Sunday, August 31, 2008
Yeay!! We've got our fall and winter job! We'll be working at a Kangaroo Ranch just outside of Deadwood, South Dakota, actually working with the roos and several other kinds of marsupials and assorted animals. What an adventure! I'd never been close to a kangaroo before and today I got to pet one! Look for pictures soon and descriptions of what we're doing. It'll be another 2 or 3 weeks before we are there. Still have a couple of weeks to go at Bear Country. That'll be a big savings on gas just moving 50 miles farther north in the Black Hills instead of 1000 miles or so to another state, which we usually do. God is faithful to answer our prayers and put us where He wants us! Look at the list of my favorite links—The Roo Ranch.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Here is a photo of a rare, white buffalo born at Bear Country last spring. He attracts quite a bit of attention from our visitors.
From Wikipedia, "American buffalo (technically bison) are normally brown in color. Rarely, white buffalo are born. White Buffalo are considered to be sacred signs in several Native American religions, and thus have great spiritual importance in those cultures and are visited for prayer and other religious ceremonies."
I am told that a Native American group from the Black Hills area did come to Bear Country this spring and held a ceremony to honor this white buffalo. I saw the colorful ribbons they tied to the fence as part of their rites.
This is a goofy picture Keith got one day through the fence. It may be a little too close for comfort! These guys are powerful!
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
These 14 black bear cubs spend most of their time, running, tussling, climbing, wrestling, swimming, or else sleeping in a pile. That makes it very difficult to get a good picture. This morning we hit it just right. It was early, they hadn't been fed yet, and when they heard the sound of our Kawasaki Mule they looked up in anticipation (Sorry, guys, we don't have any food for you!) and held relatively still for this photo. They've grown so much from the tiny 3 month old cubs we first saw in early May. They are about 7 months old now. After their year in Babyland they will spend 2 more years together in the kindergarten or teenage area before they are large enough to join the BIG bears in the drive-through section of the park. The most difficult part of our job is driving past the cubs without stopping to watch them! The laughter and excitement of the tourists hanging over the rails, madly clicking their cameras and declaring their wish to take a cub home, is a delight to see!
Monday, August 25, 2008
I had to add this picture because it is one of my favorites. I love the cute little burro but I also like the glow that the prairie grass has, plus the dead tree. This was taken in Custer State Park, one of the "wild" burros that live there. They are beautiful animals and very friendly. Click to view full size.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
My husband, Keith, is quite the punster, and well-known for this talent. I love watching him with the tourists at Bear Country. He will catch departing visitors and say, "Was everything 'bearable'?" If they get it they'll laugh and agree. Or sometimes they'll come back with, "bearly", and he'll respond, "bear up"! Brad, the driver of the cart for handi-capped people, has gotten into the spirit. When he and we are parked on the sidewalk with our carts, talking, he'll say we are a "bearicade" to the tourists passing by. Keith loves to tell little kids that bear cubs have 5 paws, especially if they're with an older gentleman. They'll look at him in disbelief, and then he'll count on his hands and feet, "one paw, two paws, three paws, four paws, and a grandpaw"! Occasionally the kids won't get it, but the grandpas always do. In this picture he is talking about his paw pun with Zack, a 15 year old Bear Country employee who gives informative talks to our guests about the various animals they are seeing. He was also the "Mascot" in bear costume, and the applier of temporary tattoos to anyone he could convince needed one.
Another favorite pun is, "The Pope came to visit Bear country and he left speaking in 'bearables' ". (The Bear Country owners are Catholics who are very actively and charitably involved the community.) To parents with babies in strollers he'll say, "Oh, are you bringing us another baby bear?" or, "Are you allowed to take that baby bear home?" Most parents chuckle. Here is a picture of our favorite cub, "Little Bit", one of the 14 bear cubs on display this summer.
One of the most enjoyable parts of our job here is talking to tourists. Most of the time they are having fun, are excited about being here, and want to share where they are from and where else they've visited so far. We've kept track of state license plates within the park this summer and have gotten 49. We lack Delaware—still hoping! There have been people from different parts of the world, like England, Germany, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Brazil, Japan and China, and some others we don't know because they were speaking a foreign language unfamiliar to us, probably eastern European. It is so much fun to talk to all kinds of people from all kinds of places. We are blessed to be able to do that!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
This has got to be one of the cutest animals there are, though all baby critters are adorable. It's a porcupine baby, just old enough now to come out of the den by itself and eat from the food dish. This little one's name is "Stormy" because she was born during a typical South Dakota storm, but Keith and I like to call her "Pinecone". That's what she looks like! Porcupines love corn on the cob! They hold the cob in their little paws and nibble off each kernel just like we do. Pa Porcupine can be enticed out of his shelter with a cob. He reaches up and takes it ever so gently and then slowly demolishes it, not letting one kernel escape. Porcupines appear to be all hair and quills and sometimes it is difficult to see their cute little faces—harder yet to get a good picture! They move very, very slowly and make "ummm, ummm" sounds. We love watching them at Bear Country. If you click on the picture you can get a close-up!
We had a wonderful treat on Sunday. As we were heading for the Mt. Rushmore pavilion for the morning church service we saw 2 young people leaning against the statehood pillars watching us. As we approached them we realized they were 2 of the ministry group who had led the worship service 2 years ago, which we attended all summer. There were hugs and kisses all around. What joy to see them! They were at Mt. Rushmore for a wedding—had come from Kansas to be there. This is a picture of them with 2 of the current ACMNP (A Christian Ministry in the National Parks) team.
