Mule Treat or Fossilized Baculite?

In keeping with the Lost Sea theme, I gather marine fossils as I journey along the floor of the vanished sea. I slip them into Polly’s wagon while she’s not looking, keenly aware the weight of one added to the next adds up to heavier pulling. Then, feeling guilty, I slide them into my pockets, as though lugging them around in corduroy significantly eases Polly’s burden.

It started with the carrot-shaped fossil Doug Smith gave me back in Dagmar, Montana.… Continue reading

Hiding My Purple Bouquet From 500,000 Bikers

This week I’m in Hill City, SD and I’m nervous. Call me a chicken for being afraid to walk among the projected 500,000-plus bikers that are expected to converge on the Black Hills during Sturgis Bike Week.

Hill City, SD


Because I’m the only dude out here dressed in a button-down blue oxford shirt, tan slacks and an off-brand backpack. Don’t think you’d be any braver. You’d be uptight too if you looked like a narc with a rucksack… Continue reading

Biker Reunion in the Shadow Of Devils Tower

Mornings, when the rain drops fall heavy on the mule wagon roof, I know Polly’s harness won’t come out from under the wagon. On wet days we stay in camp. Driving a wagon in the rain just isn’t worth it. Polly’s bare feet, softened by the rain, wear too quickly. Drivers that whoosh past the Lost Sea wagon have more than just cell phones, arguing kids and fast food to distract them. Now they’re navigating a gray world slashed by… Continue reading

Do you Call it Shark Tooth, Buffalo Horn or Devils Tower?

Traveling thoroughly as I do with a mule (it’s “thorough” as opposed to “slow”) I have the luxury of watching the landscape change as I roll across the Lost Sea seabed. Last week, when I saw Devils Tower rise between Polly’s ears, it looked like a shark fin cruising the Lost Sea off to the west.

Devils Tower from 11 miles away

As I got closer, my route drifted south. It looked more stump-like.

Devils Tower from 4 miles away… Continue reading

Dig a Dino Bone with Paleo Pete Larson

Remember how I rolled into Hulett, Wyoming last week all hot and bothered to see Devils Tower? It didn’t happen. Instead, Polly and I spent the week digging dinosaur bones with world-famous paleontologist Peter Larson of the Black Hills Institute in Hill City, South Dakota.

Peter Larson

Peter and his crew were in the Hulett area excavating dinosaurs that, eons ago, were washed into a a ravine or stream and then buried by soil. 150 million years later, he was… Continue reading

Grab Your Scope and Rifle. Mule Polly's Escaped!

I was enjoying that last cup of coffee with my hosts Carl and Erma Sensenig of Belltower Community, MT, when I cast a glance out the window. “Time to harness Polly.” I wanted to say but it came out, “Guys! I don’t see my mule!”

Polly, who’d been turned in Carl and Emma’s pasture overnight, had escaped. Damn! This was way big land and if she got a head start there’s no telling how far she could get before she… Continue reading

Life and Faces in Ekalaka, Montana

Mornings in the mule wagon, I open my eyes and see this.

The view from my front wagon window
Ekalaka, MT

Then then there’s a bump on the door, and if it’s not fastened, I see this.

The Lost Sea Wagon’s so short and the days so hot, I don’t sleep with a blanket so when Polly nudges the door open, she has a clear shot at my exposed toes. There’s just no getting away from her so I get… Continue reading

Hand Pumping Water with Clifford Hanley

Clifford Hanley won’t put up with bad water, hot hats or squeaky hand pumps.

Clifford Hanley
Medicine Rocks, MT

A Baker, MT resident, I met him recently at the hand-pumped well at the entrance to Medicine Rocks State Park. Clifford was a direct man -he’d ventilated his cowboy hat by slicing holes in it with a knife.

Medicine Rocks State Park
Medicine Rocks, MT

Clifford at the pump

So isn’t it odd that in 2007, a man in suspenders and… Continue reading

Grass and Dried up Towns in the Land of of Twelve Inches of Rain

The big news on the Northern Plains this year is rain. After a twenty-year dry spell, the heavens have opened, releasing record amounts of rain, and mosquitoes, to the Land of Twelve Inches of Rain.

The ranch land’s greener than most old-timers remember. When I overhear them talking in the Post Offices and corner stores, the first thing I hear is, “Have you ever seen the top of (enter butte name here – Bullion, Sentinel, Square, South…) covered in grass?”… Continue reading

Finding the Beach in Beach, North Dakota

So last week mule Polly and I rolled into Beach, ND with a wagon full of relics. Man there was everything clanking around in the old wagon from arrow-pierced bottles to a short film of two dung beatles rolling their namesake across a road.

Welcome to Beach, ND (Mike Archdale photo)
Beach, ND

Only one thing was missing from my collection of Great Plains stuff – relics from the Lost Sea – like fish fossils, sharks’ teeth, or even a… Continue reading

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