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Achieving Geezerhood – Reid’s 2014 Year-End Review

BIRTLE 050

Reid Dickie

Geezerhood

Somehow life managed to transport me to age 65 this year placing me firmly in the category of senior citizen. Of course, I resist that as much as possible while still getting the geezer discounts and pensions that accrue to me. Turns out, for me, 65 is the new 45. I originally told friends 65 is the new 40 then I started comparing myself to some 40-year-olds I know and realized I needed to adjust my figures.

It’s become obvious from The Long View that there are at least two kinds of age: the number of years I’m around which is relevant to the system as my part of the herd, and age as a state of awareness which is relevant to me as an individual and the growth I accomplish in this life. Both need to be honoured.

The Distance

The Mighty Avenger accompanied/enabled me on my 14,000 kms of summer travel, alas, for the final time. Dodge has decided to discontinue making Avengers so my moving persona will be overhauled next year when it comes time for Mother Enterprise to birth me a new vehicle. I will miss the Avenger. Over the past five summers I’ve driven ten different Avengers, all basically the same. Sitting in the car was as familiar as sitting in my living room. The performance was consistent car to car, year to year, as was the service I received at Enterprise.

Personal Creative

My large video project The Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories wound up on YouTube afterSnapshot 1 (23-05-2013 5-59 PM) many unsuccessful attempts at getting it into film festivals. YouTube has the individual stories plus the entire work. Along with the sixteen short videos, I posted the script and the backstory for each story on my blog. This was the year I went after free wild samples big time, downloading hours of free images and sounds from sites like freesound.org and archive.org. This provided the basic content for a few dozen short videos which I call absurd found art.  One example I’m especially fond of is called The Curve. I downloaded a short black and white video clip of a curve in a road and added the muffled sound of people walking. I decribed ten spontaneous stories of events that happened at this curve. The parameters of the descriptions were easy: each had to contain a number. I combined  the stories with the video and an hour later had my piece. It needed an intro. The images of the red curtain rising and falling is perfectly absurd. Click the picture below to watch The Curve. It’s 3:45 long. Snapshot 1 (22-12-2014 1-46 PM) Incorporating found material I created four short videos using my flash fiction stories as narratives. Click the pics to watch. Snapshot 1 (22-12-2014 10-40 PM)        Itinerary Item  1:35     Snapshot 1 (29-03-2014 9-28 PM)    Grass of the Apocalypse   1:17     Snapshot 2 (22-05-2014 6-55 PM)    I Am Aspen Smoke  4:38     Snapshot 1 (22-12-2014 10-54 PM)    God is At Home/Atomic Prayer  4:53     Along with my found art and other video documentations this year, I have been compelled by The Muse to write my coming-of-age in a small town in the 1960s novel, now almost complete. The working title is Some Stuff. My hometown provides the physical layout for the town in the story. None of the characters, including mine, bears much resemblance to anyone in particular. Instead the characters are composites of aspects and traits I’ve noticed over my life. I’ve never embarked on a project this intense or complex. It requires me to spend five to eight hours a day writing. Backed up with a solid outline, the thing starts to write itself after awhile. Characters become overly familiar and take on a life of their own. I see them at the coffee shop or grocery store. A couple of characters have suggested their own destiny to me, some quibble about a line of dialogue I have written for them, other characters will join in the debate. It’s a long conversation that goes on in my head which I empty out daily, spattering it across the pages. No matter how good or bad a character is, I am responsible for every one of them; they live and die by my key strokes. Despite that, I find the characters sometimes use me as their conduit to get the words on the page. I just type what they tell me to.

Heritage

Criddle/Vane house

CRIDDLE HOUSE 001 Over the past five years I’ve devoted an enormous amount of energy and time studying the Criddle/Vane family and their incredible story of survival as pioneers on the Canadian plains. Their reasonably intact homestead has been a constant source of inspiration as I followed their story with the intent of it becoming a screenplay one day. Regular readers of this blog know the homestead is a favourite haunt of mine. FLOOD JULY 2 to 4 2014 pics 002I visited the homestead on Monday, June 23 with my cousin Vonda who had never been there before. The house had recently been boarded up (above) so no access inside was available. I’ve felt for some time this would be an excellent idea, at least to protect it somehow. Two days later on Wednesday June 25 arsonists burned the 120 year old Criddle/Vane house to the ground. The crime remains unsolved. The sign on the left is located about three miles south of the turn-off to the Criddle/Vane homestead. Although the house is gone, documentation of it exists in several ways. One of them is my 3:55 video tour of both floors of the interior of the house which I shot in 2013. I haven’t returned to the homestead this year. I can’t really bring myself to see it without the eight-bedroom house towering over the remains of the family’s history, the enormous amount of wood the place required and the glories and tragedies the house contained. It makes me angry that more protection wasn’t given to the place; the threats to it were real and obvious. Another effect of the loss has been a dulling of my interest in heritage. Over the years my endeavors have been quite scatter-gun all over the province, dabbling in this and that. Moving past that I decided to focus my heritage energies on one location and try to make a difference there.