Friday, August 15, 2008
See that grizzly? Now, that's how I'd like to be, completely at rest no matter where I am or who's looking at me! I read a Bible verse this morning that struck me anew. "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." (Matthew 14:27) That cheer and lack of fear are deep in my heart because I know who takes care of me. That grizzly, Cherokee, is at peace and relaxed because she knows where her next meal is coming from and she knows nothing is encroaching into her space to disturb her and her mate, Tank. All she has to do is eat, sleep, swim in her pool, climb on the logs, and watch tourists all day! Behind the scenes, the owners of Bear Country USA have gone to great lengths to provide her habitat, her food, and all that she needs. I know that my Creator has done the same for me—taken care of all my needs. These truths are especially comforting to me as I look for our fall and winter workamper job. I don't know where we're going or what we'll be doing in a month's time, but He does! He has it mapped out. All I have to do is knock on doors to see which one will open, and trust Him. It makes life exciting!
Monday, August 11, 2008
In Custer State Park there are a large number of "wild" burros who have learned how to milk the tourists. These burros are descendants of the ones used to haul people to the top of Harney Peak. They stand along the road looking so adorable and comical (and hungry) that people can't resist stopping to pet them and feed them whatever they may find in their cars. Some come prepared, as we did, with carrots or other "healthy" food, and the others haul out their cookies, chips, etc. The burros love it all. Today there were several cute, fuzzy little colts and some smaller adult burros, but the larger ones seemed very aggressive in trying to get me to feed them carrots . I got a little nervous at one point when I was penned in between 3 or 4 bigger burros all demanding carrots, so I made a hurried escape to the car! In the last picture you can see a nosy burro still looking for a treat. These critters are very well-fed and healthy-looking from the abundance of natural fodder in the Hills. It's great fun to experience feeding the burros and we are disappointed when they are not out on the road. They mix well with the buffalo and the pronghorns, also.
Custer State Park is a wonderful place for a leisurely, sometimes exciting drive through the beautiful Black HIlls. We hit the jackpot for buffalo today. We saw several hundred of the 1500 or so that are in the park. They chose to stand on or lie down beside the road, thrilling the tourists. Cameras were clicking like crazy. For some excitement—we watched a motorcyclist next to a mama and her calf, who, when he gunned his motor was charged suddenly by the angered mother. He barely zoomed out of her reach in time. "Buffalo are dangerous," say the signs, "do not approach".
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Our scenic country has so many breathtaking, awesome wonders, many of them made into national parks or monuments. One is Badlands National Park, 50 miles east of Rapid City, and a few miles south of Wall, SD. We've visited there the other 2 summers we worked in SD but on this trip the Badlands were especially beautiful because of the large amounts of rain the area has had, the end of a drought several years long. In this first picture you can see Keith standing on the edge of a precipice overlooking a moonscape-like view. There were actually tiny people out there so we figured there must be a hiking trail.
The photo below will be one of my all-time favorites! I love the contrasting colors. Just beyond this scene you will find vast acres of prairie grass and wildflowers, swaying with the winds and pocketed with prairie dog towns. It is one of the largest, protected mixed-grass prairies in the U.S.
"4 species of wildlife have been reintroduced into the Badlands since its establishment as a National Monument in 1939. The black-footed ferret, bighorn sheep, bison, and swift fox, once exterminated from this prairie, are again thriving in their native habitat." (from website) We were fortunate to see Buffalo in the distance, but this sighting of a small herd of bighorn sheep was outstanding. They were right on the road and looked at us as if we were of no consequence. The lamb helped himself to a meal as we watched and clicked our camera. What a treat! We also have these animals at Bear Country USA and I am amazed at how different the male sheeps' horns are than the females' horns. There were no males in this small group we encountered at the Badlands, only mamas and babies. They were wearing large collars to keep track of their roamings.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Each of our lives is a journey—we're on the road to somewhere! The road in these pictures, the Iron Mt. Road in the Black Hills, looks a little like my life. Being alive is good, incredibly beautiful, winding, fun, perplexing, rewarding, dark, light. On this pictured road there are 3 tunnels hollowed out of the rock. Through each one, if you are headed north, you can see Mt. Rushmore framed in the exiting end of the tunnel. The architect of this road, former Senator Peter Norbeck, planned it that way. In my life I've entered some dark tunnels, not knowing where I was headed or how long it would take me to get to the other end. For me, the "light at the end of the tunnel" is not Mt. Rushmore, but it is Jesus, and His will for me. I've seen that light often enough to know it will always be there. I will come out on the other side!
Another fascinating section of this road goes in a complete circle. It does that a couple of times for no apparent reason. It looks intriguing and requires a complex, artful arrangement of logs to support it. Again, the architect of the road planned it that way. It's as though he tried to tie the road in a knot and then thought better of it. It straightens right out and goes on its way. I have often felt that my life was going 'round and 'round and for no apparent reason. But my great Architect always has a plan and He will make the crooked places straight in His good time.
I will continue on my life's road, knowing that it will always be a combination of beautiful, fresh, twisting, exciting, puzzling, fulfilling, loving, giving, exceeding abundantly all I could imagine in Jesus.
It's a beautiful morning at Mt. Rushmore. The air is cooler than it has been for the last few days. We love coming here early in the day, before the crowds arrive. Our reason is...church in the amphitheater, a service held by A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. This ministry sends college students to most of the National Parks in the U.S. The kids have regular jobs in the parks and then on Sundays they host a service for the tourists. That usually means they have a new congregation every Sunday, unless it's people like us who also work in the area and like attending there.
I love this photo of Mt. Rushmore, with the clouds streaming out above the 4 presidents.
This photo is of the 3 young men, all college students, who are serving at Mt. Rushmore. They didn't know each other before they arrived—all are from a different part of the country. They work well together and seem to enjoy their ministry. It's a great opportunity for the volunteers to practice serving and to get to experience a beautiful part of the country at the same time. It will be a lasting memory for them.