Tag Archives: buffalo effigy

The Lonesomes #6 – Luke’s Truck

Snapshot 1 (06-07-2012 9-37 PM)

Click the pic to watch The Lonesomes #6 – 2:19

Luke’s Truck

A father commemorates his son’s birthday in a vehicular way.

Reid Dickie



I bought that Chevy half ton from Steve Twerdun. Me and Mary had just got hitched and we needed solid farm transportation. That Chev was a fine piece of truck. People noticed me when I drove it into Marshallville back when it was shiny and new (PAUSE) and I was shiny and new.

Luke, our first born, was conceived in that truck. It was a hot day in late August and me and Mary were drivin’ home from seeing her parents about an hour away. We stopped for a pee by the road when a prairie storm come up with thunder and lightning. It rained hammers and nails. We couldn’t see to drive so we had wild sex in the steamed up truck by the side of the road.

The next May when Mary went into labour, she woke me at three in the morning. We got two-thirds of the way to the hospital in town and she gave birth, right into the tote bag she had her clothes in. Luke just slid right out of her and into the bag. So he was born in that truck, too.

Seventeen years later on an August night Luke drove the truck into a soft embankment, uprooting a tree which came through the side window impaling his head. He died in the truck, quivering at the end of a broken branch. (PAUSE)

(STARTS TO SOB) I leave Luke’s truck up there to remind me and the sky what happened. (TRYING TO GAIN CONTROL) He’d a bin fifty years old…today. (SOBS)


Character Backstory

This deep memory piece aspires to be a great country song loaded with irony and poignancy. An elderly man, 33 years after his son’s death, still grieves every day for his lost child. The old truck, slowly sinking into the prairie atop a rise, harbours his most significant memories starting when he was first married.

The first three paragraphs are delivered almost happily as he recalls the events of the story. In the first paragraph he sets the scene and remembers the shiny, new truck with delight but a bit of sadness creeps in when he says “And I was shiny and new” indicating his advanced age.

The second paragraph he delivers a little sheepishly but with enjoyment of the memory of the day Luke was conceived. The third paragraph again is a pleasant memory if somewhat surprising for the birth in the truck and the ease of it all.

The fourth paragraph is matter-of-fact, deadpan as if he is trying to hold back the emotion of the event. He is still stunned by it. The stark image of his impaled son is followed by a pause so the audience can realize Luke was conceived, born and died in the truck they are seeing. How horrible!

The final paragraph is the kicker. The truck is his personal memorial to his lost son, the object that still connects him every day with Luke. His voice is clogged with emotion as he speaks the second last line. After a pause, the last line is charged with cruel memory as he reports the special nature of the day. The pause between “fifty years old” and “today” and the way “today” is delivered are the keys to the story’s success. He has a hard time getting out the last line before he breaks down and sobs after the story is over. It’s an emotionally charged ending that shouldn’t feel manipulative but honest and sincere.

Since the background sound will only be the sound of the prairie wind whispering through the grass, this has much potential to be maudlin. I want to avoid that. I want the audience to see that although it’s a sad story and he is still heartsick over his loss, there is an underpinning of acceptance of how life is.

Dennis Scullard  gave a superior performance as the still-grieving father expressing his deep and incurable sorrow, just emotional enough. Dennis is evolving into a very good actor and his roles are getting larger. Watch his demo reel.

Luke’s Truck contains the first mention of Marshallville which looms large later in The Lonesomes once we get to town life.


Location Information

This old half ton was a familiar site to me from my sacred site tours as it sits at the bottom of the rise below the buffalo effigy in extreme southern Saskatchewan, again about a mile from Montana.

I love how the truck dominated the landscape while deteriorating comfortably into the prairie soil. I shot it twice on two separate trips, once with the hood open and once with the hood closed. 

The truck belonged to Ralph Rasmussen who grew up on the family homestead just below the buffalo effigy. I met Ralph several times on my trips and have written about him on my blog. He told me his interesting history of the sacred site as well as his family background in the area. Ralph has since passed away but his truck still sits atop the same rise where he parked it years ago. Other than my use of his old truck, the fictional story of Luke has nothing to do with Ralph Rasmussen.

