Earlier in the week I only saw a handful in formation. It has been several cold months since I heave heard their voices. Made me happy. They are all basically headed Northwest towards the Missouri river it seems. Yesterday the numbers have increased with flocks of several hundreds moving at a rapid pace. Several flocks in the air at once. The Northern plains and it’s great openness allows you to be a visual witness. Then last night they were heard but not seen passing overhead. Many calling in the darkness as they passed overhead. You could almost feel the movement.
So my brother Patrick and a long time family friend Ben decided they wanted to get into their creative side by coming to North Dakota. Patrick is a photographer and Ben shows his World with video. Both amazing at their craft, they came to apply it to the horses I have been hanging out with for months.
They showed up and went right to work spending several days shooting from first light well into the evening. Kind of what I expected from them both. Frank was very accommodating, which helped them get some pretty amazing stuff !
I am excited to see what comes of it all after they return back to their cities and begin the post production.
Was great seeing you both !
Check out their sites
Patrick’s : Patrick Lanham Photography
and Ben’s: Civil Sea Films
And of course the Horses: Nokota Horse
Last August after only about a week and a half of living in Linton, North Dakota I came accross the Emmons County Chamber of Commerce booklet. I was at work in the Bayside Resort and brought it back to my tent to read about the area where Zeusy and I stopped our Missouri river trip.
In the booklet was the Nokota Horse Conservancy. An organization founded by Horsemen Leo and Frank Kunz to preserve horses whose bloodline shoot right back to the horses once ridden by the great horsemen of the Northern Plains.
I researched by Google and came across the website of the Conservancy. I became more interested and put a mental post-it note on top of the others to go and check it out first hand.
Three days later a gentlemen walked into the Bayside Resort.
I was helping serve drinks and as what usually happens other patrons said hello to local now known to me as “Frank”
I walked outside and noticed Franks’ truck had a magnetic sign on it for the Nokota Horse Conservancy.
I walked back in and told Frank I was interested in seeing the horses and maybe photographing them.
Introductions were made and I realized I had just met one of the founders of the Conservancy. Frank Kunz.
I told Frank of how I landed in North Dakota. He did a double take when I told him how I did it. I guess coming to North Dakota via a canoe is just not as frequent as it was in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It really hasn’t been for a very long time.
I went back to my duties and about an hour later Frank offered me a place to stay in exchange for working at the Conservancy.
Frank said ” I am not sure why I am asking you, I just met you.”
I am not sure why, but I had a good feeling so I agreed to such an amazing offer.
Many things came up including an almost month long return to St. Louis to try and help my dying father pass on peacefully and comfortably.
I returned to North Dakota and was fortunate enough to have my friends Sammi, Sean, and their awesome kids Kole, Blaine, and Julia, and dog Blaze put me and Zeusy up for awhile until I was ready to work with the Conservancy.
In no time I moved onto the Conservancy and Frank patiently took the time to train me to take care of the horses. It was fast because Frank was leaving to tour with the Nokotas on the East Coast to promote his life long work.
This included a roundup of 49 horses to move to a Winter pasture. And several hours moving one pile of manure to another pile of manure until I was comfortable enough on a Bobcat to learn how to feed the horses with it.
Well the day came for Frank to leave and as the Sun was rising we were back at it. Cleaning the horse trailer and so on.
Frank left to clean up and I later heard a very distinctive bird call. I looked up and saw about 300 Sandhill Cranes moving South for the Winter.
Then I started thinking how the horses had been moved to pasture, how Frank was taking 10 horses to their new Pennsylvania homes, and how migration was in motion for the Sandhill Cranes.
It seemed everyone was moving somewhere on such a beautiful North Dakota day and I wished for everyones and everythings safe travels.
Then I realized that for the first time since the Spring that Zeusy and I were not traveling anywhere.At least for the Winter. Seemed strange and out of character.
It has also made me grateful for all I have seen and done in the last several months. Especially being able to work for Frank Kunz and the horses he and his brother Leo saved.
They are descendants of the horses of the great horsemen of the Northern plains. The Hunkpapa Lakota herd of Sitting Bull’s band. Surrendered at Ft. Buford, Dakota Territory in 1881.
Don’t stop here! Click the link for more!
“Right Zeusy? ”
Zeusy says “Yes! “
I was fortunate enough to accompany my friend and co-worker Sammie to Bismarck, North Dakota. Sammie also had her three children with her Kole, Blaine, and the ever cute Julia. All three are super happy fun kids who know their way around a good laugh! They also had me figured out pretty quick.
