Outdoors NW – “Five Fascinating Facts about Washington Lighthouses”
Outdoors NW – “Five Fascinating Facts about Washington Lighthouses”
I just returned from a trip back to Western Kansas where I grew up. After several rainstorms the landscape has turned a vibrant blue-green, which contrasts beautifully with the white limestone rock that tells of its history as an ancient seabed. The creek was alive with turtles and fish while I was there, and deer and rabbits bounded gracefully along, racing me as I turned my car down the country roads.
My favorite activity when I’m in Kansas is getting up early to watch the sunrise. With a cup of coffee and my camera in hand, I drive out to my family’s farm, find the perfect spot and park. Prairie grass, wet with dew, bathes my feet and the scent of wild sage fills the air. The birds awaken and I hear the distinctive songs of meadowlarks, kildeer, mourning doves and red-winged blackbirds. Nearby rabbits pause as if hypnotized into a state of absolute trust–they’re here to witness the same show I’ve come to see and together we watch the horizon as the first colors of the day appear in the night sky.
A streak of red rises just behind the black silhouettes of trees. Then orange, so brilliant it could be mistaken for a brush fire.
Soon clouds pick up the colors and sweep the sky with a pink that I’m sure can’t be reproduced on canvas. Brushstrokes race across the sky, becoming lighter and sharper as the sun crests the Earth’s eastern edge.
Over the next few minutes the sky turns from dark night to a clear blue that is deep and rich with vaporous, wet clouds.
The dawn is near and with each color splash I’m granted an intimate glimpse at nature’s palate.
As blocks of color reveal themselves to me I am reminded of the artist, Mark Rothko, an artist who is often identified as an Abstract Expressionist, although he himself rejected this label. He is considered one of the most famous postwar artists and his signature style, referred to as “multiform”, consists of only two or three large color blocks painted onto large canvases with the intention to induce an experience in the viewer through the feelings brought forth naturally from his choice of color combination. He would instruct people to stand as close as eighteen inches from his work so as to envelope themselves in the intimate moment of viewing the artwork. In his later years Rothko stressed that to truly experience his art was akin to a spiritual experience.
I experienced the same feeling watching the great dome above me turn night into day, and as much as the artist wants to imitate life, in my opinion, it still remains outside his grasp.
Here are a few of Rothko’s paintings.
This photo was taken by my friend, John, in Loganville, Georgia. I thought it was beautiful and I hope you do, too. He used a Sony SLT A55 with the 18-55 kit lens. Settings: ISO 100-40mmm – f/11 – 2.0sec. If you’d like to view more of his photography you can visit his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/johndhendricks.
Dena Weigel Bell; Photographer
These two photographs, used with permission by the Military Sealift Fleet Support Command, were taken from St. John’s Bridge as the USS Yukon made its way up the Willamette River to the Cascade Shipyard in Portland, OR.
A link to the article where it was published: http://www.msc.navy.mil/msfsc/news.asp?show=1258403567&edition=112009/
“Cheyenne,” an old-timer said with certainty. The red, blue, and green stripes encircling the shaft were the same colors the braves had painted on their faces during the Indian Wars.
It was the fall of 1878 when that dog ran into the dusty, new settlement of WaKeeney, Kansas. The town was less than a year old then…a tiny speck of humanity on the vast and empty prairie. No roads, no fences…only a hotel, post office, general store, and a land office to frame the main street. It was the start of settled life on the Great Plains
…and the original inhabitants were not welcome.
The arrow belonged to the Northern Cheyenne, a tribe whose leader, Chief Dull Knife, and his warriors had fought at Little Bighorn in 1876; standing up to the US Army and killing its celebrated general, George Armstrong Custer, in a battle that lasted two days. When word of ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ made its way back East, people, filled with patriotic fervor during the nation’s centennial, were outraged. Calls for retribution echoed through the halls of Congress and the US Army stepped up pressure on the Plains Indians.
On October 1876, one thousand troops from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Cavalry Regiments and a large contingent of Native American scouts set out to locate the Northern Cheyenne camp. Dull Knife’s tribe was taken by surprise and were driven out without blankets, clothes, or the other necessities of life just as winter was bearing down on them from Canada.
