Monday, April 20, 2009

Greetings From The Badlands

My human is one lucky pup.

We left our Rapid City Motel 6 Monday morning desperately needing to find a fedex office.

"Where do you think one would be" the human asked Seamus.

"I don’t know. Let’s go this way," he replied.

We turned the corner and bam, there’s a parked fedex truck with a woman inside.

"Would you mind taking this package," the human asked.

"Sure, no problem," she says.

"Is there even a fedex office in this town," the human inquired.

"It’s a ways east of here. You’re not even close," she responds.

Next stop, Rushmore.

The human paid our seven bucks for parking and we walked up to take a peek at George, Thomas, Teddy and Abe. As we approached our viewing position we see this great looking wiener dog. The human gave the four President’s a passing glance and went directly to the pooch.

"What’s your dog’s name," he asks the other human.

"Grover Cleveland," the man responds in a thick accent of which I am unfamiliar.

"Are you shitting me," the human exclaimed.

"The second," the other human adds.

"Where are you from," my human inquires.

"Mount Ida, Arkansas. Been out west and thought we’d stop by here on our way home."

That's the thing about my human and Seamus. How many times do you think you could visit Mount Rushmore and meet a dog named after a president, let alone while driving around the country making a dog book titled Dog Bless America?

So Grover assumed his position and the human fired away. I was just happy to get a break.

Grover and the other 4.

After Rushmore we made the trek into the Badlands National Park. It seemed our luck was running out though because we couldn’t find a single dog in all the Badlands. Supposedly, the park superintendent had a dog, but it was his day off and he had traveled elsewhere. Makes sense that one would want to leave the office on their day off, even if your office is the Badlands.

Parched and running out of light, the three of us paid a quick visit to Town of Interior, a city with a population of 67 that sits smack in the middle of the Badlands. We were thirsty and we thought that maybe the owner of the store/bar/gas station/trading post might have a dog. Sure enough, they had a blue heeler named Rowdy. Rowdy, however, wasn’t at all interested. I could tell right away that she would rather take my human's camera and put it up my you know what. She pretty much wanted me off her property pronto vista. Believe me, dogs know this stuff.

We got the message and the owners weren’t offering up much in the way of conversation anyway. On our way back to the van we heard a bunch – and I mean, a bunch – of dogs howling at us. At this moment a skinny young cowboy rode up on his horse.

"What’s the story with all those dogs," the human asked the skinny young cowboy.

"They belong to my Grandpa," he replied.

"Where’s your Grandpa?"

"He’s inside the store."

"The guy we were just talking to," the human asked.

"Probably," he said with another unfamiliar drawl.

The human looked at Seamus and grinned. Back in the store we went.

"How come you didn’t tell us about all those dogs out there," he asked.

"They’re not dogs I tend to talk about with strangers," he replied.

Our luck had hit a fever pitch.

The guy agreed to talk to us and let the human photograph his dogs as the sun went down behind them. We quickly discovered that they were hunting dogs and their sole purpose in life was to chase down the coyotes that prey on the area wild stock. They were the weirdest looking dogs I had ever seen – half Irish Wolfhound, half Scottish deer hound and half Greyhound. The wolfhound gave them longer hair for the cold nights; the deer hound gave them their hunting instinct; and the greyhound blood provided their speed. There was something very eerie about them, and something very eerie about the Badlands surrounding them. The whole scene was giving me the willies.

As the human took pictures of Bootlegger, Bones, Whiskey, Boozer and Princess (her mom’s name was Queen), Seamus spent some time interviewing Mr. Reichardt about the role his dogs play in his life. The guy had 15 dogs out there (at one point he had 100). He told Seamus he’d been hunting coyotes for nearly 50 years. He says he’s addicted to it. Told us we should stop back by in October and go on a hunt. Says it’s like a drug and once we did it we’d be hooked. (I doubt it.) He also says they’re so loyal that they’ll run till they drop dead. Says two of his dogs have actually done so. (What?!) Says one of his dogs has racked up 500 coyotes. Seamus told him those sounded like Hall of Fame numbers.

"Nah," he replied.