She had errands to run and I needed to get warmer clothing because Fall and Winter come much earlier than the latitude I have been living in.
Off we went with the first few stops being McDonalds, and a few thrift stores. Goodwill being the place where I found what I needed with the great help of Blaine and Cole.
Shortly there after we were inside the North Dakota Heritage Center. The State Museum of North Dakota close to North Dakota’s Capitol building.
Sectioned off in different galleries was North Dakota”s fascinating history.
The first gallery we entered was it’s ancient past. Skeletons of a T-Rex and Triceratops dominated the impressive displays that included giant Sea Turtles, to anciet Bison and Saber-Toothed Cats. There was also many interactive ways of gaining knowledge.
The Next gallery was the history of Native Americans here in North Dakota. Un-believably packed with artifacts showing the history of the ever important peoples who made this region home.
In certain tribes your are allowed to carry certain items memorializing your horse if killed in battle. This one was for.a horse killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Aka Custers last stand.
With the end of our time winding down we walked directly to a tractor simulator that Blaine so badly wanted to show me. All three siblings took turns driving the heavy equipment used in making the World’s food.
Shortly after I had another display of history in the making. The history of a North Dakota farm changing with those who live there. We went to a farm Sammie and her husband were leasing. All three kids super happy about being around their animals. In a flash Blaine and Julia had red wagon full of super cute puppys that they pulled from a barn to show me. There were seven and Julia held on to her favorite one giving it much love and affection that only a sweet five year old could give.
Cole soon was.showing his favorite duck he adores and was.an awesome big brother grabbing Julia’s Abbey so I could see her favorite chicken. Julia adores her chicken and her pretty little eyes shine on full power when she speaks of her Abbey.
I always said kids and dogs are a perfect combination but now I know for sure it is kids and ducks, kids and chickens as well as anything I can imagine combining a kid with!
Thanks for a great day all of you!
So here we are. At the beginning. I have come to the decision not to continue the canoe trip down the Missouri river this paddling season.
The decision was easy.
Any type of long distance journey has inherent risks. Illness, injury, or disability that can conclude in death of a team member. I use risk evaluation constantly to minimize the potential of these things occuring.
You see this has been a two member team of one dog and one man. Has been that way for ten years. We have gone all over the USA. 99% Of the time it is to someplace remote, mountains, deserts but we really love going to places they call “Wilderness”
The large open wound that Zeusy is carrying in his chest will take time to heal. He is also showing signs of being easily fatigued from his injury.
It is not worth the risk.
A quick risk evalution shows he is at risk for further complications if the wound becomes infected. His fatigue shows that he is probably not capable of self rescue if we wind up in the water. The Missouri’s is wide with quick currents.
It is not worth the risk.
He is an important part of this human-dog team. He has been vital in his role. When going up river, stuck on large sandbars and hauling the canoe distances overland to the river he has been incredible. I hook his leash to my belt, I grab the canoe or it’s ropes and yell “Go! ” He is a powerful one hundred pound German Shepherd and pulls me easily as we both pull the canoe and gear.
His role as security, tent warmer, comedic relief and protector has been invaluable as well.
He has also been friend maker too! Charming Kendar and Marshal at James Kipp. Melissa on the Turnbull ranch was enthused by him. Shyanne, Josh and others produced huge smiles when the formal introductions were made and he raises his paw to shake their hands when the greeting of “Nice to meet you,” was spoken to a dog who likes meeting new people.
One of the funniest things said to me as he took off at lightning speed down river to chase waves was ” I think your dog is going to beat you back to St. Louis.”
So here we are. At the beginning. The last two months has been one of the most incredible experiences for both of us.
It has never been about point A to point B. It is everything in between those two points that make a journey. The points are just the start and the end.
“This is the end” your mind is saying. No not hardly, this is a travel blog. That is what we do. Travel and share it with you.
There is next paddle season to try and complete the Missouri. Plus the fact that we are still in North Dakota and I scored a job at Bayside Resort in Linton, ND for a few months. At least until we head to St. Louis and then the East Coast. Still many places, animals, people and things to experience.
Besides there is still a ton to share from the last few months.
Montana and North Dakota are huge ranching and farming States both presently and historically.
Teddy Roosevelt came to North Dakota after the death of his wife and mother on the same day.