Carberry

Deciding where to focus my energy and intent was quite easy. I just picked the place with the best heritage stuff outside of Winnipeg – Carberry. I’d helped promote the first Carberry Heritage Festival in 2013 by writing a media release for them and documenting the festival. In 2014 I was much more involved in the festival, attending planning meetings and promoting the event. A family emergency prevented me from attending the 2014 festival but it was deemed a success by organizers and the next festival is August 7 and 8, 2015. Check out the festival website. It wasn’t just the heritage buildings and unique history that attracted me to Carberry, it was and still is the people. I’ve met some of the nicest, most sincere people of my life in Carberry. When I go there I am reminded of growing up in Shoal Lake – the leisurely pace of life, the friendliness of people even to strangers, the lack of most of the crappy things about urban life and the sound and vibration of trains going through town. Carberry heritage people are very appreciative of my contributions. In addition to building the festival website, this year I also wrote and designed a walking tour book of Carberry that features 45 heritage places. I’m still working on some design features for the book but hope to have it available for the summer of 2015. Possibly the Carberry town council will help fund the book then the local heritage organizations can sell it as a fund raiser. I’ll keep you posted.

Winnipeg’s Grand Old Schools

One of my heritage interests has always been Winnipeg’s grand old schools, the ones built in the first half of the 20th century. Over a decade ago I did a freelance series for the Winnipeg Free Press on the schools, even writing and designing a book on the subject that no one wanted to publish. This year I updated the school features and posted them on my EARL GREY 1Schools page. Earl Grey School (left) was my alma mater for the series which I explain in the article. The other schools already posted are Isbister/Adult Education Centre, Ecole Provencher, Luxton, La Verendrye and Laura Secord. I am posting them in chronological order by the year they were built. I expect to post six to eight school features a year. In addition to the old schools that still stand, I feature ten schools that have been demolished with pictures and descriptions. Along with posts on Winnipeg schools, the Schools page has articles on many rural schools, architect J. B. Mitchell, spiral fire escapes, live-in custodian suites in schools, William Sisler, the first junior high school and much more. I had a teacher mom and I have posted her Grade 11 exams from 1930 along with the rules of conduct teachers of the era were expected to follow. Coming soon is a feature on some of the teaching materials Mom used in the 1930s when she taught in rural Manitoba.

Favourite Spots

Besides Carberry and the nearby Camp Hughes, two of my favourite spots this year have been Beaudry Park and Alexander Ridge Park. Beaudry is a small provincial park on the bend of the Assiniboine with some hiking trails and picnic areas. It sports a bit of original tall grass prairie. Situated just west of Headingley, the park is perfect for an afternoon’s relaxation to bask in the sun or sit in the shade and work on some details of my novel. alex 2Alexander Ridge Park (left) is halfway up the escarpment just west of Miami, Manitoba. The view of the vast lake bed below is spectacular making the 75 minute drive from Winnipeg well worth it. This year the park added a new lookout tower and a washroom. I spent many long hours working out details of the book at the park. I took a couple of old buddies to enjoy the view. Afterward a drive up onto the top of the escarpment wending my way back to the city.

