Tuesday, September 26, 2006

And on another tack entirely...

I just found another facet of my growing internet fame. Click on the title to find out how desperate for free stuff I can get.

Courtney would like to point out that she had nothing to do with any of that.

Heh. Chickenfoot.

Monday, September 25, 2006


So we walked to the trailer across the way to confront accuse ask our neighbors whether they’d “seen anything” suspicious at our house the day of the burglary, their emotionally disturbed 10 year old son being the community nominated suspect #1 and all.

Our first trip met with no success, no one home except for a cow happily chomping a bag of cornmeal in front of the steps up to the trailer’s door, so we walked back home and waited for signs of their return. It was something of an agonizing wait, I don’t enjoy confrontation, and although I told myself I was, just going over to tell them what had happened and ask if they’d seen anything, the fact was that everyone I’d talked to about the robbery had mentioned the kid’s name, and some element of our meeting would be colored by that. I smoked my pipe in the yard and watched the road.

Finally, after an hour or so, the mother’s red sedan pulled off of BIA 33 and I went inside to let Courtney know it was time. She didn’t want to go over any more than I did, but we both felt like we should.

We walked the 300 yards or so to the trailer “lot”, loosely defined by a slack and incomplete barbed-wire fence, walked up the warped wooden steps to the door, and knocked.

The mother, Roberta, opened the door and, more or less cheerily, invited us in. We introduced ourselves, said that we had been meaning to come over and say hello for a while, and now, regretfully we were doing so under serious circumstances.

We explained about the robbery, and asked if she, or any of her children, might have seen anything unusual that day.

“Oh,” she said. “I think my son was home with his cousin that day. He’s been diagnosed with PTSD, he was a hit-and-run victim and now he’s kind of emotionally unstable. They won’t let him go to school no more.” Her voice had an apologetic edge, and it seemed clear that she too suspected him. “I’ll ask him if he saw anything.”

We made a little more small talk after that. It turns out that her brother is currently President of the tribe, that her family gained some national notoriety a few years ago when DEA helicopters raided their property for growing industrial hemp (despite an argument that it was legal to do so under the Fort Laramie Treaty). Her husband is an activist currently battling the Park Service over a section of the Badlands known as The Stronghold (a place of refuge for Lakota fleeing from soldiers after the Wounded Knee Massacre.)

She was very friendly and open, and Courtney and I would have enjoyed talking for longer about these things, but then her little girl, who had been watching out the window, said, “Dad’s home.”

The atmosphere changed immediately. As the mother began busying herself in the kitchen, the door opened and ‘Dad’ walked in with our suspect #1, a young boy of 10 or so, right behind him. He looked at us coldly but offered no greeting. We suddenly felt very out of place.

We introduced ourselves, he shook hands and muttered his name.

“They got robbed yesterday,” Roberta said from the kitchen.

“What are you missing?” he asked.

We described our stolen possessions, mentioned that we were offering a reward for the bracelet and the necklace. I said, “I think it was probably just some kids, they mainly took games.”

“What games?” He asked, casting a glance at his son. I listed them.

Suddenly his son, Joshua, sprinted over to the family’s television and grabbed four PS2 games and splayed them out for us, “We only have these games, see?!” He seemed very upset.

“We’re not accusing you, Joshua.” I said, even though I was sure it was him. ”We just wanted to know if maybe you saw something, or maybe if one of your friends brags about it you could let us know.”

“They’re offering a reward, Joshua,” Roberta said.

After that, without saying anything more to us, the father went into the kitchen and began talking about horses. The atmosphere was very tense, and it was clear that it was time to go. We did.

Afterward, Courtney and I debriefed on the experience. We agreed that the kid had acted very suspiciously, and that the parents would undoubtedly talk to him about it. I felt better about the situation, as I figured at the very least the kid would see that there was some accountability for his actions, even when perpetrated against outsiders like ourselves. Neither of us particularly thought we would get anything back.

Two days later, we were thankfully proved wrong.

It was raining and frigid and about 9 o’clock when the knock came. I went to the door in my pajamas and there, clutching a black garbage bag and illuminated by the headlights from the truck behind him, was Joshua.

“Do you have your dogs?” he asked. “Do you have your dogs?!”

I did not, in fact, have my dogs. They were both snarling behind me, and I was somewhat gratified to see that he was afraid of them. “Hold on,” I said.

Once the dogs were safely put away, we reviewed the contents of the bag. The playstation was there, some DVDs that I hadn’t even missed yet, and my father’s bracelet.

“They were at my friend Thomas Ghost’s house,” Joshua explained. “I think he broke into your house and stole them!"

I thanked him for bringing the items back. "You said I could have a reward?” he asked.