A man not to stand still, but who was overcome with grief made the decision to become a rancher long before he was a Rough Rider and a President.
Charles M. Russells amazing paintings of Ranchers, Cowboys, and Native American cultures give great insight on what it must of been like a long time ago. Iconic and amazing glimpses into history.
The first rancher I met was in Montana. Actually it was his daughter on July 4th. Zeusy and I were looking for a spot to eat and sleep when two young ladies in a tandem kayak came down river. I had not seen people in well over a week.
Melissa Turnbull took an instant liking to the handsome one of our party, Zeusy. It just so happened Melissa had a German Shepherd and well once you are partnered with one everyone you see becomes special.
When I inquired if she knew whose land I had plopped myself on and if they would mind an overnight camper, she responded with a big “Oh yea, this is my parents ranch, and they would not mind.”
Melissa pointed further down river and a group of people gathered around a couple of boats. She said to come on over because her family and friends were celebrating the 4th of July as she and her kayak partner began paddling that direction.
I secured the canoe, an got into some dry clothes.
Soon a gentleman showed up on a quad runner. It was Melissa’s father, Mr. Elliot Turnbull.
We introduced ourselves and I soon learned that he had been originally ranching/farming in Taylorville, Illinois and he and his wife had moved here in the early 80’s to start the life of a Montana ranchers. He also said he had been to St. Louis often to watch baseball games he enjoyed.
I hopped on the back of the quad and he drove me over to the celebration. I was introduced to everyone, who showed interest in my journey. Little did they know I had a keen interest in learning about them.
I learned that they had been working hard collecting the hay so needed for their cattle in winter.
At this latitude the agriculture season is short with the first freeze of the season around September 15th.
I also learned that the Missouri river freezes solid around December 1st. The frozen river is then used as an alternative roadway due so few bridges that cross the Missouri in this part of Montana. Can you imagine?
He also spoke of the flood of 2011, and how it reshaped cutbanks, sandbars, and beaches.
Some losing land, others gaining many acres by the torrent of a flooding Missouri river.
Soon they were off to celebrate the 4th even further someplace else. I then retired to a stormy night with Zeusy on the Turnball ranch.
The next rancher was in North Dakota. The unfortunate event of Zeusy getting impaled led to my introduction to Mr. Herb Grenz on the Grenz Ranch.
Herb was one of the fine men waiting for us in the dark of the night as I landed on his ramp into the Missouri river used for pumps and pipelines for water so necessary to grow any living thing.You see a lot of these contraptions as you paddle this part of the Missouri.
Herb guided us into a safe landing using a flashlight. The area was full of dead trees and driftwood.
While riding out of the area I asked Herb how long he had been ranching. He chuckled a little as he said ” About 80 years.” He was not putting me on.
While Zeusy was recovering Herb moved the canoe weighed down with all our gear out of the water. The winds were high and Lake Oahe’s infamous waves could play havoc on the boat.
He even took the time to call Don’s motel to tell me not to come out because it was unsafe to paddle.
When Game Warden Erik Schmidt returned us to our canoe we met Herb again. A fun, firey conversation about politics and life in general was struck up.
Herb then described how he had fed a herd of 40 deer during North Dakotas serious winter. He also spoke of having to put down two fawns near a barn. The Winter had done them in. To weak and dying of starvation it was the humane thing to do.
But I sensed Herb’s dislike at euthanizing the fawns. An unpleasant experience I am sure.
I retrieved my canoe and gear but not after a friendly handshake goodbye.
I got the sense from these two men that little has changed since the time of Charlie Russell. The quad runner has replaced the horse but the honorable profession is still dictated by the angle of the sun. The change of the seasons, and the mood of the planet as they do the necessary work that feeds America.
And thank you both Gentlemen!
I pulled the canoe over to get my bearings and let the man chase the waves after earlier leaving my two day paddling buddy and local expert Sander.
Zeusy was doing his thing when he suddenly gave out the most awful yelp he has ever made. He immediatly laid down. He wasn’t getting up.
Something terrible just happened. While running he didn’t see the tip of an old tree jutting from the water. My best pal and adventure buddy just got speared and impaled on the tree.
“Oh god Zeusy !”
I was on an island in the middle of Lake Oahe. The sun is going down.
I checked his wound and he had a three inch tear in his chest. I could open it and see muscle but
I couldn’t tell how deep the wound was. I packed it to stem the bleeding, and he quickly went into shock. I covered him in every coat I had, opened my sleeping bag and wrapped him tight.
