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scarletwoman

Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: Minnesota
Current location: up north
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 30,688

About Me

I'm a 70 year old white woman, born in November, 1949. My parents lived through the Depression and WWII (my dad's a veteran). I've witnessed a lot of history firsthand, plus I carry the stories handed down to me by my parents, aunts and uncles from their generation, and my grandparents from their generation. Basically, my memory is a depository for most of the 20th century of U.S. history, plus the 2 decades (so far) of the 21st century.

Journal Archives

I have a thunderstorm story of my own.

Just about 20 years ago, in early July 1995, I had been living in Alaska for 6 years and decided I had had enough, and wanted to go home to Minnesota. I packed my old model Subaru (my "Bluebird" - it had an indigo blue body with a red hood) full of camping gear and headed down the Al-Can Highway with my youngest son, who had just turned 11.

We tent camped all the way down to Eugene, Oregon, where my oldest son was living, stayed a couple nights, and then headed generally northeast toward our destination, Minnesota. I had intended all along that this would a road trip of a lifetime, so there were several places I wanted to visit as we worked our way across half the continent.

We had stopped in Bozeman, Montana to visit the Museum of the Rockies to see the dinosaur bones (well worth it, it's a wonderful museum!). We found a place to camp for the night somewhere west of Billings, and got up early the next morning to head for the Little Bighorn National Monument, which meant a detour off Interstate 90.

After 20 years, my memory of the physical details of that place have gotten a bit vague, but my memory of the emotions I felt while walking over that ground are still fresh. From the moment my son and I walked up to the Indian Memorial my tears sprang up and would not stop. We left our tobacco offerings, and meandered along the pathways through the tall grasses under a benign sun and blue sky, with me weeping the whole way.

Eventually we stopped at the main park building where there was a speaker scheduled to give a presentation. He was a Cheyenne, named John Lone Deer, and we sat in a room with windows overlooking the grounds with dozens of other visitors while he related the story of the events leading up to the battle from the Native point of view, and the consequences for the Native Peoples in the aftermath. It was an awesome presentation, and although I listened with rapt attention, my tears still would not stop.

Afterward, I managed to pull myself together enough to go up to him and thank him, and he generously invited us to sit with him awhile, and my son and I had a wonderful conversation with him after the room had emptied.

Time eventually came back, he had another presentation to give, the afternoon was getting on, and it was time for us to leave, since my next goal was Bear Butte in South Dakota, and I had hoped to make it there before nightfall. As my son and I walked down to the parking lot, I noticed that the sky had begun to cloud over, and the sky in the West had become very dark. The temperature was dropping and a wind had come up.

We pulled out of the park grounds and headed East on Highway 212 - there would be no more Freeway travel for this next leg of the journey. The sky continued to darken, rain began to fall, and lightning and thunder came racing in from the West. Our route was taking us across the northern plains, with a 360 degree view of the horizon. Behind us, a deep roiling blackness lit by near constant flashing bolts of lightning, and a fierce relentless wind pushing us from the West.

To the right and the left of us bolts of lightning tore through the sky, and all around us the rain came down in torrents - a few times so heavy that I had pull to the side of the road because the windshield wipers were useless against the volume of water pouring down on us.

But mostly I raced on, determined to run with the storm and make it to Bear Butte. It was an extraordinary feeling, racing on in my little Bluebird, with the great wind pushing us from behind, the rain pouring down, and the firebolts and crashing thunder accompanying us on three sides, as I drove ahead of and alongside the storm.

My son, of course was getting nervous - "Are we going to get hit by lightning?" And I tried to remember what I might have heard about rubber tires and electrical grounding and such - but realized it didn't matter, we would be safe. I wasn't afraid, I was ecstatic - this was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced!

"There is nothing to be afraid of," I told my boy, "We are being escorted." Because that is what it felt like to me.

In the dark, in the wind, in the rain, in the lightning and thunder, we crossed the border into South Dakota. I pulled over a few miles outside of Sturgis to consult my map - paper back then, no GPS or Mapquest in those days - and then looked for the turnoff to Bear Butte State Park. I drove onto a little two-lane road, not quite sure if it was the right way.

Because I had slowed down, the back end of the storm began passing over us. I drove along in near total darkness and pounding rain. "I wish there would be a sign to show where Bear Butte is!" I said to my son.

At the moment those words left my mouth, a bolt of lightning appeared directly in front of us, coming out horizontally from the clouds, then continuing in a perfect right angle downwards, ending at the very tip of the highest point of land in all directions - Bear Butte itself, fully illuminated against the black sky. All the slope and shape of it made completely visible in the powerful flash.

"Ah!"

It's something of a cliche to say, "It took my breath away", but it's hard to think of any other words to describe that moment. Maybe just to add that my heart felt full to bursting. All those hours of riding with the storm, and there it was.

As I drove the winding road up to the entrance of the state park, the storm moved over us to the East, the rain stopped, and back in the West the black clouds had lifted and the setting sun appeared beneath them - sending out great fiery beams of red and orange and gold and purple.

Crickets were singing and peepers were chorusing as we set up our tent in the campground, under a sky filled with a million glittering stars, as the last afterglow of sunset lingered on the western horizon.

We awoke early in the morning and, fasting, hiked to the top of Bear Butte under a clear blue sky. But that's another story for another time...
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Edited to add: This is the first time I have ever attempted to put these events in writing. I have previously related them only orally to just a few of my family and friends.
Posted by scarletwoman | Sun Jun 7, 2015, 10:14 PM (0 replies)

Re: the recent spate of "will you vote if_____?" - aka "loyalty" threads.

If this trend is going to persist over the next 18 months, I think I may totally lose my shit. Not anyone else's problem, of course, but I sincerely wish people would at least try to resist the impulse to constantly check whether or not their fellow DUers are willing to promise to vote for the Democratic nominee for President, no matter what.

I've been voting for Democrats my entire voting life, starting in 1972, voting for McGovern. And I've voted in every election ever since, and always for Democrats.

However, I reserve the right to decide what I'm going to do in 2016 when I'm ready to to decide what I'm going to do. I reserve the right to make my decision based on how things pan out over the next year and a half. I reserve the right to NOT promise a damn thing right now.

So give it a rest, would ya? Chances are, come election day 2016 I'll fall in line like I've done for the previous 44 years. But I'll be damned if I'm going take some kind of pledge about it.

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