He invited us back into his bar for a cold one. Turns out that not only is he the owner of the place, but he’s also the Mayor of Interior. He sat down and told us some more stories too long and gruesome to print. As the place filled up with the regulars, a couple of Native Americans showed up and Mayor Reichardt had to excuse himself to go barter with them. The mayor didn’t give ‘em much business so they came over to see what they could sell to us.

"We need ten dollars for gas money to make it home. Buy this tent," the wife demanded.

"I don’t need a tent," the human replied, "how bout I buy you a beer instead?"

"And some chips," she added.

He bought her pretzels but she couldn’t eat them because just like old Kenny Vinion, she didn’t have any teeth.

"No teeth. Need chips," she demanded.

"You go pick them out," he said.

We chatted with them over a beer before giving them ten bucks and going on our way. The husband looked the human dead in the eye and said, "You are a good soul. I will remember you."

"Thank you," the human said, as the toothless wife gave him a big, strong hug.

I had to admit, this was a proud moment for me.

We decided that we were way too tired to make it to our planned destination so we decided to check into a cabin in the Badlands National Park. By the time we made it to the lodge we were too late to check in. The office was closed. But, as luck would have it, someone was still inside and they gave us a key to number 11 and trusted that we would square up in the morning.

Morning arrived and we planned a straight shot to Omaha – a seven or eight hour drive. It’s a big country though and plans tend to change. Before we even got out of the Badlands we spotted a helicopter ride service that gives tours of the Badlands. Our idea was to hop a ride over to Interior and get an aerial video shot of the Mayor’s interesting setup. (If I haven't mentioned, Seamus and the human are documenting our travels on video, interviewing most of the people we meet.) Anyway, the human thought it might add something to his story. 

I got left in the car on the ground below and watched the two of them lift into the sky. They woke me sometime later excited about getting the exact shot imagined as well as some incredible footage of the Badlands themselves. The ride cost a hundred bucks, which is a lot of cabbage, but based on the human's excitement, it seemed more than worth it. We thanked the pilot, said goodbye and hit the road.

Some 60 miles up the 90 the human tells Seamus he needs to pee and asks if he can take the next exit. The next exit brings us to this very cool Diner with a perfect sign out front that reads: DOG & SUDS with a picture of this funny looking dog on it. 

The human looked at Seamus and said, "This is too easy."

The human raced inside not to pee but to ask if the owner was around.

Some minutes later he came back with the owner who had agreed to do a quick interview.

Seamus had just wandered off to use the phone so the human turned on the video camera and started rolling. The guy was great. A real cowboy. Loved dogs and always had them. Told funny dog jokes and expressed all the reasons that dogs are great. I could tell this was my kind of guy. He was a hoot! 

When they were done the human thanked the man for his time and went off to find Seamus and inform him of our continuing good fortune.

"Seamus, I got some great stuff," he said.

"Did you re-cue the tape," he asked.


"Did you re-cue the tape? I rewound it to look at the helicopter stuff while you were inside," he said.

The look on the human's face was heartbreaking. After a long pause and a deep breath he tried to look at the bright side of things and said, "Well at least this guy was really great."

And Seamus responds, "Did you turn the mic back on, because I turned it off when we were up in the helicopter."

Ouch. Guess their luck had run out.



This is Bones. He is one bad dog. And by bad I mean good. He keeps the coyotes from eating Mayor Reichardt's cattle. That's Mayor Reichardt in the background. And that's the house that Bones lives in. I guess he doesn't mind it. Me? I wouldn't last a night. 

Here's me in another winning shot - smack in the middle of the Badlands.

If this ride wasn't so epic, I might not be so agreeable to all these snaps.

Greetings From Marmarth, North Dakota!

We arrived in Fort Benton, MT on Friday afternoon and immediately found the statue of Old Shep. I hopped out of the car and went straight over to give the old dog a sniff.  Not as impressed as the thousands who come through the historic town to see the dog, I jumped down and started marking Shep's territory instead.  

We were soon befriended by the town's 14-year-old juvenille delinquent. He told us that he'd just finished his 20 hours of community service he had to do for missing curfew. He hung out with us for the better part of the afternoon and took us up to Old Shep's burial site. Before we dropped young Tom off, he pointed out the Sunrise Bluff Retirement Home, where he said we would find Kenny Vinion. Legend had it that Mr. Vinion played "Taps" at Shep's funeral in 1942. We decided to pay him a visit and sure enough the delinquent's story was true! When the human asked Mr. Vinion if he still played the horn, he mumbled, "Not since I lost all my teeth!" 

