South Along Crowley's Ridge: a Mike and Dink Adventure
by Michael I. Hobbs
We had to approach the second expedition differently due to the problems experienced during the first one. This time we would not travel the road along the top of the ridge at all but would stay on the east side of Crowley’s Ridge the whole way. We would bypass the temporary lean-to constructed last time and go a mile or so farther south and build a larger, more permanent structure. We’d take more food, bread and canned goods, and not rely on having to take game or fish. This meant no rifles! We still had to take pretty much the same gear as before but no extra ammunition and only some of the cookware. We weren’t taking any chances on being confronted by the nut we ran into last time. We would not approach anything the same way and without the rifles we’d not even present the same appearance as before. We could pass ourselves off as boy scouts if need be.
This trip we had to make it all the way to the Indian mounds and to meet the Sioux Indian. Our objective in this second expedition—really the second leg of the first expedition—hadn’t changed. We were better prepared by just knowing what kind of obstacles might present themselves. The biggest one being of our own making.
As before, we jumped off at Dink’s house, walked through the Bloomfield Cemetery, and took to the east side of the ridge almost immediately. There was cover all the way to a gravel road that ran east and west. The one that ran through the cemetery supposedly intersected it right at our destination. There would be little need for compasses since the stretch of land we’dbe traveling hadthe cemetery road on the west and another gravel road, the one the wild duck lover got over on to cut us off last trip, on our east. All we had to do was stay between them.
The journey stayed uneventful, but we still found ourselves seeking cover anytime we were close enough to one of the gravel roads to hear a vehicle. We didn’t check to see if our first lean-to was still intact, but you can bet it was—they will last until the limbs that support the cover rot and break. We didn’t approach the area close enough to even see it. When we reached the creek, the one we walked down and was chased back up previously, we knew we were close, but turned east until we reached the second stretch of gravel road, back tracked a little, and headed south again. We were far enough from where we left the trail the first, too eventful a trip, to feel safe.
After walking for about a half-an-hour, we came upon another creek running through a patch of timber that appeared to be very old and never cut before. The water was shallow, cold, and moving with enough current to keep it clear and clean. We would construct a large shelter here. After choosing a location, a spot surrounded by a thick stand of horseweeds, we walked in a widening circle around it looking for poles to cut. The idea was not to cut any too close to our building site and not to cut too many in the same area. Doing so might raise suspicion, or at least curiosity, of somebody passing through it. We did not want our hut discovered. The flip side of our method was that sometimes it was hard to find the hut ourselves after taking so many measures to hide it!
We put together a large one, about fifteen feet long by six feet wide and tall. The ends are a tripod of large poles with a single center pole and smaller side poles about every couple of feet. We lashed all of this together with binding twine, and also used the twine to weave in and out of the side and end poles to fashion a netting to hold the leafy limbs, shingled from the bottom up, needed to enclose it and provide some protection from the weather. We positioned it so the ends were toward the northeast and southwest to better manage the wind, and added our entry hole on the side facing southeast. We put all our gear inside except our canteens and entrenching tools and headed for Indian Territory.
We headed due south expecting not to have to travel very far through the wood before reaching the gravel road that ran east and west. This worked out well and within an hour we had arrived at the expected road and turned west. In just a short while we had reached what we had been told was the home of Harvey, Sioux Indian. A nice big two- story white house at the junction of the gravel road that ranthrough Bloomfield Cemetery and the one that ran east and west. It had a large room built onto the south side with a sign in the window reading, “Museum.” Nothing about the house made it looked unusual. I mean nothing made it appear to be the home of an Indian. I don’t really know what we expected to see, but whatever it was, we didn’t see it.
No one was outside, so there was nothing to do but go up to the door and knock. The gentleman who answered the door looked like we thought he should but maybe a little older and his hair a little shorter. He was certainly one friendly man and welcomed us into his home without hesitation. His wife brought each of us a glass of Kool Aid and we talked about our trip—this trip, not the first failed attempt. He quizzed us a little about family.I kept expecting him to ask, “shot any ducks lately?” He was mostly interested in what we hoped to take away from our long walk to his place. We told him, a little too innocently perhaps, we wanted to dig in an Indian mound in search of bones and weapons, and as a second thought, “learn something about these people.” I thought maybe this was all said backwards, or was the wrong thing to say altogether, but it seemed to make no difference to him. He assured us we would be able to do just that, with the possible exception of finding bones.
He enjoyed showing young people his collection of American Indian artifacts. Much of his collection was from the Dakotas, areas where he was from originally, but he hadIndian and related items from all over the country. He proceeded to give us a very thorough tour and unlike a museum, we could handle things. He actually encouraged it by picking out an item, something we knew nothing about, hand it to one of us and then explaining what it was used for and by whom.
