The Hiawatha Asylum

The Hiawatha Asylum is (or was) at terrible place.  I don’t want to write about it. 

But it has been in the news today.  This is a pretty good story and video: 

Here is a good article you might want to read that tries to address some of the hard questions:

Anne Dilenschneider, An Invitation to Restorative Justice: The Canton Asylum for Insane Indians. Northern Plains Ethics Journal 1(1) 2013, 105-128.

Not All That Funny

This is a revised post.  I misread the tone and intent of the article “Losing Face”  in the Appendix.  The author and editors quickly listened to my concerns, and I decided I was wrong and hot-headed (not news to some of you).    So there’s nothing to look at here.  Go read the article, and pay attention to the last line, which flew over my head.


The Most Determined Explorer from Breckenridge, Minnesota

An Excerpt from Walter Cheadle, Cheadle’s Journal of Trip Across Canada: 1862-1863 (TouchWood Editions, 2011), pp 127-128.

Perry . . . the most determined fellow he ever knew.  He crossed the prairies to the Rocky Mountain and over them. into California with no means of transport but a wheelbarrow which he trundled before him!  It contained all provisions, tools & effects; after that he returned to the States & set out from some place in Minnesota, I think Breckenridge, without a penny, & nothing except a gun & some ammunition, & the clothes he had on.  He borrowed an axe at Breckenridge, cut down a large tree, made a canoe & paddled down the Red alone 6 or 700 miles to Fort Garry.  From thence he made his way on foot, & supported by his gun to [Fort] Carlton where he obtained employment as driver of a cart to Edmonton; thence crossed Mountains with a party of Cariboo; was working a pretty good claim there, but finding another man working near was making about 5 times as much he, kicked his rocker & pick into the river & left in disgust.  Love not knowing now where he is.

An Interview in a Field In North Dakota

[two trucks in a frozen field, facing opposite directions, drivers talking through the opened windows]

I was a railroad engineer and drove the last steam engine.  It’s on display in Bismarck.

I went to Korea and got married when I came back.

I’ve done every job there is, and saved my money to buy all this land.

I broke out this land, and made that rock pile over there.  It’s a hard rock, and I remember it like it was yesterday, because the plow kept sparking, and we set the fields on fire many times.  We ruined a lot of machinery breaking out these fields.  The work’s not done, but I’m too old now.  Now people are buying the rock, because it is acid-resistant. 

My son borrowed money to buy this field from me.  I see he’s selling part of it, and he’s got a new truck.  I’ll never see that money again. 

I’ve got prostate cancer.  I’ve had it for years.  The doctors wanted to remove it, but I told them no.  They put radioactive seeds in there, and I’ll die before that cancer gets me.

My wife died a few years back.  The nursing home took everything.  Everything.  But I’ve got an apartment and a pension, so I’m okay.

I’ve had a good life, I’m glad for it, and glad to talk to you.  Sure is a beautiful sunny day.




A Brief History of My International Travel Scents

Harper’s (August 2013) has an interesting article by Beau Friedlander, “A Brief History of Scent.”  You’ll need a subscription to read the article (or ask to borrow my copy), but you can also listen to Friedlander on Brian Lehrer.   The cogent points for my brief comments:  some odors are universally offensive at a primal level; odors become related to time and place in very individualized ways; odors are linked to memory, but the linkage is not simple, and neither are the barrage of odors we encounter in some situations.  (He also points out what I think every time I go to a big city, or even see them in the movies—“this place really stinks, in a permanent, embedded sort of way.”)

Here are some brief associations from my permanent olfactory travels and memories, which feature large in my mind, but rarely (if ever) get verbalized.

Dense, wet (alkaloid-rich) vegetation smells like adventure, relaxation and itching from insect bites.  From many jungle treks in Belize.


Iron-rich red dust smells like brine, thirst and despair.  From the Rann of Kutch after the 2001 earthquake.


Intense, blinding sun smells like salt water, limestone, pine, oregano, and sweat dripping into plant-lacerated legs.  From surveying Greek coastlines.


Concrete, rebar, and helicopters smell like death and decay under a hot, rainy Mediterranean sun.  This is from the 1999-2000 earthquake surveys.  It took years for me not to recoil from this.   I still smell it, just not as strong, and the recoil is gone.


Yellow-grey dust and limestone, without a vegetation overlay, smell like isolation, exercise, oatmeal, and an undercurrent of risk.  From Oman; this is a different smell than Mediterranean limestone, which always comes with plants.  The risk undercurrent is new, from our Musandam expedition.  But we always ate a lot of oatmeal in Oman.  Hey, is that Simon Donato, of Stoked Oats fame, in toe shoes?


Expedition Food

In a few days I leave for the long-awaited 100 Miles of Wild-ND Badlands Transect.  I’ll be in the field for 13 days, and one of the challenges is to pack enough non-perishable food in a compact form.  I’ve developed my system over the years, and I prefer items I can buy more-or-less ready-to-go that require no prep beyond boiled water.  It’s not a fun system, but food prep and cleanup takes away from limited documentation and note taking time (or if things are going rough, sleep and rest time).


A 13 day junk food binge would end poorly, however, so I’ve tried to pick the most reasonable options—real food ingredients, minimal chemicals, not jammed full of palm oil and killer fats.

For this trip I’ve got 2700 calories per day.  That will have me running a calorie deficit (especially as it will be cold), but a deficit that will do me some good. 

The daily menu is pretty much the same:

Boosted Oatmeal—this is rolled oats, mulberries, gooseberries, dates, flaxseed, walnuts, powdered milk with a dash of whey protein and brown sugar.  No need to make this—just buy some Stoked Oats.  I put 1 cup in a heavy plastic zip closure bag.  Add 1.5 cups boiling water, shake it up, and eat.  300 calories.  

Odwalla Super Protein Bars x 2.  420 calories

Larabar x 2. 400 calories

Almonds and Dried Cherries, 2/3 cup. 400 calories

Stinger Bar x 2.  380 calories.

Honey Stinger x 2.  320 calories.

Mountain Trail Pro Pak (2 servings): 480 calories

There are, of course, other ways to do this.  Tuna fish pouches, soynuts, peanut butter.  This is what works for me. 

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