighting it appears to be my twin. (which I didn't know I had). Keep up with daily writing as I can hardly wait for the next installment.

Jennifer Lashley said...

Trudy, I was ecstatic when I found this blog tonight! I was googling to find out more about GEON and stumbled across it. I want to say it was a privilege to be the "Sand Dune Buggy Bus" Driver for the past two days... :) I truly enjoyed myself and it was an "adventure"- I will never forget.. You and the rest of the GEON gang are very awesome people! Also thank you for the very kind words about my driving on your blog... (they warmed my heart). I read that you are on facebook. I am also on facebook. Add me as a friend if you would- Jennifer J Laursen-Lashley! Thanks again for the exciting past few days and hope the rest of your week is great!