Sunday, September 8, 2013

The National Buffalo Museum, Basilica 5, Salem Sue, Geese in Flight, and the Oil Boom's Gougers

Our exits from motels is taking longer and longer.  By the time we've used the fitness center and pool, had breakfast and packed the car, it's almost time for lunch!  We've got to step it up a bit tomorrow.

Right there in Jamestown, North Dakota, is the National Buffalo Museum.  It's just behind the Frontier Village, actually, so if you're there early enough you can see the whole thing with one stop.  We had to go back this morning for the buffalo museum, a bit uncertain if we wanted to see it or not.
 We were convinced to cough up the four dollars as soon as we'd walked inside, due to the art that we could see on the walls.  It is as if anyone who ever painted a picture that has a buffalo in it, owned a statue of a buffalo, or has anything made from buffalo hides, teeth, bones or fur, has donated or lent it to this place. There's a herd of buffalo out back, too!

 Beverly Doolittle paintings adorn the wall, as well as lesser-known artists. A man from Cromwell, Connecticut, named Ernest Clifford, who collected buffalo items, donated over 350 pieces of buffalo-related artwork to this museum in 2009.  I noticed many of his donations and on-loans and was impressed with his generosity.  They were the most amazing items in there.

Another wonderful thing is the buffalo herd!  We had seen a group of buffalo grazing in the field when we were at the Frontier Village last night, but this morning we didn't see any brown buffaloes out there at all.  Instead we were treated to seeing a white buffalo!  This unique buffalo, named White Cloud, was born in 1996, and has had five calves of her own since then. The fifth one is also white!

What is so special about an albino buffalo? They are very scarce, and to the Native Americans they are sacred. There is a wonderful Native American story about the white buffalo.  I will post here the picture of that story which I snapped at the museum today. It will help to explain why they hold this animal sacred.

White Cloud is permitted to roam freely, as are the rest of the herd. There are over 200 acres of land for them.  Trees, hills and watered areas are available for them.  The herd numbers about 30. There is no guarantee that you will see the live ones if you are at the museum, but there are some others inside, like the one above.

There is only one basilica in the state of North Dakota, and it also happens to be in Jamestown.  We tried to go inside of St. James this morning, but the door was locked even though the sign said it would be open 9-5 daily.  Maybe they sleep in on Saturdays.....? My photo did not make it to Picasa, so imagine a large, brown church, rather ordinary looking, I thought.  It was nothing like the basilicas we've visited elsewhere, but we discovered that neither is North Dakota's state capitol building!

We kept looking for a dome as we drove into Bismarck, but none appeared.  Bismarck is a pretty small city as state capitals go, so we thought it wouldn't be hard to find a dome. Where Thelma led us seemed to be a high rise hospital, but the sign said "State Capitol of North Dakota." Go figure.  I am still processing my feelings about this building. Randy says that it's Art Deco and very representative of prairie architecture.  I still think they need a dome on top of that 19th floor. One redeeming feature, though, was a marvelous statue of Sacajawea on the grounds.

As far as fun art goes in North Dakota, apparently The World's Largest Buffalo (see yesterday's post) is also representative of some of the fun "art" out here.  We loved the buffalo.  We were first puzzled, then hysterical when we saw "Salem Sue, the World's Largest Holstein Cow" appear on the horizon. She is perched at the lower part of a mountain, looking out at drivers on Interstate 94.  You can see her outside of New Salem, North Dakota. www.roadsideamerica/story/2716

It gets better.  A sign declaring The World's Largest Metal Sculpture appeared.  It told us to get off on The Enchanted Highway, which is Highway 72, running north and south off I94.  We saw "Geese in Flight" before we saw the exit, and it indeed was huge!  And very cool!

The kicker is that the honor bestowed on this artwork is The World's Largest Scrap Metal Sculpture !  Scrap metal!  This thing has a slough of geese flying, and the information I could glean said that the wing span of the largest goose is 32 feet wide.  Little goose statues stood atop posts on both sides of the side road leading us to the hill where the statue sits.  You can see it and get its information in the Guinness Book of World Records, apparently. It was made by a man named Gary Greff. The information I got at the sculpture is from some worn and tattered printouts nailed to a bulletin board nearby.

North Dakota is having an "Oil Rush" with people coming here from all over the country to get jobs. Those jobs are paying extremely well, we hear. We are, tonight, in the city of Dickinson, which, according to our hotel clerk, is right at the center and at the beginning of it all.

 We were also told, by a woman who shall remain nameless (we didn't get her name....) that the businesses in these area are charging outrageous prices for things that normally would cost a small percent of today's price. We have already found that with a call to a motel chain to get rates and availability.  When the price was quoted, including our AAA discount, by the way, I said, "You've got to be kidding."  The person on the other end of the phone said, (I believe without batting an eye....), "No. That's what we're getting for the rooms."  This was not the Crowne Plaza or The Greenbrier, mind you................just a regular motel chain for which we had paid a third of that rate just a few nights ago.  Our hotel clerk told us to brace ourselves for Montana, as the oil boom goes on into that state, too.

On a lighter note, we chuckled when we saw a basket full of fabric "booties" at the front door of our La Quinta tonight.  A sign told us that if we were dragging mud or oily stuff in on our shoes, to please put the booties on until we got to our room.   We weren't, and we didn't, but somebody is thinking at La Quinta! 

There are some beautiful things about North Dakota.  The farmlands go on endlessly, it seems. At some points it seems that you can literally see forever.  There were bluffs and hills, and many acres of tightly-packed growing sunflowers.  There was a roadside rest with a lake where Randy and I had a picnic lunch in the sunshine.  There were bright yellow fields dotted with coal black cattle, and bright green fields with wheel tracks of farm vehicles running through them. There was the bluest sky we've seen in a long while, and even when it turned gray and we could see rain falling in streaks over other areas, there was a blue sky somewhere. And the people we've met have all been friendly and unpretentious.  This is a good place.


Copyright: KP Gillenwater 2013