Thunder Butte

September 22, 2006

Joseph Shockley

Joseph Shockley (left) and His Brother John - Probably Before World War I (Click to Enlarge)  

When the Crowley Clan settled near Thunder Butte, Mayme's brother Joseph Shockley also settled nearby. Joe had his own place near the butte. It's not clear whether he rented or owned his land in the early days. Land records show that he bought two different parcels near the butte in 1936, though, about 320 acres of land in total.

I don't know very much about Joe. He was Mayme's younger brother. Born in 1895 in Wisconsin like Mayme, he was six years her junior. During World War I, he reportedly fought in the trenches in Europe, where he fought in the trenches under constant fire for over ninety days. He was gassed and suffered terrible gangrene in his legs, possibly from having been bound in leggings that were worn too long without changing them. He managed to recover, though, and well enough to work the land around Thunder Butte for many years after the war.

Joe married Liz Williamson about 1926 and raised a daughter named Lois. Joe had a place about 2-1/2 miles southwest of Thunder Butte. John Crowley recalls an interesting incident from his youth. "I remember going along with my Dad when they took teams of wagons to an old, abandoned house about ten miles to the north [of Thunder Butte]. One day, they jacked up that house, ran the wagons under it, and with about four wagons and as many teams of horses, pulled that house down to the Shockley claim."

I don't know when Joe left South Dakota, but John Crowley recalls that he packed up the family and moved up to Steele, North Dakota, to start a new farm before John started high school. It seems odd, but this must have been about the time that Joe was buying land around Thunder Butte. John Crowley remembers that when Joe left, the Crowleys moved to Joe's place southwest of Thunder Butte.

Later in life, in the 1960s or 70s, Joe was estranged from his wife, Liz, for a time and moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he stayed with Mayme, my grandmother.

When I visited my grandmother as a child, I would sometimes encounter Joe. At that point in his life, he had trouble walking, perhaps because of the wounds suffered in World War I, and would sit for hours in a chair by my grandmother's front door, puffing on a pipe. I would try to talk with him, but either he didn't have much interest in children, or he just didn't have much to say. In either case, I don't recall Joe ever saying much more than an amiable, “yup,” and then that would be the end of the conversation. Joe reconciled with his wife and returned to Steele, North Dakota, where he died at the age of 83.

--Mike Crowley
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September 02, 2006

Thunder Butte Trail Drive

Lightning flashed and crackled across the plain
Lighting steers and horses mane
Thunder peeling off the clouds, hit
Thunder Butte bounced and rocked as another
Bolt of lightning struck

In pelting rain and dark of night , wind
Howling down again the lightning lit
The trailing cattle and struggling men
Who dank and tired worked on in vain
To just make camp despite there pain

As another bolt of emerald fire lit up
The butte and miles of empty, desolate space
Tel-tales danced and sparked along the
Herd leaping fairy froth from horn to horn
And back again to lick across the horse`s mane

This night spawned in some devil`s brain
Grew steadily cold and wet and wild
The howling wind thunder born
Spoke about the need of man
To bridge destructive mean for one more
Notch in our human dream

Bawling calves their mother`s lost
Bellowing mad the old gal`s best yet to tear
The squatter`s dream with horn and hoof
As always aloof to the cowboy`s need
Another bolt of static blue sprinkled across
A dead black sky rent by steaming canon bleeds

A muddy horn in the pony`s gut, the wrangler curse
Down he`s gone amidst the herd just a groan
And you are all alone
In this cursed rain with clouds of ink the wrangler died
Alone and cold as nature howled and claimed her own

--John Crowley
Mike Crowley Saturday, September 02, 2006 | (0) comments |