Culturebound

Movies

I have a short list of artists of all stripes with whom I will gladly go wherever they want to take me. Musically Tom Waits is on my list, cinematically Federico Fellini and fully completely Dali. Obviously I have tendencies toward the surreal. I miss Fellini’s fantastic visions and not having a new Fellini film to look forward to. To remedy that I seek out filmmakers with similar artistic motives and motifs finding two this year. I have already posted about The Color of Pomegranates (1968), a surrealistic telling of thecolor pomogranates life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova by Russian director Sergei Parajanov. Released the year before Fellini’s Satyricon, the film creates similar trance-like imagery. The image on the right is from the film. This year I discovered a more recent film The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza, 2013) that celebrates Rome as enthusiastically and humourously as Fellini’s portrait of the great 3city in Roma (1972). Well-known and well-loved writer Jep Gambardella, handsomely portrayed by Toni Servillo (left), has just turned 65 and attends party after party in his honour between which he reminisces about his life in Rome and his love affairs while interviewing a parade of odd characters for a book. Director Paolo Sorrentino, who also wrote the screenplay, often goes full homage to Fellini as in the early scene with the nun on a ladder half obscured by a lemon tree followed by a murmuration of black birds across a chem trail. At the 37 minute point there is a scene in a hallway of two men grieving for the same dead woman that is breath-taking! Modern Rome and Old Rome mesh in delightful ways: Jep’s apartment looks out onto thegreat 1 Colosseum and a performance artist does her bizarre act at the ancient Roman aqueduct. Jep’s friend Stefano has a case that contains the keys to Rome’s most beautiful buildings so we accompany them on a long nighttime jaunt through empty museums, palaces, promenades and incredibly ornate rooms, filmed with a definite shout-out to Fellini’s brothel scene in Satyricon. The sources of humour in The Great Beauty are the same as Fellini’s: bureaucracy, politicians, sexuality, religion. Jep interviews a 104-year- great 4old saint (her feet don’t touch the floor) whose minder says the most outrageous things about her. At Jep’s dinner party in the saint’s honour, a flock of flamingos show up on his balcony (above) followed by the saint’s odd reaction. The Great Beauty won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in 2014. If you like witnessing unlikely things you’ve never seen before, The Great Beauty provides two hours and twenty minutes of it, every moment striking and unusual. It’s not for everyone but it could be for you. Netflix has it in Italian with English subtitles. Watch the trailer. Other new movies I enjoyed included St. Vincent, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Guardians of the Galaxy (yes, I admit it!), Gone Girl, On the Road and The Hobbit. I’ve just come from seeing The Hobbit in 3-D D-Box. D-Box is where the seat moves and rumbles coordinated with the screen action. It added four bucks to my ticket price but nothing to the movie, immediately becoming more distracting than enhancing. The only time D-Box gave me a convincing sensation of the action was when people rode horses. The Hobbit was terrific fun. Martin Freeman has the perfect Hobbit face. birdmanTwo movies I especially enjoyed mastered very specific cinematic techniques to tell their well-written stories. Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has Michael Keaton (left) as a washed-up movie superhero trying to make a credible comeback on Broadway. Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and the rest of the cast are marvelous as is the script. The entire movie appears to be one long take, i.e. one uninterrupted shot with no editing. Credit and, hopefully, some awards should go to cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for the seamlessness of the movie. The stylish technique created a floating sensation for me that lasted the whole film. If you missed its first run, see it during its Oscar run in theatres. Birdman trailer. Locke takes place entirely inside a car at night and the only actor we see is the driver. That might sound tedious but write a well-oiled script that uses modern telephone technology in a new and inventive fashion to tell the story then hire one of today’s best, thoughlocke 1 somewhat unknown, actors and the result is riveting entertainment. British writer/director Steven Knight (he created TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?) is responsible for the story and the vision and actor Tom Hardy (above) is the driver. The car never stops so the film unfolds virtually in real time. Hardy says near the beginning he’s ninety minutes away from London and he arrives almost exactly ninety minutes later. Considering he has only his chest and above to act with as he talks to various people on his hands-free car phone, Hardy easily overcomes the limitation and makes the role utterly convincing. During the shoot, Hardy caught a head cold which is incorporated into the drive as one more way his life is unraveling. Tom Hardy is under-appreciated even though he’s been in Inception, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Lawless (amazing role) and The Dark Knight Rises. Next summer he is Mad Max. Maybe then he’ll get the recognition his talent merits. Watch Locke trailer.

TV Series

sherlock-holmes-450794Thanks to Netflix I watched the British TV series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character and Martin Freeman as Watson (left). This is Sherlock for the 21st century and it’s a hoot with three seasons done and a fourth on the way. Its fun trailer. A fascinating series called Rectify with Aden Young as a newly released prisoner returning to his hometown has two seasons under its belt and returns in the spring. Netflix also has Lie To Me, one of the last series Linda and I watched together. Tim Roth reads facial expressions and body language to determine who’s lying and who isn’t. Educational and fun.

Podcast

National Public Radio in the U.S. produced a 12-part podcast called Serial that revisits a real 15 year old murder by interviewing all the principals and seeking out new information on the case. Beautifully written and voiced by Sarah Koenig with very high production values I highly recommend it. Serial is available here.baseballs 2

Music

Late in the year I discovered a German throwback band called the Baseballs (right) who capture the genre’s brash fun. Their original songs are often pastiches of numerous hits from the 1950s and 60s. They also rockabilly up some modern songs. On the player below hear the Baseballs jumped up versions of Leona Lewis’s Bleeding Love, Alicia Keys’ No One and Robbie Williams’ Angels.

Blog Life

2014 at readreidread.com was a very good year with almost 80,000 views from 160 countries. I created 132 posts during the year and uploaded 679 pictures to my blog. This year-end review will be my 1010th post. Here’s how my blogging life went month by month.

January

EARL GREY 1I started the old schools series with Earl Grey School (left) in all its glory. I posted an article from elsewhere on ways to rebel in the Matrix and added an absurd cut-up video called What He Rebels Against.

February

Though I eliminated my Fiction page because WordPress is a crappy forum for almost everything now, I posted a short fiction called Bad Men Who Love Jesus. I profiled Isbister School now the Adult Education Centre and offered a feature on the 1948 Reavis Report on the future of schools and education in Winnipeg.

March

Ecole Provencher was the next old school feature. This month my large video work The Snapshot 9 (06-02-2012 1-55 PM)Lonesomes: 16 Prairie Stories (right) was posted on my blog and also on my YouTube channel. You can read the scripts and backstory here and watch the video here. I posted on movies about the Beats made in the 21st century.

April

We had spring flooding in Manitoba this year that caused Spruce Woods Park to be closed for a while. I did three on-site reports. The next old school is Luxton in Winnipeg’s North End. I documented the ten years of my radio career with pictures and charts in a post called Read Reid Radio.

