Sunday, October 7, 2012

Black Hills By Chuck Hofvander

Black Hills
By Chuck Hofvander

I was riding my mountain bicycle on a dirt road in the Black Hills; it’s in South Dakota, when I saw a herd of Holstein cows in my path and thought nothing of it; I had been around cows in Iowa for years when I was on vacation and I thought they were docile.  I was in the middle of the herd when the cows turned their heads and started to come after me. I panicked!! I thought cows were docile, peaceful, passive, and submissive not like bulls they angry all the time but these were not bulls they were cows!  The Holstein herd chased me but after about 1/3 mile they gave up the chase but this is not the end of the story.

Liz, Brad, Mat, and I went on vacation to the Black Hills and Liz did the research about the area and decided on where to stay. The place was just outside Hill City in a bed & breakfast although it wasn’t a traditional B&B, the owner’s lived in another house just yards away from the B&B. Hill City was in a central location near Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Lead & Deadwood, and Custer State Park,

It was a 16 hours drive to Hill City and we drove on an inter-state highway until we reached Rapid City then we got on highways. When we reached Hill City; Hill City is famous for having Sue; a T-Rex skeleton, as one of its residents we got on a paved side road but the paved road turned to gravel about 1 ½ miles in. That’s ok; I was familiar with driving on gravel, similar to my similarity with cows, but after two miles it turned into dirt. We drove on that dirt road until it turned into a dirt path. Dirt Path!! What have we gotten are self’s in to!!!

However we had driven 16 hours to get that far and I was determined not to give up, not yet anyway! We drove along that dirt path, turned a corner, and saw an archway that had a sign painted above it that said “Llama Lodge”. Beyond the arch was a beautiful valley and at the end of the valley sat a small stone house with smoke coming out of the chimney. We were greeted by the two hosts Freddie and Loren; Freddy southern bell from South Carolina and Loran was a full blooded Cherokee Indian, and they made us feel right at home.

The house was 120 years old, built into the side of a hill, and the original owner was a prospector who thought he would get rich. He didn’t. He made a root cellar in the side of one hill and on the same hill he stored weapons because Indians were always a threat.  Freddy stored unusual jewelry in the root cellar, I’ll explain what kind of jewelry later. 

Freddy and Loren were also the proud owners of Llama’s, five of them. They were named Standing Bull, Sitting Bull, Little Bull (I think it was a family name) War Bonnet, and Wind in his Hair (they didn’t have offspring as far as I know). The Llama’s are pack animals and they couldn’t be ridden and they were stubborn. Furthermore if the Llama didn’t want to move they wouldn’t be persuaded, similar to donkey’s. In addition, Llama had a habit of moving their bowels in several piles around their enclosure that the Llama’s all enjoyed.

The unusual kind of jewelry made by Freddy was “Llama Doodle Dangles”. The Llama emptied their bowels in pellets; about the size of an M & M. Freddy froze them, lacquered, and strung them into bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Then she brought them to several places around Rapid City to be bought. Freddy was a successful business woman and she sold quite a few of them; Liz bought two pair of earrings.

One day Freddie invited Liz to her favorite little place in town for lunch and for a little shopping. Loren and I along with my kids took the opportunity to hike up to Harney Pike, the highest point in South Dakota. We took a long Standing Bull, Sitting Bull, and Little Bull so they could carry our packs. So at 6:00 AM we got them into trailer, got into Loren’s pick-up, and drove to Harney Peak.

We got to the trail head, unloaded, and got ourselves ready. It was about an hour to the Peak and at first the scenery was breath taking but about halfway up Mat said he couldn’t walk anymore and wanted me to carry him. I asked Loren if Mat could ride one of the Llama’s but Loren said they were pack critters and couldn’t be ridden. Fine, I was used to carrying Mat so I carried him to the Peak. There we did some sightseeing and started on our journey back. 

Loren said he had a more scenic way back, I’ve always been a sucker for an adventure, so I agreed and we started on our way. But what was a one hour walk turned into a 3 ½ hour descent into Hell! Loren didn’t know his way back at all, he was lost, I was mad, Brad was balling, and Mat was still asleep on my shoulder.

Loren made several wrong turns but finally found our way back. We returned to the house and Loren took the blame for our late return. Later that evening Liz and I went walking and heard Freddy scolding Loren for out late return. The couple came over and offered to make us breakfast for us. We agreed, so the next day Freddy, dressed as a Southern bell and Loren dressed as a hippy (Loren had been a hippy in younger days), came and served us a five course breakfast that more than made up for the previous day.

Finally back to the cows! After being pursued by the cows I returned to the house and told my family about being chased by a herd of vicious cows! Liz thought nothing of it and my two sons laughed. But the following morning Brad called me outside where he stood at a barbwire fence. On the other side of the fence stood the Herefords lined up shoulder to shoulder, looking at me with violence in their watery cow eyes. I was sure they were the same cows that I encountered the day before.

I called Liz, she came, I told her what I was sure of, she laughed, and told me that I was crazy! Crazy!!!! I was shocked, humiliated and stunned that she thought that little of me! Sure I had some other experiences with animals like the time a squirrel chased after me; squirrels are violent by nature, the time I captured a bat in a garbage can; when it came time to release it I screamed, and the time a raccoon was….no I won’t go into that.

All in all, the time my family spent in the Black Hills was memorable and we came back the following year but I took precautions to protect myself against cows.

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