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banner - piffle and jottings from the dessicated west during 1934

by George E. Marsh

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Various Bugs and Rodents

Down in Texas where scorpions are common, I saw none for it was winter. When at Ashland, Montana, one of the men brought me a ‘bug’ that my friend, Mr. Weaver, said was a scorpion, not poisonous but a first-class pincher. It was very business-like in its appearance with a sleek, shiny, elongated body banded with yellow and black stripes, stout mouth parts an inch and a quarter long. Forthwith, I sent it to an entomologist and he reported that it was a Jerusalem cricket. At one of the stations, sometime later, I saw the dirt move just in front of the floor-cloth of the tent. Investigation revealed that it was a small one. For fear it might like to co-occupy the tent, I aided his rolling down over the bluff close by.

mouseField mice are common and at one of my camps were abundant. I arrived late and left recent purchases of food on the ground where they were unloaded from the truck. The next morning when I had a chance to consolidate things, I found that the mice had dined on bread, rolls, butter and chewing gum. The next night on my return to the tent from the station, I found perhaps a dozen holding the fort. The pretty little brown and white fellows were unafraid. As I lay reading in bed, they made themselves at home and I could see them searching for the viands of the night before. Actually they moved in with me. One of them made a new home for himself by chewing up some of the thick woolen cover of the canteen and arranging it behind one of the chuck boxes. It was all right with me; they were so free from fear. But here is the high point. When I came to move and the boxes of canned stuff and uneatables were being loaded on the truck, out piled the mice; some even made their escape after the gear was stowed aboard.

Just a few nights back, I heard repeated rattling of cooking-ware that I put down behind a box, space is so limited in a small tent, and I finally aroused myself sufficiently to take the flashlight and see what made the noise. The intruder was a big-eared rat with a stubby tail. Mentally, if not actually, he thumbed his nose at me and suggested that I go back to sleep, which I did.

Without opening up the tent in the morning, I began to get breakfast; I pumped up the gasolene stove and was faintly aware of a shadow moving in the stove but paid no attention to it. However when I struck a match to light the gas, Sir Rat crawled up thru the grid (grate) and made his getaway to the floor where he began playing ‘I spy’ around a box in the corner. He had got in under the grid and it took the stimulus of a sudden light for him to discover that he could get out.

Station Johnson

Station Johnson is on a sprawling, flat-topped hill 15 miles north of Glasgow, Montana, and the country roundabout has been abandoned by many of the ranchers; one sees many deserted houses in Wyoming and Montana– the depression has starved them out. This hill and all the others for miles around are strewn with water-worn, quartzite boulders of all sizes. Almost with exception, they bear indications of having been used by the Indians. As soon as I arrived, I saw this was an archeologists’s paradise. I roamed and gathered, and roamed and gathered their discarded hammers and axes. Little and big ones are everywhere. Of course they are not perfect, not by a long way. Verily, it seems as if millions of Indians came here in bygone ages to make hammers and other tools out of the hard, quartzite boulders. I collected several hundred pounds of the best I could find and then realized that my mania for garnering would be the end of me. I culled and sorted until I now have only a reasonable number and weight.

On one of the outliers of the main hill I found some rocks arranged as a square about a slight depression. “A Redskin’s grave” said the amateur archeologist. With his little geological pick and a pan-cake turner he dug. After delving for twelve inches and receiving no encouragement to continue, he returned to lugging in hammers and axes.

In Miles City I made inquiry about rodeos. The nearest one on the Fourth was at Glendive, 86 miles northeast. The best one was at Belle Fourche, N.D., but much too far away. Further search for information lead me to a meet a Mr. Shulz, who was going to Glendive on business. I would be welcome to go with him. On the way I stopped at some roadside agate stands and purchased a few specimens. Montana is the world’s famed source of moss agate.

A rodeo and Mickey Mouse are my fondest diversions. Having taken my camera, I was privileged to get in the corral where the stunts were pulled off. I’m a sure enough tenderfoot– I called it the arena. Can you imagine that? Only once, of course. There was riding, mostly just attempts at it, of wild horses and wild steers, roping and tying calves and steers, fancy rope-throwing, etc. and so much dust that one could not see the far end of the corral. Then there were chariot races around the track that circled the corral but I saw none of it as I was busy trying to snap some of the events. To get a good picture is difficult for everything happens so quickly. I had to be as close as possible and yet not too close for the animals race this way and that and the photographer looking down in the camera might get knocked down. Once or twice an excited animal came tearing down toward our end, where the pens are, and we had to climb in great haste upon the high rail fence. Down the side line one of the animals tore thru a woven wire fence wit hits rider; dust obscured the details but all held their breath for the moment, but no serious injury was done.

One rider was bucked off and came down so hard on the flat of his back that the program was held up; here again, no real harm was done. And are the horses wild? To put the saddle on them they are got into pens no larger then themselves and ten feet high. Oftentimes they made a desperate effort to climb out. No harm was done to the steers or the horses but it took some time, I daresay, for their emotions to quiet down.

I enjoyed it hugely and I hope that I got some pictures worth looking at. I bought the gas for the return trip and Schulz had to buy a new tire for a blow-out shortly after leaving Glendive added another one to the roadside collection.

Antelope are fairly common in this part of Montana. At one station a more than half grown one came within thirty feet of the tent and studied me and mine for five minutes. A group of twelve were seen an eighth of a mile away one day and lately sixteen, old and young, were off to the left of the road. As we neared, they came thru the barbed wire onto the road and the smaller made the other fence easily but the larger ones ran ahead of the car for half a mile before they could find a place to scramble thru. I’m told that they will hurdle a woven fence as easy as anything. What their complex is that prevents them from doing the same with a barbed wire fence, I would like to know.

One day in going to a station with Casey, he shot a sage hen that he presented to me and which I accepted after he had explained that I only need skin it and cut off the legs and pieces of the breast and therefore need not dress it in the usual way. They have a powerful and persistent disagreeable odor if cut into. So after being set down at my station, I mustered up my courage and obtained two thick pieces of breast meat and one leg. I put them in soda and salt water overnight and in the morning parboiled them so that they would be saved for my evening meal when I got to my next station, for I was going to move that day.

At this station there were some other members of the party, including Mrs. Mayrath, who invited me to dinner. As my contribution I gave her the three pieces. She was delighted and explained that she knew all about cooking sage hen. She was going to fry them. I suggested she stew them with vegetables, which she did. Well, I never ate such tough meat before. Fooey on such game birds.

Such marvelous sunsets as have greeted my eye and brought inspiration to my soul here in Wyo. & Mont. This is the place for the collector of SUNSETS.

Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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