May

I reported on my first Spirit Sands hike of the year, my train trip to Dauphin and the awakening of the garter snakes at Narcisse in a post called Snakes Without Ladders. I re-reported on Kevin Richardson and the lions shot with a GoPro camera. An amazing story!

June

I reported on my visit to the Criddle/Vane homestead discovering the house had been sealed off (left). Two daysCRIDDLE HOUSE 001 later the house was burned to the ground by arsonists. I posted a short fiction piece called Watching the River Flow, a life-changing conversation between a husband and wife

July

More flooding at Spruce Woods Park with on-the-spot video and pictures. The Cooks Creek Medieval Festival was held this year and I have a full report plus video. I helped promote the Carberry Heritage Festival this year and posted often about it.

August

A major attraction at the Medieval Festival was the Prairie Caravan Tribal Belly Dancers. ISnapshot 4 (17-08-2014 12-46 PM) offer some background on the troupe and video (right) of one of their festival dances. The heritage festival in Carberry was a success prompting a third year. Check out the Carberry Heritage Festival website for the latest information. More short fiction What Ever Happened To the Squareaway ChildrenGrindel, Cheyenne, Colloquia.

September

An offshoot of my rooting around for found footage online I created a daily short video series called The Good Old Days which started last month and accounted for the rest of my posts this month. See two samples: Five-horse, one man swather and stooker :55 and Cigarettes, Oh Boy 1:18

October

I celebrated John Cleese’s birthday, offered a new short video called Tesla As a Boy. I did a CKY JUNE 64scan0002feature on a 1960s radio contest where CKY (left) tried to get a town to change its name to Seekaywye. I report on Marshall McLuhan’s 1977 visit to Brandon. La Verendrye School is next in the schools series and a new found video Guitar Concerto.

November

I posted the feature on Birtle Indian Residential School which I shot in June when my  friend Mark and I went for a drive in western Manitoba. I created two more found videos – Just This and Oasis in Space which uses the sound poetry of Kurt Schwitters as its audio. I found some TV commercials Federico Fellini produced in the late 1960s including one for Campari. Five versions of one song – The Chokin’ Kind – rounded out the month.

December

I kicked off the month with a feature on Winnipeg 1910 to 1919 which tied into Laura Secord School. I found some lovely old calendar art from the 1920s which got me curious about calendar art in general. On the 124th anniversary of his death I posted two shortFAM MOM TEACH0009 fictions about Sitting Bull with an added bit of film this year. Then I started the 12 Days of Christmas – a daily look at one of Carberry’s wonderful heritage buildings. The series was very popular. Party hats (right) from the 1930s was a timely post. Over the Christmas holidays, due to hundreds of Facebook links, my post on the Vickers Viscount airplane in Garland from 2013 generated thousands of views giving my blog its best day ever and second best month ever.

Ezra

I’ll give the last picture and the last word to my namesake Ezra Reid Scholl who’s just turned two. The little guy enriches my life beyond measure. I revel in watching him grow and change and learn. Among the many things Ezra has taught me so far is there is no better reason to make a silly fool of yourself if it makes a two-year-old laugh. This picture is Ezra at 17 months. Below that is a one-minute video mash-up I did of Ezra being extra cute. Click the pic. Happy New Year!

March 2014 v

Snapshot 1 (02-10-2014 9-53 PM)

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Blog Life, Carberry, Education, Flood, Heritage Buildings, Heritage Festival, Momentous Day, Museum, Music, Schools, The Lonesomes, Year-End Review 2014

Sitting Bull and Dancing Horse – 124 Years Ago Today

Fiction by Reid Dickie

BULL

December 15, 1890

Sitting Bull’s Camp

Grand River, South Dakota

Commotion was his cue, his spur, his trigger. Gunfire, whoops, whistles and yells! Dancing Horse needed no other prompting. He began to perform his repertoire of tricks; the seven Bill Cody taught him and the two he learned by watching other horses. He was a smart horse born to the circus. Bill Cody had gelded him himself and taught him tricks.

Dancing Horse was the gift Buffalo Bill Cody gave Sitting Bull when Bull retired from the Wild West Show. He’d spent recent years on the quiet prairie with Sitting Bull, far from the cheering crowds.

Though it was the middle of a cold night and the years had slowed his gait, it all came back to Dancing Horse. As the air filled with noise and bullets whizzed around him, the horse pranced and danced, sat on his haunches and raised his front legs, waving, whinnying and shaking his mane. He cantered in a circle, stopped, backed up and cantered on, a curtsy, a bow and, his finale, a high wild buck accompanied by snorts and a long careening whinny. Then he started again.

At the flap of Sitting Bull’s tepee, melee built into frenzy. The holy man, now 60 summers old, lay half-naked, dying; his blood, loosened by two wounds, soaked into the snow. Sitting Bull’s spirit soared over the scene, its grief brief for the hard and desperate life just lived, now elated by the familiarity of death and the antics of Dancing Horse, moving like a pale ghost in the snow below.

Long after the fighting ended, as the prairie filled with mournful keening, Dancing Horse continued to perform, repeating his act over and over. The horse had danced through the mayhem without a single bullet hitting him.