After some resistance, it was clear the Northern Cheyenne had no recourse but to sign the Treaty of Fort Laramie. They agreed to a life on an Oklahoma reservation in return for the U.S. government’s promises of hunting rights, free medical care, and separation from their traditional enemies….all of which were lies. After a few months, frustrated and embittered by the deaths of loved ones due to sickness and starvation, Dull Knife and around three hundred members of his tribe made the decision to return to their homeland and on September 10, 1878, they headed north to Dakota Territory in what is now referred to as the ‘Northern Cheyenne Exodus’.
During this time of year the wind in Western Kansas begins to change. Gone are the hot blasts that come up from the South, replaced by a cold, Arctic wind that blows with such force it could knock a grown man to the ground. It’s exhausting and relentless, and eventually, you begin to hate the wind more than the heat, more than the humidity…even more than the mosquitos.
Dull Knife’s tribe spent their days walking into that wind and their nights camping near creeks. They moved quickly, making it to an area called Big Basin in Clark County Kansas in one day, a perfect place to plan an ambush on the soldiers who were surely following them. Some braves went out into the prairie to fortify their meager supplies; stealing two mules and a rifle and leaving two cowboys dead before breakfast. No confrontation with the Army occurred at that location and the Cheyenne moved further into Kansas with 250 troops hot on their trail.
The Cheyenne prepared for another ambush at Punished Woman Creek and, after a false start, they mounted a successful attack; killing Colonel Lewis and a few other men during the skirmish and causing the surviving troops to turn back to Oklahoma.
The number of confrontations increased as the Cheyenne passed through Kansas, with the most brutal raids occurring in the northwest counties of Decatur and Rawlins between the dates of September 30 to October 3. Unbeknownst to the farmers and residents in and around Oberlin, the area they’d only recently claimed as their own held significant meaning to the Cheyenne as this was where twenty-seven members of the tribe had been slaughtered by buffalo hunters in an unprovoked attack in April 1875. Dull Knife and his braves saw a chance at retribution for their deaths.
Approaching the settlers with signs of friendship, the warriors would suddenly shoot them at point-blank range….just as the buffalo hunters had done with their families. Panic raced across the prairie with the wind. People scattered, hiding in the scrub brush and creek beds in hopes the roving Indians would only destroy their property and leave them alive. One group of settlers, having been warned of the Cheyenne’s presence, hid in a stand of trees near their farm. Fear gripped them and tensions rose as a baby named Pearl cried uncontrollably in her mother’s arms. Finally, one of the men in the group choked the life from her little body to keep them all from being caught.
At another farmstead, a home and all its contents were burned, two teenaged boys and their father killed, and two young girls were stripped naked and sent into the flames as their mother begged for their lives, only to be released after their mother gave Chief Dull Knife their life savings. Reports claim anywhere from nineteen to forty men and boys were killed and twenty-five women and girls raped at the hands of the Dull Knife’s warriors.
After the massacres around Oberlin the Cheyenne moved North into Nebraska but it wasn’t long before they were confronted by three thousand settlers and ten thousand soldiers; the original group out of Oklahoma, plus troops from five Kansas forts. The fight was now thirteen thousand to three hundred. The Cheyenne were chased day and night and five times were confronted on the prairie but, with their knowledge of the land, they were always able to escape into more treacherous terrain. Eventually, the pursuit wore the Cheyenne down and six weeks after their run from the reservation began the tribal leaders held council. A division of opinion concluded the Northern Cheyenne Exodus, with two sides choosing different paths. Some continued moving North, while others, including Dull Knife, decided to stop running. They took possession of an empty fort in NW Nebraska and waited for contact with the authorities, at which time many more empty promises were given and more fighting occured. In the end only nine members of Dull Knife’s tribe survived, including the Chief, himself. They were moved around as prisoners for a time, then finally sent to Fort Keogh in Montana. Over time, several members of the Exodus were tried for the murders that had been committed in Kansas.
As for the dog who’d run down WaKeeney’s Main Street on, what I imagine to be, another windy day on the prairie…he’d brought the ominous news of a war party to my hometown from a campsite several miles East of Wakeeney. His owner, the camp’s cook, was found days later…lying in the grass; dead.
*The facts of this story are based on sources available on the web. The Decatur County Museum memorializes this event in the Last Indian Raid section of their museum and markers where significant incidences occurred are scattered throughout the county.
Below is a photo of my hometown, WaKeeney, Kansas seven years after that fateful day when the dog with an arrow ran into town.