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Tipi Ring Magic

Sunday, November 29, 2009

There are magical places that we come to in our lives, places that leave a print on the soul. Such was one promontory over the Missouri River in Montana, last June.

Somewhere along late September I lost the Montana thread, so caught up in the splendor and hubbub of the fall that I couldn't go back. But as I look out at a fine sleety drizzle falling on gray twigs, I need a little sunshine, a little remembrance of Montana.

I need a Western White, bobbing in the warm mid-June breeze.

And a horned toad, delighting the kids with its existence, sending me into a reverie of the first one I ever found, in my uncle's hedge in Iowa. Such a dear little lizard.

The weird and wonderful wildflowers that nodded in the breeze on this promontory confounded me.

This one I know: Gallardia, or something like it.

And scarlet globe mallow. I know you.

But oh, what we didn't know could fill volumes. Who made these rings of rock, and when? Plains Indians, weighing down their tipis with the rocks at hand, leaving them in perfect rings, undisturbed for centuries.Left there, for children to wonder at.

We touch these rocks, that they touched so long ago. We imagine roasting bison over a campfire, vaulting on our paint ponies for another hunting expedition, flensing hides with flint and bone.

The clouds roll over us in an endless summer parade and we listen to what Bob knows.
And the rocks and the wildflowers are the same as they were then

But we are forever changed, having been here, having seen what they saw, having touched the rocks they gathered and used.

We will always long to return.


What awesome photos and memories. You are blessed to have them and the children who will carry them into the future!

That first wildflower is known to me as downy paintbrush (Castilleja sessiliflora). It grows in my side yard "prairie patch" here in the Black Hills foothills. The ones I have are a white to greenish color, but I have seen others nearby that are tinged quite pink.

ID from Wildflowers, Grasses and other Plants of the Northern Plains and Black Hills, Theodore Van Bruggen, published by the Badlands Natural History Assn, 1992.

Oh, those blue, blue skies and puffy white clouds as a backdrop! Just gorgeous. Postcards, all of them.

Big Sky, indeed.

I didn't know horned lizards ranged into Iowa. Do you know what species it was?

Love the tipi rings. Had the stones settled into the ground at all?

Amerinidian artifacts in NJ get buried quick. I worked on a mile wide shell mound in Cape May County that was only visible if you brought a shovel or walked along the edge of the marsh. But it went deep into the ground.

Just Googled it. Horned lizards are not known to be native to Iowa. I wonder if it was an escape or a release?

Those skies are just picture perfect. And that horned toad is too cool! I just wanna hug em! Probably not a great idea ha. But I'd love to just the same ! :)


Oh, Julie, those skies!!!!!!
And fair-faced children in hats, touching stones that tell of others' presence there.
This is so good.

Boy, they don't call it Big Sky Country for nothin'. What a wonderful combination of narrative and pictures!

Caroline, thanks so much for the ID! I had it guessed as a paintbrush of some kind since the "flowers" looked like leaves and bracts to me. Awesome.

Bruce, I am stumped. My memory is so clear--I remember finding it in sandy soil in my uncle's shrub hedge by the foundation of his house. I took it to show my parents and uncle. This would have been the mid-1960's. My uncle seemed unsurprised at my discovery, and told me that they can shoot blood from their eyes if you get them upset. My father, who grew up in Iowa, wasn't surprised to see it, either. It seems Uncle Willard would have had to be familiar with them to say that; alas he's long gone now or I'd ask him. Dad, too. Sigh. I remember telling them I didn't plan to upset it (conservation ethic well in place even then) and I let it go where I'd found it. This was near Sheffield Iowa, near a gorgeous remnant burr oak riparian forest that my father's family has preserved as a sanctuary. The lizard looked like the northern short-horned, as I remember it--very pale with almost no horns.

I'd report the horned lizard sighting to the wildlife service in Iowa. It may well be a native population that has escaped notice by the powers that be. Stranger things have happened.

For instance, the pine barrens treefrog, Hyla andersonii is now known from three populations,one in NJ, one in straddling North and South Carolina and one straddling the Florida Panhandle and Alabama. How they came to be so separated is a mystery.

Or your Iowa horned lizards could be a very old exotic population, introduced either deliberately or accidentally. In NJ we have a population of Eastern spiny softshelled turtles that were introduced in the 1870s as releases from the aquarium trade.

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