He did not perform for the incredulous and spooked Sioux who watched in awe. Dancing Horse had an audience of one. His old friend Sitting Bull watched long in delight, solely entertained by the horse’s show, then he turned and his spirit embraced The Light.

As the first rays of dawn swept over the frozen land, Dancing Horse collapsed into the snow, exhausted. A little boy dressed in buckskin advanced toward him, extending a handful of sweetgrass.

 MESSENGER

 Reid Dickie

 December 15, 1890

Central Plains

Overhead Orion paused in mid hunt; half a moon lit the prairie snows. The Spirit, its message clear and urgent, rose from the shabby encampment on Grand River, the scene of the crime.

Wearing only paint on his body, riding a horse with arrows and lightning bolts painted on its white flanks, the ghostly Messenger held a human skull on a stick. Half his face was red, half white, his heart was painted with a blue starburst and his body had wavy yellow lines running from foot to throat.

Sailing through the clear cold air the Messenger traveled north over the rolling hills of Standing Rock Reservation to Cannonball River, the end of Hunkpapa land. Every tiny cluster of tipis with warm dreamers inside in the camps of Thunderhawk and John Grass got the news as they slept. Some awoke keening in grief.

The Messenger turned south, crossed over the Grand River in a single bound and headed toward Cheyenne River Reservation, home to the Minneconjou. In his dream, Yellow Bird, the medicine man received the news with a jolt, grabbed his rattle and woke the camp. It was nearing dawn but still dark and cold as Kicking Bear, the high priest of the Ghost Dance, his wife Woodpecker Woman, and all the Minneconjou were informed.  Further on, the camps of White Swan, Bear Eagle and Hump were next to be grief stricken. Off the reservation, the camps of Touch the Clouds and Red Shirt received word.

The ghost Messenger leapt the Cheyenne River and flew southwest toward Pine Ridge Reservation. Passing over Bad River, through the eerie Badlands past Castle Butte and a leap over White River got him to Pine Ridge and the camps at the headwaters of White River. Black Elk, the mystical shaman of the tribe, received the news and told the Oglala chiefs Red Cloud and American Horse. Ghost Dance priest Good Thunder immediately began to beat a hide drum and chant.

Spirit Messenger turned eastward just as dawn was blemishing the blackness. A leap over Pass Creek, through coulees and around buttes and Two Strike’s camp was informed; the ghost dancers Short Bull, Mash-The-Kettle and Plenty Horses began to paint their bodies with grieving symbols.

By the time the sun rose, the Great Plains was lit with grief. As far west as Tongue River Reservation in Montana, Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and as far south as the Kiowa Reservation in central Oklahoma – they all knew what had happened. Even the people of Walker River Reservation in western Nevada, home to visionary Wovoka who brought the Ghost Dance to the people, knew.

Except Orion, no one saw the ghostly figure riding the strange awkward horse but they all reported his message with sad accuracy:

 “Sitting Bull is dead.”

<><><><><><><><><>

Thomas Edison’s Black Maria Studios in West Orange, New Jersey is said to be America’s first movie studio. In 1894 one of the earliest films of Native Americans was shot there. The silent 16 second black and white film, called Buffalo Dance, features three Sioux warriors in full war paint and war costumes performing for the camera. The warriors – Hair Coat, Parts His Hair and Last Horse – are accompanied by two unidentified drummers; all are veterans of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. It was originally shown on a Kinetoscope. The quality of the film is remarkable. I have looped it twice at its original speed followed by the clip at half speed. Click the pic to watch the one-minute film.

BUFFALO DANCE

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Filed under Death and Dying, Deathday, Fiction, grief, Spirit

121 Years Ago Today – Repost

SITTING BULL AND DANCING HORSE

Reid Dickie

December 15, 1890

Sitting Bull’s Camp

Grand River, South Dakota

Commotion was his cue, his spur, his trigger. Gunfire, whoops, whistles and yells! Dancing Horse needed no other prompting. He began to perform his repertoire of tricks; the seven Bill Cody taught him and the two he learned by watching other horses. He was a smart horse who learned easily.

Though it was the middle of a cold night and the years had slowed his gait, it all came back to Dancing Horse. As the air filled with noise and bullets whizzed around him, the horse pranced and danced, sat on his haunches and raised his front legs, waving, whinnying and shaking his mane. He cantered in a circle, stopped, backed up and cantered on, a curtsy, a bow and, his finale, a high wild buck accompanied by snorts and a long careening whinny. Then he started again.

The horse was born to the circus. Bill Cody had gelded him himself and taught him tricks. Dancing Horse was the gift Buffalo Bill Cody gave Sitting Bull when Bull retired from the Wild West Show. He’d spent recent years on the quiet prairie with Sitting Bull, far from the cheering crowds.

At the door of Sitting Bull’s log shack, melee built into frenzy. The holy man, now 60 summers old, lay propped half-naked against the doorframe, dying; his blood, loosened by two wounds, soaked into the snow. Sitting Bull’s spirit soared over the scene, its grief brief for the hard and desperate life just lived, now elated by the familiarity of death and the antics of Dancing Horse, moving like a white ghost in the snow below.