He didn’t want to move. My dog never stops. This is bad.
Not knowing how I was going to get him to help I called Sander. This is his territory, his water, he would know who to call.
Sanders said to use 911 and call the Sheriff. Uh,duh! What was I thinking! I was always a part of 911. I had never called it!
In no time they had me connected to the North Dakota Fish and Game Warden Erik Schmidt.
Warden Schmidt advised me to paddle down several miles and meet him at a concrete ramp that a rancher,Mr. Herb Grenz, uses for his pumps and piping for irrigation.
“Hold on Zeusy they are going to get us out of here! ”
I packed him in the canoe. The tent lined the bottom. The jackets and sleeping bags covered him.
As I pushed off I was looking backwards and saw the sun drop below the skyline.
My heart almost sank with it. Lake Oahe is full of tricks. Stands of old trees, Logs, sandbars. This could get much worse, and I don’t carry the hi-powered lighting to navigate at night. A headlamp and a Solarpuff were switched on.
“Paddle ! Damn it Craig you have to paddle harder! ” , I said to myself over and over as I forced a fast, steady pace. I had already paddled twenty-one miles. Everything on my body hurt.
Darkness dropped. I was having a hard time, seeing any distance. I stayed about 200 yards from the East Bank in hopes of avoiding those trees. The huge cutbanks could be barely discernable by their lighter shade against the dark sky.
The phone rings. It is Warden Schmidt. We work at my location. He said he turned on his emergency lights to locate him.
I could see nothing.
He said listen for the irrigation pump.
“Look at the water tower on the West Bank in the City of Cannonball. ” “Could I see it? ”
“We are across from there.” He said.
We were miles away. It got darker, and the temps were dropping. 50’s that evening was predicted. Not good for a dog in shock. The water tower had been consumed by the dark.
Warden Schmidt continued to call and orientate me about every thirty minutes. Still no emergency lights. No steady drone of pumps.
I was paddling so hard I soaked myself with the spray of the paddle. No worries. Zeusy has never given up on me, I never on him.
An eternity passed. The bank turned and there they were. I shouted out with joy!
The “They” included the rancher Herb Grenz who guided me to a safe landing using a flashlight. His land, his territory.
“They were getting us out of here Zeusy ! ”
Warden Schmidt had notified Dr. Malmedal of the Linton Veterinary Service that we were coming earlier in the evening. He was waiting.
We packed Zeusy in the front seat and off to Linton, North Dakota we went.
It turns out this is where Warden Schmidt grew up. His town, his territory.
We reached Dr. Malmedal. He and his wife were definatly kind, compassionate people as they cared for my best pal!
No internal injuries detected.
I got dizzy and almost slumped.
My fear was over!
In no time Zeusy was full of meds with more meds in the bottles for his recovery.
Warden Schmidt made motel arrangments for us at Don’s Motel. He soon had us there. He inquired if I needed anything from the store. Ham and cheese sandwich and a Pepsi? ” , I asked.
“Sure” he said easily and off he went. But realizing what the time was he turned back. Everything was closed.
As if everything he did wasn’t enough the man went home, made me a turkey and cheese sandwich, brought two Sprites, two clementines, and two fantastic cookies his wife made.
In North Dakota I have met the most kind and generous people I have ever met!
As I write this Zeusy is recovering, I have “Linton ” t-shirt one of the cleaning ladies brought to me when she asked why I had a jacket on. The paddling t-shirt has two months on it. Great for paddling, not to run to the store.
Don, the proprieter of Don’s motel a devoted animal guy hooked me up with a leash. A pink one. ”
“Probably not your dogs favorite color ! ” He smiled. My gratitude will out weigh Zeusy being seen in a pink leash.
Thank you Warden Schmidt and the fine people of North Dakota!
I will never forget what you did for us!
Toured Ft. Abraham Lincoln. Home of the 7th Calvary.
This is where Custer was at when he left to get his men killed at Little Bighorn. Not a Custer fan. The American military has so many better leaders in our history.
Some of his men who were killed at the battle.
But Fort and history was cool.
Even cooler is that this is the site of the On-A-Slant Mandan Village
Earth lodges was their home dating back to the 1500’s. A smallpox epidemic practically wiped them all out.
It was abandoned when Lewis and Clark arrived. The survivors went to the Knife River
Amazing structures still used and sacred to the Mandan people.