Thunder Butte, in South Dakota, has featured prominently in my family's history since 1913. Also known as "Wakinyan Paha" to the Lakota, its religious and cultural significance to the Lakota goes back much further in time, still. Rising from the dry, rolling prairie grasslands in Ziebach County, in northwestern South Dakota, the butte is located on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
From the top of the butte, you can see for miles in every direction. There are not many people here, although the land is alive with the memory of those who walked here before us. Taking in the quiet of the plains as they reach to the horizon, you can well imagine the way the world was before we were here, and what it may look like long after we have moved on.
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July 28, 2005
The Big Drought: The Day the Sun Took its Toll
One day during the drought, I came across the Briscoe kids, who were neighbors, swimming in a hole not much larger than a pool table. They wanted me to join them, and I thought they were nuts. The water looked like mud. That was a sorry day for me as I started for home, about ten miles back to where we lived, east of Thunder Butte.
During the trip, I started to get a headache. I dismissed it as being caused by hunger because I hadn’t eaten that day. However, after trudging along in the intense heat, I passed out and fell off my horse. I woke up sometime later with the horse nuzzling me with his wet nose. Somehow, I managed to crawl back in the saddle. I didn’t remember anything else, though, until my horse walked up to the water trough at our ranch. When he dropped his head to drink, I slid off his neck into the water. After a few minutes, I felt revived enough to crawl and stumble the several hundred yards to the house. I kept feeling as though I was alternately losing consciousness and then groggily reawakening.
At the house, I found some water and put wet towels on my head only to pass out again. When I woke up, it was getting dark and had cooled a little. Needless to say, there was no one else at home that day. Aside from having headaches for awhile, I seemed to suffer no lasting effects from what was probably “heat stoke.”
Mike Crowley Thursday, July 28, 2005