Long after the fighting ended, as the prairie filled with mournful keening, Dancing Horse continued to perform, repeating his act over and over. The horse had danced through the mayhem without a single bullet hitting him.

He did not perform for the incredulous and spooked Sioux who stared in awe. Dancing Horse had an audience of one. His old friend Sitting Bull watched long in delight, solely entertained by the horse’s show, then he turned and his spirit embraced The Light.

As the first rays of dawn swept over the frozen land, Dancing Horse collapsed into the snow, exhausted. A little boy dressed in buckskin advanced toward him, extending a handful of sweetgrass.

MESSENGER

Reid Dickie

December 15, 1890

Central Plains

Overhead Orion paused in mid hunt; half a moon lit the prairie snows. The Spirit, its message clear and urgent, rose from the shabby encampment on Grand River, the scene of the crime.

Wearing only paint on his body, riding a horse with arrows and lightning bolts painted on its white flanks, the ghostly Messenger held a human skull on a stick. Half his face was red, half white, his heart was painted with a blue starburst and his body had wavy yellow lines running from foot to throat.

Sailing through the clear cold air the Messenger traveled north over the rolling hills of Standing Rock Reservation to Cannonball River, the end of Hunkpapa land. Every tiny cluster of tipis with warm dreamers inside in the camps of Thunderhawk and John Grass got the news as they slept. Some awoke keening in grief.

The Messenger turned south, crossed over the Grand River in a single bound and headed toward Cheyenne River Reservation, home to the Minneconjou. In his dream, Yellow Bird, the medicine man received the news with a jolt, grabbed his rattle and woke the camp. It was nearing dawn but still dark and cold as Kicking Bear, the high priest of the Ghost Dance, his wife Woodpecker Woman, and all the Minneconjou were informed. Further on, the camps of White Swan, Bear Eagle and Hump were next to be grief stricken. Off the reservation, the camps of Touch the Clouds and Red Shirt received word.

The ghost Messenger leapt the Cheyenne River and flew southwest toward Pine Ridge Reservation. Passing over Bad River, through the eerie Badlands past Castle Butte and a leap over White River got him to Pine Ridge and the camps at the headwaters of White River. Black Elk, the mystical shaman of the tribe, received the news and told the Oglala chiefs Red Cloud and American Horse. Ghost Dance priest Good Thunder immediately began to beat a hide drum and chant.

Spirit Messenger turned eastward just as dawn was blemishing the blackness. A leap over Pass Creek, through coulees and around buttes and Two Strike’s camp was informed; the ghost dancers Short Bull, Mash-The-Kettle and Plenty Horses began to paint their bodies with grieving symbols.

By the time the sun rose, the Great Plains was lit with grief. As far west as Tongue River Reservation in Montana, Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and as far south as the Kiowa Reservation in central Oklahoma – they all knew what had happened. Even the people of Walker River Reservation in western Nevada, home to visionary Wovoka who brought the Ghost Dance to the people, knew.

Except Orion, no one saw the ghostly figure riding the strange awkward horse but they all reported his message with sad accuracy:

“Sitting Bull is dead.”

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Filed under Saskatchewan, shaman, Spirit

Three Days in Eastend – Crazy Horse Camp

Reid Dickie

Day Three 

On Day Three, I have breakfast of eggs easy, rye toast and coffee after coffee at Jack’s Cafe on Eastend’s main drag. Lots of elbow room out here in southwestern Saskatchewan. Eastend‘s main street is wide and roomy yet still takes up just one-eighth of the sky. I thank Sharon Butala for reminding me about the sky thing. The red man and the white man clashed and co-operated around here and the places still sing their history. Sitting Bull and his people camped near Eastend, Chimney Coulee holds deep local mysteries that history barely touches and the spirit of Crazy Horse haunts a flat area on the valley floor. Watch is my short video report on Crazy Horse Camp.

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Filed under Ancient Wisdom, grief, Local History, Natural Places, Old Souls, Prairie People, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Sacred Places

PINE CREE PARK, SK

Reid Dickie

1995-2010

“Sleeping on the Continental Divide.”

 “Coulee: from the French couler meaning “to flow”, is the term used for a channel down which melted snow and rainwater flow. Some coulees are very deep and wide, others only a few feet deep and so narrow that only a single human on a horse can ride through.”

Sharon Butala

            Most of the sacred sites I have reported on occupy the highest hill around with amazing vistas in all directions. Pine Cree Park is an exception in several ways. Laid out at the bottom of a deep coulee (the steepness of the access road is about 60 degrees prohibiting large trailers), shrouded in verdant pines, pick any of the two dozen primitive campsites and you can hear the laughing water of the South Fork of Swift Current Creek as it passes beneath the boughs. The Creek burbles out of the top of the coulee about 2 km away and eventually drains into Lake Diefenbaker near Beaver Flat.