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Chris, Buffalo Effigy, June 2011



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Filed under Family, Natural Places, Old Souls, Sacred Places, Spirit

Sacred Places Video Update – Big Beaver Buffalo Effigy

Reid Dickie 

On my recent excursion into the Saskatchewan Holyland, I spent most of a morning at the buffalo effigy south of Big Beaver. My visit resulted in this video report on the site and its vistas.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, Love, PRAIRIES, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism, Spirit

Happy Deathday Carlos Castaneda

Since Carlos was such a large influence on my early shamanic thinking, today I honour his day of ascension in 1998 after 72 years. He knew about it for years in advance. Don Juan showed him his death. Instead of quoting Carlos – he wrote a dozen books to do that – here is a short story I wrote called Carlos, Neil and Me. On a high hill in southern Saskatchewan next to a stone buffalo effigy, I met Carlos Castaneda. He was alone and naked except for a guitar. He sat cross-legged on the dry dun grass and strummed, trying to remember the words to some old Neil Diamond song.   The sun was in his eyes. He clenched them shut against the heat, the fury, the bullshit!   He asked if he could have my car. I told him it was rented.   “Rented!” he exclaimed. “Everything is rented!” with a wave of his hand to express inclusion. “We’re all rented!”   I gave him the car.    When he started it, that old Neil Diamond song was playing on the radio. 

   “I am…I said, to no one there,” sang Neil. 

   Carlos left me two bags of groceries and drove away. 

   “Everything is a circle,” said the buffalo effigy.

What’s with deathday?

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Ralph Rasmussen

               Ralph Rasmussen owned the land next to the Big Beaver Buffalo Effigy in southern Saskatchewan. He was a second-generation rancher, mainly cattle with a few acres of crop. I first met Ralph when I was on my second visit to Buffalo in June 1996. Short, straw-hatted, middle-aged, raw and rugged wearing one of those 1950s beaded belts with RALPH in standout colours, he came rattling up the hill in an old half-ton, parked and we chatted for half an hour.

            A self-avowed bullshitter, he talked about the spirit pole and the rocks as being the grave of Standing Buffalo. He remembered this place from his childhood since the family home was right at the base of the effigy hill. Buffalo is on municipal road allowance land and when they were building the road, they wanted to go over the hill destroying the effigy. Ralph claimed he convinced them to go around the hill, which is what the road does. He told me about a Mandan elder and his son who came here every summer solstice to pray and smoke the pipe. It’s Ralph’s Herefords who are leaving cow plop all over.

                                                                                                                                                               On my return visit in 1998, I ran into Ralph, playing a confused game of solitaire, at Aust’s General Store in Big Beaver. He’d moved off the family farm, which could no longer withstand the winters. When Linda and I traveled the area together in 2000, we saw Ralph in Aust’s again. He was making little pins out of dimes and gave us one. I heard a few years later he’d passed away. I have fond memories of Ralph, how willing he was to share, how curious he was about me and what I did.

            This first picture below is the current state of the Rasmussen farmhouse and yard where Ralph and his family lived, taken in summer 2010. The house is in a traditional Norwegian style set at the base of a ravine.


            This is some of Ralph’s rusting junk sitting next to the Texas gate into the effigy site. Besides the outhouse and the rusting Massey-Harris combine, there is a maroon Ford LTD Custom 500 with a vanity plate that says RALPHO and a bumper sticker that reads, “Eat lamb. 10,000 coyotes can’t be wrong.” The Ford seems to be settling comfortably into what could be its final resting place. At the top of the rise is Buffalo effigy.



Filed under Prairie People, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan





July 19, 2010

 “Twinges of sweetness emerge in me”

            The highest hill around offers 360-degree exposure to the blue dome, a dancing ground overlooking vast rolling prairie dotted with farms nestled in coulees, scant bluffs, patches of hardpan and the crawling shadows of clouds. Half a mile further down the road I came in on, Saskatchewan ends and Montana begins. To the southeast, I can see the Big Beaver border crossing into the U.S. The vista includes a buffalo jump about four miles west. To the northwest is Buffalo Gap where the bison herds passed through to drink at Cow Creek. To the east is the large campsite where nations met for countless generations.