True to our word, we gave him a reward for the bracelet. He was excited to get it, and ran back to the waiting truck.

Courtney’s necklace was still MIA, and on closer inspection the PS2 had been gutted. Courtney and I were both pretty conflicted about the experience. We had, of course, just paid ransom on our possessions, and that’s not a good feeling to have. Especially when the necklace, which had belonged to Courtney’s grandmother and was certainly the most materially valuable object, hadn’t been returned.

After discussing it though, we came to the conclusion that offering the reward had been our best chance to get the objects back. Courtney was still upset about the necklace, and we didn’t go to bed that night terribly happy, despite the near-miraculous return of the possessions.

There was still one last surprise for us, however.

The next morning, again rainy and again drizzly, another knock at the door. I was indisposed so Courtney answered.

“Thank you, Joshua! Thank you!’ I heard from the other room.

The kid had brought back the necklace. Perhaps the previous night's visit had been a test to see if we'd really give him the reward?

So there you have it. A happy ending. I’m still not thrilled about paying ransom for the items, but I am glad we didn’t lose them forever. And I doubt the kid will do it again as bringing the stuff back is tantamount to admitting guilt, meaning that he’ll be the first one we consider if we suffer another break-in.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Well, you won't be seeing any new photos on our blog for a while.

Yesterday, when Ty and I arrived home from work, we noticed that the lovely chicken wire Ty put up to keep the dogs in the yard was bent down between two of the fence-posts. Odd, we thought. As we walked toward the door, there was no barking from inside - very odd, as Sharka normally raises quite a racket when anyone approaches the house. So, at this point we realized something was a bit off...

Entering the house, we were not greeted by Sharka. The feeling of foreboding grew, then Ty said, "shit." As I looked across the kitchen into the living room, I could see that the window screen had been completely shredded. Sharka then timidly, submissively crawled out from under the bed. The first thing I noticed was that the playstation and all its games were gone. Then I noticed rocks and sticks littering the floor between the living room and bedroom. I found glass candle votives, more rocks, a rusty old stapler that had been in the yard, and the hammer lying around the bed. I suddenly realized with horror that whoever broke in had thrown these things at Sharka to keep her at bay.

The perpetrator took not only the playstation, but also our digital camera, a Talking Stick we had bought for Brittany's birthday, the case for the DVD Gulliver's Travels, which I assume s/he used to stash my deceased grandmother's engagement ring, and Ty's father's turquoise cuff bracelet. They also took (super-weirdly) about 20 of our little, plastic War of the Ring pieces we'd been painting. The fact that they mostly took toys, they only took small things that they could easily carry, and the fact that they completely overlooked several high-value items (my flute and the laptop - thank god) make us think that the perps were kiddos.

The loss of two priceless family heirlooms, the feeling of violation and anger, and especially the trauma apparently inflicted on Sharka (who still hides under the bed whenever she hears anyone coming to the house) make this all a bit difficult. Still, things could be much worse. I'm saddened that it was almost certainly a kid. I am reminded of my clients in residential treatment - particularly of our Zuni Indian kiddos. I feel conflicted - I hate for a kid to get involved with the juvenile justice system or residential treatment because he made a stupid mistake, but I also don't want to see a kid get away with something, figure it's okay, and continue the behavior.

At any rate, the beautiful thing about living in a tiny town is that everyone knows everyone else, and the responding officer said he's pretty sure who did it - the kid who lives across the way. We went there and just let the parents know some things had been stolen, but we didn't accuse their kid - just told them we were offering a reward for the recovery of the ring and the bracelet. We'll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Badlands (from Courtney)

Spent last weekend up at Badlands National Park, just 20 minutes from home. Apparently, a cold front was due to arrive here this weekend (which it has!), and we thought it might be a good idea to tour the park before it got too cold and windy - particularly since the place is treeless, affording essentially zero protection from the elements. Luckily, we got beautiful weather. And, given how cold and windy it is out there today, we had beautiful timing to boot.

The terrain at the park is incredible. I've never actually seen anything like it before - just vast expanses of flat-topped, tall buttes as far as the eye can see, which is quite far indeed. It feels otherworldly, and I swear Mars' surface must have a similar look

I'm posting some pictures of our drive up Sheep Mountain. On top, it's completely flat and grassy. If you're not careful, though, you could walk right off the edge and enjoy a 200-foot drop. Signs on the way up advise staying on the main road, and apparently more than a few people have taken their cars too close to the edge and subsequently tumbled over. Knowing this, Ty actually experienced a bit of vertigo at the edge, and afterward wouldn't let me get too close. He nearly had a heart attack when Sharka disappeared over the edge for a second! Fortunately, it turned out that particular spot had a second ledge just below. Lucky dog.

