Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday, May 28: Our "free day" at Havre MT (they say "have-er) looked bleak in the morning, still rainy and cold. But as it turned out, our day in the land of buffalo, dinosaurs, forts and railroads turned out great! We made a reservation for an indoor activity, "Havre Beneath the Streets." We gathered at the one of the best railroad museums we've ever seen. James J. Hill designed the railyard here as a big repair area; it was the center of his empire (St. Paul to Seattle). So thousands of Great Northern and other rail artifact reside here; Amtrak still stops here. Then we walked outside and around the block to enter "Havre Beneath the Streets." In the 1880s the city was much like Hurley and Iron River all rolled into one. The first few brick buildings built had basements that were linked together and used for many clandestine activities. In 1904 a fire, started on a gusty day by two men who had a disagreement with a bar owner, burned six blocks of the city. As a result many more businesses moved into the basements connected by tunnels while the city was being rebuilt. Several stayed and thrived through Prohibition undisturbed by the law--an opium den, a bordello, and a saloon. On the way back to our motel we drove by the site of a "buffalo jump." Lo, and behold, there was someone there and the sun came out for our visit to the most extensive and well-preserved buffalo jump in the northern Great Plains--"Wahkpa Chu'gn," refers to the Milk River along which the site is. We were guided through the archeology dig where, for over 2000 years, three different Native American bands devised a scheme to stampede selected buffalo over a steep bank, and then harvest the fatalities. (This meant all of them, because they believed if one got away it would tell the other buffalo not to come near here anymore.) The natives didn't have horses or guns of course, so they used bows and arrows, and spear throwers called "atlatls." (We got to try one!) Couldn't leave Montana without a taste of all that Angus we've been seeing. A great treat after what's been a pretty Spartan menu. (The first picture is for Cameron--SCORE!)

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