             This place protects the only known buffalo effigy in Canada. Forty-five feet across and twelve feet high, Buffalo is clearly laid out in stones, now half buried in the hard prairie dirt. A spirit pole has coloured cloths blowing from it and there are tobacco offerings on the stones, both signs of recent medicine making. The hilltop is strewn with tipi rings and a larger ceremonial circle to the southeast. Here I can sit on one of my favourite sitting stones and stare off down the distance. Sitting Bull visited this site many times for ceremonies to pray for the return of the buffalo to feed his people.

Spirit pole with cloth offering cloths next to Buffalo Effigy,  facing north and the road I came in on.

          On my way from Turtle effigy (see Day Nine), down a dusty good gravel road south of Big Beaver, SK, through a barbed wire gate, up an incline, over a Texas gate and at the top of the highest hill around waits Buffalo Effigy, peaceful, desolate, quiet. Approaching holiness, I feel tingling in my back and hips and the tight grin. The day remains hot and perfect. I smudge and do sacrament in the car. I will visit this place three times this summer, making about a dozen visits since the mid-1990s.

            I begin singing my power song as I approach Buffalo, circling the stones in a halting dance. I am recognized and welcomed. Penetrated only by the buzz of flies, zizz of wind through grass and, occasionally, the shriek of a red-tail hawk, the cone of silence descends over Buffalo. I am enclosed.

            A common experience every time I have visited Buffalo is a great sense of loss and sadness, the haunted echoes of a specie brought to the edge of extinction and the unbidden change that wrought upon the indigenous people. My personal loss makes this encounter more intimate for me now.

  Stone by stone representation of Big Beaver Buffalo Effigy. Liver stone just above left front leg.

         I dance freely sunwise around the effigy, singing my song, being present. My prayerful circles result in an invitation to sit on Buffalo’s liver stone, naked and only in the sunshine. Buffalo’s liver stone is about two feet long and a foot wide, black and mottled with orange lichen.  I pray til the cloud passes, strip and sit on the hot stone, which burns for a couple of minutes. More heat. I sit with my legs pulled up and my arms around my knees, eyes shut.

           I feel the stone rise several feet off the ground and we float there wavering in the breeze for several minutes. Heat pours down on me, the wind blows through me, I am loved, not alone. Filled with peace and purpose I recognize what is happening to me. I am purging more grief, twinges of sweetness emerge in me, be happy.

            After a few more blissful minutes curled on Buffalo’s liver stone, I give gratitude to Spirit for bringing me here today and moving through me once more.

            Standing  a little wobbly, I pull on my shorts and slowly walk once around Buffalo. Buffalo’s generosity reinforces the healing from Turtle. I am a lucky lucky man. I am living a dream.

            I retrieve my offering box from my medicine bag and leave some homemade tobacco mixture as an offering on the large stones next to the spirit pole, which stands a few feet away from Buffalo. The cloths wrapping the pole signify past medicine making by others at the site.

       Stock picture of Buffalo clearly shows the outline and the large liver stone in a dry short grass year. Spirit pole is to the right of the effigy.

             I am still amazed at how willing sacred places are to contribute to my spiritual development, to sense what I need and point me there. Today was an excellent example with love and healing from both Turtle and Buffalo coming in full measure. The ability of sites to abide healing on such a personal, intimate level bespeaks their long use by shamans and, in my case, continued use by neo-shamans. Spirit is always eager to pass through us, to heal us when we are in need, ready and open.

            Few sites have demanded physical nakedness from me but both Turtle and Buffalo required it today for their healing and I obliged. Only two other places have told me to be naked: the Spirit Sands on all three night hikes I have done there and the Two Feathers Medicine Wheel on the Saskatchewan/Alberta border west of Leader despite its huge red ant guardians. Unencumbered access to the whole being and the intensity of the healing required dictate the amount of skin needed.


Flat and patterned with orange lichen, one of my favourite sitting stones on the prairies is on a bench just below the Buffalo Effigy. The view of the rolling landscape atop the Missouri Coteau is spectacular. In the draw below the stone is the last Canadian farm. Half a mile further, Montana begins. The bench still has tipi rings.

             As I drive down the gravel road away from Buffalo, I pass a van full of people, a tour of local sights offered by the Coronach Tourism Department. Buffalo effigy is a stop on their tour. My timing was perfect but it would have been great to hear the guide say, “And here’s a naked white man floating on a rock.”