Pine Cree Park inhabits the eastern foothills of the Cypress Hills and sits almost exactly on the Continental Divide. If you stand on the one side of the creek you are on the Hudson Bay watershed into which all rivers, including the creek, eventually drain. Step across the creek – it’s only a few inches deep – and you are on the Gulf of Mexico side of the divide where all rivers drain into the warm gulf.

            With its good supply of water, game and protective, towering pines, this coulee was a favourite wintering spot for aboriginals, including Sitting Bull and his tribe, Crazy Horse and his people and millennia after millennia of wanderers. Thousands have overwintered here. Choirs of coyotes still serenade each night, since year 2000 bison once again roam the hills above the park. A mysterious and quite visible aura hangs over the intimate little place.

            This is my favourite camping spot on the prairies for its beautiful and unusual natural setting and long use. The old trees in the park are protective and add to the sheltering effect of the coulee. Thunder is amplified as it echoes off the coulee walls. Rain and windstorms pass over the coulee, tearing up trees and crops above but barely rippling the sides of my tent. Long into the night coyotes enchant the darkness.

            Good hiking boots to protect you against the prickly pear cactus are required to hike up the wall of the coulee. Access from the south end of the park offers a worn two-track trail through tall grass which ends with a spectacular view of the rolling hills that sweep westward and upward into the Cypress Hills. I often did my morning warrior tai chi atop the couleeside then would sit on a well-lichened stone as my morning prayers and songs arose spontaneously within me. I wrote of the experience, “A sense of wonder and secret joy carries me along, my body now just a device through which the Universe speaks. The intent of the earth is evident in my being; my feelings arise naturally in this nurturing space.” The park is one of those in-between places that shamans love and in which they thrive. 

            I first camped there in 1995 on my initial journey of discovery into the Saskatchewan Holyland. At the time I was reconnecting with the Earth and Pine Cree Park offered a serene and supportive setting for my sacred endeavours. Using the rituals and practical applications of Toltec shamanism, largely from the work of Victor Sanchez, I regained my strong connections with Nature and its mysticism, which contributed to my new-found shaman’s path. I seldom camp two nights in a row at the same spot but Pine Cree Park, with its welcoming mystery and peaceful aura, enticed me to linger several times.

            I encountered elemental spirits for the first time at Pine Cree Park. In 1996 on my second visit, little hazy water spirits gathered around me as I sat in light trance by the stream. Rock elementals and some tree elementals joined them in a wispy dance of happiness. My experience with elemental spirits suggests they are be happy spirits. Generally very local and not very powerful, most elementals positively influence my mood, which Pine Cree elementals did every time I camped there.

            During my second stay in the park, I found, or was found by, an oddly-shaped smooth stone with a dull point at one end that felt very amenable to traveling with me. I had gone for a hike up the couleeside and when I returned, the stone was sitting on my picnic table, source unknown. Later I journeyed to discover information about the stone and my spirit helper Broken Fingers had me experience “stone time” and “stone space.” In my journal I wrote “stone time feels like an endless slow pulse with a glimpse of eternity now and then; stone space is a fluid pattern of lights that go on and off incredibly slowly.”  

Broken Fingers also informed me the stone is a spring-starting stone that can be used to create a spring at a certain place. He gave me very specific instructions on how the stone is to be handled to make a spring and how to hand-dowse an area to find a good spot. From his deep wisdom, Broken Fingers told me of another way to sense for a good spot using my tongue as a sensor, which I have since used for several other purposes. Amazing the information we can gather if we use all the tools we’ve awarded!

            On my 1997 trip, I stayed at Pine Cree Park on my birthday. Earlier I had unwrapped the present Linda sent along with me. It was a beautiful blue Brazilian agate, cut thin and delicate. When I cupped it between my hands, I felt such warmth and love pouring from the stone. I could feel my heart beating inside the stone. Similar stones are used by Brazilian shamans for communication at the throat and brow. At twilight, which comes early this deep, I gently washed the blue agate in the cold clear waters of the South Fork. Welling up from within the earth just over a mile away, the water has little time to warm. It is numbingly cold but I could still feel my heart beating in the stone even underwater. Now an integral part of my medicine bag, the blue agate serves a new and significant purpose when Linda and I communicate.

            My most recent experience at Pine Cree Park was in August 2010 when I spent two wonderful hours reconnecting with my old friend. That’s how Pine Cree Park feels to me – an old reliable friend, protective and welcoming. During my time there, the rain I’d encountered from Regina stopped, then resumed as I left. That’s the kind of friend Pine Cree Park has become, a gentle and comforting teacher.             

Located about 9 km off SK Highway #13, and about 20 km north of Eastend or 30 km south of Shaunavon, Pine Cree Park still offers seclusion and quiet, except on Fridays or Saturdays. Try to stay there on a weeknight or Sunday. Choose any spot and know that beneath your tent or trailer is an ancient campfire. Listen for the echoes of drums and quiet singing wafting through the trees. Hike up the steep side of the coulee for magnificent vistas in all directions. Discover the balance that comes from sleeping on the Continental Divide.

            One more quote from my travel journal to end. This is from the morning of  August 5, 1997, “What a wonderful rest! If the coyotes performed their prairie opera, I slept through it. If a passing deer sniffed curiously at my tent, I slept along unaware. If Great Spirit stopped by to smile at me, it occurred outside my knowing. I am home.”

