June 8th, 2008: I am writing this from Medora, North Dakota. There is some Internet here – I can receive e-mail but I can’t send. Hope to find a better connection so I can send this off.
We left for our holiday last Monday, but didn’t get far – we stopped at Dundurn for lunch. I took a picture of the metal sculptures at the entrance to town, a pioneer farmer studying a buffalo skull, with his Red River cart in the background. We noticed many of this type of sculpture between Saskatoon and Regina; they all looked as if they had been crafted by the same man.
At Davidson, we pulled in to look for a grocery store, but first time I had to turn, I realized there was no power steering. I nosed into a garage, and as soon as I stopped steam came billowing out from under the hood. The air conditioner belt had broken and flapped around until it derailed the two belts that drive the water pump and power steering.
As soon as it cooled down enough to work on, the mechanics got the belts untangled. They were unable to install an air conditioner belt as an idler pulley was damaged and likely caused the first one to break. And, they could only find one belt to replace the two for the water pump and power steering. We had no choice but to carry on and hope the one belt could carry the load.
We tried three places in Weyburn but could only find single belts, and all different makes. We were advised against pairing belts from different manufacturers, so we bought one in case we got caught in a small town where there were none, and carried on.
Weyburn is apparently having a tremendous boom as a result of oil drilling. One man told me the population had grown by ten percent in the past year.
We spent a couple of nights there, taking in a couple of museums, including the Soo Valley Museum, where the famous silver collection is on display. A bachelor spent his life collecting silverware and just before he died, gave it to the museum to put on display. It must be worth a fortune. It is kept in special glass cases to retard tarnishing and looks beautiful.
We by-passed Williston as it was too early to quit, and went on to Watford City. The first people we saw there were a couple, Ralph and Bev, that we had travelled with on our last bus tour, so we had a good visit.
When we got to Medora the next night, they were parked just a few sites from ours, but we never did see them there. They were gone before we got up next morning. (A lot of things happen before we get up in the morning.)
We had cold, wet and generally miserable weather right through to Friday – I even put on long pants.
We loved Medora. It is a small town on the south side of the North Dakota Badlands in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We couldn’t believe that we could find all we wanted to do for three days in such a small place, but it played us out. We spent a morning touring the Badlands; we went to a musical at the Medora Amphitheater (and almost froze – it is outdoors.) We attended an entertaining one-man play about the life of Theodore Roosevelt; a lecture on cowboy clothing, and a three-person play that shed life on the acquittal of the Marquis De Mores, founder of Medora, for killing a man in a shootout. All it proved was that there are three sides to every story.
There are several museums in Medora and we toured them all. We also tried all the eating and snacking places; I am studiously ignoring the scale, Doreen insisted on bringing along. We walked our feet off (at least, Cathy and I did – Doreen is still able to shop.) We have thoroughly enjoyed just being tourists.
Medora was founded in the 1870s by the Marquis Demore, from France, who named it after his wife. He had lots of money and backing, bought up about 12,000 acres of range land, and began to fence it. He was only here about three months before he got into a gunfight with some yahoos who took exception to his fences, and was tried three times for murder. He built a slaughterhouse, thinking that it made more sense to process the beef in Medora and ship carcasses east in refrigerated cars, than to ship live animals. It only ran for three years then hit a winter so severe that half the beef herd perished and the other half weren’t fit to ship, and the plant closed down. The plant subsequently burned down, and the chimney still stands.
The Marquis was involved in many other businesses including stage lines, hotels and others, but they all petered out and by the end of the century there wasn’t much left.
Enter Harold Shafer, salesman extraordinary, who owned the Gold Seal Company and became very rich. He encouraged the resurrection of Medora as a tourist mecca and put a lot of money and effort into it. His wife still lives in Medora and is still, at 89, active in promoting the town. The result is a small town (about 100 permanent residents) with a lot of heart and a great attitude.
We have another great grandchild! Logan Michael Perry Crawford was born on Saturday, June 7th, to Aaron and Nicole. Can you believe that Mike and Marg are grandparents?