October 3, 2010

         When well-educated Percy Criddle brought his wife Alice and his friend Elise Vane and the women’s nine children (all of them fathered by Percy) from England in 1882 he chose a quarter section of virgin prairie just south of what became CFB Shilo. He named it St. Albans and, though farming provided some income, Percy’s diverse interests included astronomy, music, medicine and sports, especially golf and tennis. Percy’s women had four more children in Canada. It was these thirteen adept, creative and hard-working children that made the place and the family a success.

            The eldest Criddle son, Norman, a noted entomologist and artist, built a laboratory on the farm to study local insects. When I visited St Albans, or what remains of it, with my childhood friend Susan this year, Norman’s lab was still standing. We opened the door and the only thing in the bare room was thousands of flies swarming and buzzing loud and crazy at the far sun-lit window. Susan joked they were looking for Norman for revenge. Another visitor told us not to go into one room of the old house as it was filled with wasps. Nature bats last.

Norman Criddle in front of his first entomology labat St. Albans. The current lab was built later.

            Besides the house, lab and a few sheds, little remains of the Criddle/Vane homestead. Walking trails take you to the ruins of the tennis court and golf course with signage filling in the details. A pleasant way to wile away an afternoon tasting Manitoba history.


Filed under grief, Pioneers, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, shaman, shamanism

12 Sacred Places starts Tuesday

Season’s  Greetings,

             Over the past several Christmases, Linda and I sent out small seasonal projects celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas. These took the form of a series of daily emails ending on Christmas Day, each with a pictorial example of a Manitoba church (2005, 2006) heritage house (2007) or grand old Winnipeg school (2008) along with a small write-up. The ideas sprang from our mutual interest in Manitoba heritage.

             This year, with no Linda to inspire and celebrate with me, I have chosen something much more personal to share with you. Every day, starting Tuesday December 14 til Christmas Day, I will post a report of my personal experiences at an ancient sacred site in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. The series, called 12 Sacred Places, includes medicine wheels, animal effigies, ceremonial sites, sacred stones and vision quest sites I have visited since the mid 1990s. I returned to many of them this summer.

            People are curious about this and have urged me over the past few years to share my experiences. This series is my sharing format. My reports will feature recent and past events at various sites from a shamanic perspective. Since 1994, I have practiced neo-shamanism, which I have adapted to my daily living. Exploring non-ordinary reality using trance, power animals and spirit helpers are part of my everyday life.

            I also have a context for the reports. This past summer, purposefully and with powerful grief-healing intent, I drove the familiar process of grief over Linda’s death. This intentional processing used all the inner resources I have developed in the past 15 years, all the helpful spirits who abide at sacred places and who know me from past visits, and the enormous love of harmonic friends, organic and inorganic, fleshy and non-fleshy. All three of those elements appear in my reports. A formidable context!

             The series flows from my own experience and will include pictures along with illustrations. While past series were picture-heavy with few words, this will be the opposite. Most of the places are difficult to capture with photographs, but I have tried to use interesting shots, mostly my own.

            Since I report on inner psychic and subtle realities as well as physical reality, 12 Sacred Places will create a vast expanse of skepticism open for healthy habitation. I understand that and that’s fine. In accord, I need you to understand I am NOT trying to sell you anything, change anyone’s mind about any aspect of spirituality, encourage or discourage a specific form of being in the world. I am reporting. I am Witness.  

            If the series spurs you to visit any of these places, you will find my directions to them in the reports are purposely vague. I will gladly supply actual physical directions to them as needed. Just ask.

            Bonus! Day Tripping. From seedy motels to surprise arboretums to ghost towns, each daily report will conclude with a shorter lighter feature on a non-sacred site I encountered over the summer while putting 27,000 kms on a couple of rented Avengers. You’ll be amazed and amused at what I found.                                  

             You can find the daily reports here on my brand new blog ReadReidRead starting Tuesday, December 14, 2010. I will be posting a new one every day until and including Christmas Day. Helpful background information about shamanism and sacred places can be found in FAQ.

             In addition, every day the blog will feature one of the buildings from past years: 2005 Manitoba churches and 2007 heritage homes. One a day will be posted on the same 12-day schedule.

 Enjoy 12 Sacred Places.


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Filed under grief, Saskatchewan, shamanism, Spirit