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12 SACRED PLACES

12 SACRED PLACES

DAY ELEVEN

BIG BEAVER BUFFALO EFFIGY

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.”

DAY TRIPPING

CRIDDLE VANE HOMESTEAD

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.

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120 Years Ago Today

SITTING BULL AND DANCING HORSE

 Reid Dickie

 December 15, 1890 

Sitting Bull’s Camp

Grand River, South Dakota 

            Commotion was his cue, his spur, his trigger. Gunfire, whoops, whistles and yells! Dancing Horse needed no other prompting. He began to perform his repertoire of tricks; the seven Bill Cody taught him and the two he learned by watching other horses. He was a smart horse who learned easily.

            Though it was the middle of a cold night and the years had slowed his gait, it all came back to Dancing Horse. As the air filled with noise and bullets whizzed around him, the horse pranced and danced, sat on his haunches and raised his front legs, waving, whinnying and shaking his mane. He cantered in a circle, stopped, backed up and cantered on, a curtsy, a bow and, his finale, a high wild buck accompanied by snorts and a long careening whinny. Then he started again.

            The horse was born to the circus. Bill Cody had gelded him himself and taught him tricks. Dancing Horse was the gift Buffalo Bill Cody gave Sitting Bull when Bull retired from the Wild West Show. He’d spent recent years on the quiet prairie with Sitting Bull, far from the cheering crowds.

            At the door of Sitting Bull’s log shack, melee built into frenzy. The holy man, now 60 summers old, lay propped half-naked against the doorframe, dying; his blood, loosened by two wounds, soaked into the snow. Sitting Bull’s spirit soared over the scene, its grief brief for the hard and desperate life just lived, now elated by the familiarity of death and the antics of Dancing Horse, moving like a white ghost in the snow below.

            Long after the fighting ended, as the prairie filled with mournful keening, Dancing Horse continued to perform, repeating his act over and over. The horse had danced through the mayhem without a single bullet hitting him.

            He did not perform for the incredulous and spooked Sioux who stared in awe. Dancing Horse had an audience of one. His old friend Sitting Bull watched long in delight, solely entertained by the horse’s show, then he turned and his spirit embraced The Light.

            As the first rays of dawn swept over the frozen land, Dancing Horse collapsed into the snow, exhausted. A little boy dressed in buckskin advanced toward him, extending a handful of sweetgrass.

September 6, 2002

 MESSENGER

Reid Dickie

December 15, 1890

Central Plains

                  Overhead Orion paused in mid hunt; half a moon lit the prairie snows. The Spirit, its message clear and urgent, rose from the shabby encampment on Grand River, the scene of the crime.

            Wearing only paint on his body, riding a horse with arrows and lightning bolts painted on its white flanks, the ghostly Messenger held a human skull on a stick. Half his face was red, half white, his heart was painted with a blue starburst and his body had wavy yellow lines running from foot to throat.

            Sailing through the clear cold air the Messenger traveled north over the rolling hills of Standing Rock Reservation to Cannonball River, the end of Hunkpapa land. Every tiny cluster of tipis with warm dreamers inside in the camps of Thunderhawk and John Grass got the news as they slept. Some awoke keening in grief.

            The Messenger turned south, crossed over the Grand River in a single bound and headed toward Cheyenne River Reservation, home to the Minneconjou. In his dream, Yellow Bird, the medicine man received the news with a jolt, grabbed his rattle and woke the camp. It was nearing dawn but still dark and cold as Kicking Bear, the high priest of the Ghost Dance, his wife Woodpecker Woman, and all the Minneconjou were informed.  Further on, the camps of White Swan, Bear Eagle and Hump were next to be grief stricken. Off the reservation, the camps of Touch the Clouds and Red Shirt received word.

            The ghost Messenger leapt the Cheyenne River and flew southwest toward Pine Ridge Reservation. Passing over Bad River, through the eerie Badlands past Castle Butte and a leap over White River got him to Pine Ridge and the camps at the headwaters of White River. Black Elk, the mystical shaman of the tribe, received the news and told the Oglala chiefs Red Cloud and American Horse. Ghost Dance priest Good Thunder immediately began to beat a hide drum and chant.

             Spirit Messenger turned eastward just as dawn was blemishing the blackness. A leap over Pass Creek, through coulees and around buttes and Two Strike’s camp was informed; the ghost dancers Short Bull, Mash-The-Kettle and Plenty Horses began to paint their bodies with grieving symbols.

            By the time the sun rose, the Great Plains was lit with grief. As far west as Tongue River Reservation in Montana, Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, and as far south as the Kiowa Reservation in central Oklahoma – they all knew what had happened. Even the people of Walker River Reservation in western Nevada, home to visionary Wovoka who brought the Ghost Dance to the people, knew.

            Except Orion, no one saw the ghostly figure riding the strange awkward horse but they all reported his message with sad accuracy:

“Sitting Bull is dead.”

 September 9/02

 

 

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