We checked into the town's only motel where we met the owner who also happened to be Ft. Benton's own version of Paul Harvey. It was here that we learned "the rest of the story" about Old Shep. My earlier version of Shep's story might have been a little off. The story goes like this: Shep's human was a sheepherder. After he passed away they put his body in a casket and sent him out of town on a train. Old Shep knew his master's body was in the box and waited for him to return for the next five years! Faithful Shep checked every train that came in until one day when he slipped on some ice and under a moving train. Makes enough sense, right? Well, here's "the rest of the story": 

Times were tough back then.  America was at war.  We were just coming out of the depression. There wasn't a lot of money floating around and dogs were getting the short end of the stick. They weren't necessarily "affordable" so to speak. Old Shep was a smart dog. The day he went to the station to see his master off he was given some scraps. Seems Old Shep connected the train with food. After that point on, everytime he heard the train-whistle blow he went to the station because he knew someone would give him food. The porter would give him the leftovers from the ride. The locals would think he was there as a loyal dog and feed him out of sympathy. Old Shep had hit the jackpot! The day he died he was supposedly trespassing on some property with some other dogs. The farmer pulled out his shotgun and started shooting. Old Shep was hit in the shoulder and managed to make it back to the station where he laid down and died. Could this really be...the rest of the story? The town's Paul Harvey enjoys getting a rise out of the other locals. "They just don't want the controversy," he claims. While it's logical enough to be true, it seems to me that Old Shep's original story will keep tourists coming for years and years to come. By the time we left Fort Benton on Saturday I'm pretty sure the entire town knew who the three of us were. Then we waved goodbye and got outta dodge. 

We spent Saturday afternoon driving east all the way across Montana. Again, the sky so huge! And the wide-open road - you feel like you're going 65 only to look at the speedometer to realize you're going 90! By the way, our rental van guts out at 106 mph. They say there's no speed limit in Montana, but ours is obviously 105, but I don't recommend hanging your head out of the window at that speed!

Today(Sunday) we drove through a little town called Marmarth, North Dakota.  Here we sought out a family with a dog. We found two families who were related and had two dogs each. This town had 151 people in it up until last week. Someone died so now they're down to 150. The dog the human chose to photograph was 16 years old! That's 112 or something like that! Can you imagine! I can only hope to last that long, but I don't think my breed has the genes, which is why I live for today! Anyway, the family was a kick. One of the kids was six years old and his uncle was four! 

Now we're at our fourth Motel 6.  If you didn't know, Motel 6 is sponsoring our trip. It's pretty funny because no matter what city or state we're in all the rooms look exactly the same. Don't tell my human, but for awhile there, I thought we kept returning to the same motel every night, which would have made for a lot of extra driving. That's it for now. The Badlands are next! 


P.S. Seamus approves all of these e-mails before they go out. The only thing he wants to add is that the human is wearing tightie-whities. In the human's defense, it's only because all of his boxers are dirty and he needs to do laundry. I'd offer to help, but I'm a damn dog.

Here's me and Ol' Shep. I couldn't get my tail to curl up like him. Otherwise it's a pretty good imitation on my part, don't you think?

This is where Shep is actually buried, way up high above the town of Ft. Benton. Pretty nice spot to end up. I wonder what the human will do with me. 

This is Old Kenny Vinion, who played "Taps" at Shep's funeral. He was a nice man.

Here's the story before "the rest of the story"!

Welcome to North Dakota and yet another photo-op!

Here's a snap of the family of the 16-year-old dog, Spook. The little one on the far left is the uncle of the kid next to him.

Here's the kind parents of those two kids. If I'm not mistaken, and I could be cause I'm only a dog, the woman in the red shorts is the daughter of the woman in the jeans and the man in the cowboy hat. The woman in the red shorts is the mother of the 6-year old and the sister of the four-year-old.  The pooch under the table is as confused as I am.

And here's Spook, the 16-year-old wonder dog!