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  • Writer's pictureKandy Thietten

History In Photos

Saturday, we went to church, stayed for a lovely potluck, and took off through Nebraska towards South Dakota. I had no idea that any parts of the country were as empty and unpopulated as the northern part of Nebraska. We drove one stretch of road for about 200 miles, and only saw a handful of cars. The next road was probably 60 miles, and we saw TWO cars on the entire road. That section was nothing but bright green, rolling hills with a very occasional copse of trees surrounding an intermittent small pond or river, and here and there the grass was dotted with lonely trees. There are areas where you can drive for miles without seeing so much as a small shrub. It's all farm land, and other than a few tiny towns, most of which w small enough that their name signs read "Unincorporated" instead of the population number, the houses were miles apart. I can't help but wonder what kind of person can live so isolated. I bet churches are packed on the weekends, as it is probably the only social interaction most of the ranchers have, other than the periodic trip to a city to buy supplies. I was tempted to have Abe pull into a driveway so we could knock on the door and say hi, but I'm not that brave. I have to say, Nebraska is beautiful country.

South Dakota is one of the three states I particularly wanted to visit when we started this trip. The other two were Texas, which I loved, and Florida, where we are planning to be over Christmas.

Just after crossing into South Dakota, we drove through the ghost town of Ardmore. Founded in 1911, the settlers soon discovered that the water was too acidic for human consumption. Back then, steam engines ran the rails, so they made a deal with the trains: Ardmore would provide water for the engines, and the trains would supply drinking water for the town. It was a great relationship...until trains switched from steam to diesel and electricity for power. After that, a few people remained and struggled to keep the town alive, but now it is a collection of old cars, old buildings, and refuse. I read that the final inhabitants left in the 1980s, so we peaked inside buildings whose doors were open, keeping our eyes and ears open in case someone had managed to stick around. Our nerves were pretty high as we imagined the angry, eccentric, hermit that anyone we met was bound to be. Some buildings were empty, others were piled high with junk and household items that were left behind. I eventually noticed that some of the areas had been mowed, and there was a group of tables set up with rocks that someone had collected and and a coffee can with a "$0.25 per rock" sign. We bought a rock and continued looking around, being even more cautious and aware, and avoiding areas that looked like they might be inhabited, when we saw a man unloading his pickup and taking things into a nearby house. My curiosity got the best of me so Abe and I approached his property, being sure to stay on the road, and asked him about the area. We were surprised to learn that there were a handful of buildings that were occupied. The man seemed pretty annoyed at my questions, but he answered some, making sure that I knew that if we looked in the wrong area we'd get a butt-chewing we wouldn't soon forget. I got the feeling he was one of the friendlier inhabitants, so we decided it was a good time to leave. I'm happy that I got a lot of pictures before talking to him.

Our next stop was Deadwood. Monday, we went for a long hike through the town and up a hill to the Mt. Moriah cemetery. I spent some time pondering the fascination with cemeteries that so many people share, and I came to the loose conclusion that it is the small glimpse into and connection to the past that we gain as we read the headstones, gleaning from the small bit of history that they share. This particular cemetery is the resting place of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. The brochure told the sad story of Calamity Jane's unrequited love for Wild Bill Hickok. The other celebrity grave belonged to Potato Creek Johnny. I'd never heard of him before, but I'm pretty sure that he was the inspiration behind every cartoon caricature of an old gold prospector ever created.

This morning, we went to Mt. Rushmore. That's a monument that I've always wanted to see, and I'm so glad I got the chance. I read every plaque to learn what they had to share about Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt. I really don't have a lot to say about Mt. Rushmore, other than every American should see it at some point in their lives, and it is a great reminder of why America as founded is such a wonderful gift from God, so I will let the photos speak for themselves. I did type the words of the giant copper plaque, History of the United States of America, because the writing is too small to read in the photo.

(The Sculptor)

The History of the United States of America

Almighty God, from this pulpit of stone the American people render thanksgiving and praise for the new era of civilization brought forth upon this continent. Centuries of tyrannical oppression sent to these shores, God-fearing men to seek in freedom the guidance of the benevolent hand in the progress toward wisdom, goodness toward men, and piety toward God.

1776 Consequently, on July 4, 1776, our forefathers promulgated a principle never before successfully asserted, that life, liberty, equality, and pursuit of happiness were the birthrights of all mankind. In this declaration of independence beat a heart for all humanity. It declared this country free from British rule and announced the inalienable sovereignty of the people. Freedom’s soldiers victoriously consecrated this land with their life’s blood to be free forever more.

1787 Then, in 1787 for the first time a government was formed that derived its just powers from the consent of the governed. General Washington and representatives from the 13 states formed this sacred Constitution, which embodies our faith in God and in mankind by giving equal participation in government to all citizens, distributing the powers of governing, three fold securing freedoms of speech and of the press, establishing the right to worship the Infinite according to conscience, and assuring this nation’s general welfare against an embattled world. This chart of national guidance has for more than 150 years weathered the ravages of time. Its supreme trial came under the pressure of Civil War, 1861-65. The deadly doctrines of secession and slavery were then purged away in blood. The seal of the Union’s finality set by President Lincoln, was accomplished like all our triumphs of law and humanity, through the wisdom and the power of an honest, Christian heart.

Far-sighted American statesmanship acquired by treaties, vast wilderness territories, where progressive, adventurous Americans spread civilization and Christianity.

1803. In 1803, Louisiana was purchased from France. This acquisition extended from the Mississippi River, across the fertile prairie to the Rocky Mountains, and paved the way for America's preeminence among the nations.

1819 In 1819, the picturesque Florida peninsula was ceded as payment of Spanish obligations due to Americans.

1845. In 1845, Texas, having patterned American democracy during the ten years of freedom from Mexican rule, accepted the invitation to join the sisterhood of states. In 1846, the Oregon country was peacefully apportioned by the 49th parallel as the compromised international boundary of the two English-speaking nations.

1848 In 1848, California and territory likewise rich in natural resources was acquired as the consequence of an inevitable conflict with Mexico. In spirit of mutual concession, the United States granted additional indemnities for the adjustment of the international boundary, extending from the Rio Grande to the Gulf of California.

1850 In 1850, Texas willingly ceded the disputed Rio Grande region, thus ending the dramatic acquisition of the west.

1867 In 1867, Alaska was purchased from Russia.

1904 In 1904, the Panama Canal Zone was acquired for our people to build a navigable highway enabling the world's people to share the fruits of the earth and human industry.

Now, these eras are welded into a nation possessing unity, liberty, power, integrity and faith in God, with responsible development of character and devoted to the performance of humanitarian duty.

Holding no fear of the economic and political, chaotic clouds hovering over the earth, the consecrated Americans dedicate this nation before God, to exalt righteousness and to maintain mankind's constituted liberties so long as the earth shall endure.

William Andrew Burkett

(Abraham Lincoln)

(Thomas Jefferson)

(Marks left on the rocks from the carving process.)

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