You can see some pictures from our trip on our Flickr Page.

The week was also pretty eventful - we got to attend a couple of ceremonies, eat beef tongue soup, and rescue the mangiest, most pathetic puppy you've ever seen. I called him Homer because (a) he's practically bald and (b) he's been through quite the Odyssey. He's now undergoing treatment at the Rapid City Humane Society. I'll post a picture of him as well. Hopefully in a few weeks he'll be cute and adoptable, and find a good family (no, we are not keeping him - 2 dogs are so much more than enough).

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Initial Impressions

Just some quick thoughts about our new circumstances:

(I'm a lazy bastard with a love of cut and paste, so if you're a mofi reader, some of this is a repeat)

The Rez:

First of all, I was expecting much worse in terms of outward signs of poverty. I had in mind something more akin to a Mexican border town, all tar-paper shacks and refuse,and while the town of Pine Ridge itself has its rouch edges on display (mostly apparent in the form of begging at Big Bat's gas station, the hub for outsiders on their way through town), I've found that most of the Reservation is no worse than, say, some of the rural villages in northern New Mexico. There’s no question about it, people are poor, most dwellings are trailers or small 1-2 bedroom houses, many people have outhouses and use wood stoves as their primary source of heat, but overall, most residences are well maintained and it seems like people take care of their immediate environment pretty well.

The countryside is beautiful: vast plains sweeping up into pine covered buttes, awe inspiring badlands on the northern edge of the Rez that seem like they must be hallucinations, lots and lots of space.


My new hometown is a small community of about 600 people spread over a 15 mile radius. Everybody knows, and is likely related to, everyone else. Village social life seems to center around Pinky’s Store (where you can get your laundry done and stock up on as much lunch meat and hot dogs as you can carry) and the post office, a tiny little bomb-shelter of a building which people use as a sort of depot for bumming rides to other places. Other than that, there’s St. Agnes Catholic Church, presided over by Father Chris from Boston, and the Wounded Knee School. Kids ride horse back through town, Rez dogs trot leisurely out of the way of oncoming cars, and everyone quickly notes the arrival of the white couple with Texas plates.

I've already explained a bit about the house below, or at least The Cow Problem. What I didn't say is that it's a very comfortable little house, recently renovated to feature indoor plumbing (thankfully!). There's an abandoned well out back, and a number of former fixtures scattered throughout the gully behind us.

Just up the road from us lives Charlotte Black Elk, great granddaughter of THE Black Elk. In fact, most people in town are descended from the last members of the Oglala nation to give up the resistance, and still carry the (affectionate?) designation “hostiles”. It is interesting to note that many of the people here are involved in efforts to get the Black Hills returned to the Tribe.

The Job

Oh my. Hard to say really. Things are quite chaotic, and on top of that, our boss and office mates have mysteriously vanished, apparently for the week, without leaving us further instructions. Yesterday, we were fielding a lot of phone calls as follows: “Yep, all week. Nope, I really don’t know about that. Not that either. Nor that one. Care to leave a message?”

Should make for an interesting week.

I'm still trying to get a handle on the cultural differences. That'll be the brunt of the next update.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Photos posted!

I've posted a photo-set from our trip to Manderson on my flickr page.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Awakened by Cows

or rather, awakened by the dogs, barking at the cows. Manderson has given them many new and wonderful things to bark at: cows, great rivers of them that flood down our driveway and all around our (newly) fenced in yard, brown and black and white, cows and calfs and bulls; wandering rez dogs, surely a subspecies unto themselves after 100+ years of more or less isolated breeding, sauntering through our yard, looking to see if I stupidly left the trash can out like I did the first day and which I will not do again after spending an hour cleaning their scattered handiwork; beautiful painted horses cresting the buttes, looking disdainfully down at us in our little fenced in island in their sea of pasture; flocks of wild turkey trotting (that's what they do, isn't it? Somewhere between a scurry and a low-to-the-ground gallop)their way down the wooded creek bed behind our little white house.

The dogs, you see, are in heaven. Less so today because last night Courtney and I worked past dusk stapling chickenwire onto the barbed-wire fenceposts that formed a cow-proof but dog-permeable perimeter around our home. Before today, there was nothing to stop the dogs from racing out into the fields and throwing their aggression against the cows' stubborness (and the cows ran away!) or chasing the poor turkeys down into the creek-bed. This morning they were dismayed and could only race around the perimter with their hackles raised, barking and roaring while the cows watched with only vague interest.


Having been without ISP for two important weeks there is much to tell. I'll be posting more soon...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Made It

After two weeks in a peculiar limbo, we were ambushed by a dsl installation today. Pleased to report that we have made it to Manderson, our little house and our job site.

And happily so.

More to follow.