We looked at and held everything from bows and arrows to a scalp taken by a Sioux warrior. It was a little uncomfortable holding a human scalp but for some reason not as bad when told it was a scalp of an Indian from a rival tribe. There was also a human skull with the remains of an arrow shaft through it, and thousands of arrowheads, numerous tomahawk heads and various war clubs. He handed me one item and immediately asked if I knew what it was. It was a war club or tomahawk but it was odd because the stick holding the stone was yellow and really limber. He then asked if I knew what the handle of this thing was made of and I ventured a guess: “Some kind of muscle.” It was the right answer, but not exactly the detail he was looking for. “What kind of Muscle?” Neither Dink nor I had any earthly idea what kind of muscle it was but when he said it was made out of a buffalo’s penis I immediately passed it to Dink!
Still laughing, he led us outside, after stopping for a few moments to tell his wife what had just happened. He gave orders to follow him and he would take us to a spot where we would find something if we looked hard and could take the heat. Once we reached the spot, we knew what he meant by taking the heat. It was a sandy area with no shade but luckily not too far from the house and water when we needed to fill our canteens. It wasn’t what I pictured an Indian mound to look like; there was no mound, hill, or even a significant rise. The location was on the side of a gentle slope back toward his home place.
Our learning started right there. “It probably isn’t a burial mound,” he said, “but a camp or small village site. It is possibly Osage but might be one of the older, more prehistoric tribes found in Missouri When neither of us made a comment, he volunteered: “You will find more things here of interest than you would in a burial mound.” He left us with only a little advice and few instructions: search the top of the ground carefully, especially after a hard rain; if you see the tip of something sticking out of the ground,dig it up, don’t pull it out. If you do find any bones, even a single bone, stop digging and come and get me. When burial grounds are disturbed there are spiritual things to be concerned with.”
Dink and I discussed things, thinking none of this seemed right—there should be a mound! We were torn between leaving, thinking perhaps this was like a “snipe hunt.” Work your asses off only to find out later there was nothing to discover but you provided somebody a good laugh. After careful consideration, we decided to give it a whirl since we had come this far and not without effort and risk.
We walked out to the edge of the field, going in opposite directions. Then we started walking around it, gradually working our way toward center. We figured doing it this waywould have us both searching the same area twice but with a different set of eyes. This was a serious search so we shouldn’t be together where we might talk or tell jokes. creating interference. Also there would be no chances of getting hurt should we find something at the same time and both go for it ending up in a fight.
Thirty minutes or so had passed before I found a very nice arrowhead lying right on top of the ground on a little mound of dirt the same shape as the arrowhead. Water had washed over and around it, leaving it exposed. I shouted to Dink that I had found one and here he came. He looked it over and started looking harder but didn’t return to his side of the field. He was searching my area! I didn’t argue but walked over to where he had just vacated and started my circle search again. I had gone only a few paces and found another arrowhead, but kept my mouth shut this time. Shortly Dink picked up one and then I announced I just found another one, actually the unannounced one found earlier. All discipline seemed to disappear after I let it out that I had found two. The walking the field in ever diminishing circles stopped when Dink started going to everything that looked at all like anything to check it out. He started it, so I began doing the same thing for fear of getting behind
in discoveries. We both had some successes, but probably missed more than we found.
The day was about gone and we needed daylight to return to and hopefully find our hut, but we had to stick a shovel in the ground before leaving. We broke out the entrenching tools, picked a spot on the slope that had a little rise to it and began digging. We both dug like we were digging foxholes with the exception of stopping momentarily to sift through the sand with our fingers. We found a few broken points but made no major discoveries. With the sun at about tree top level in the west, it was time to call it a day.
We stopped by and showed our new friend what we had found. He identified the arrowheads as probably for fighting, not hunting, due to their size and barbs. He let us fill our canteens with cold water from a pitcher in the refrigerator, gave us each a certificate showing the date we were here and that we had reached it by hiking, and welcomed us back anytime.
After a hard walk back to our campsite we quickly gathered dead wood for a fire to give us a little light, as it was fast becoming dark. Building a campfire is a requirement when staying out like this whether it is needed or not. We built the fire, heated some beans & franks, and discussed today’s activities. All in all it had been a very successful day. We had accomplished our objectives and knew return trips here would be made with some regularity, but it all didn’t seem like the kind of venture outdoors we enjoyed most. Usually it was just we two with no interacting with anybody else. We hunted and fished or hunted fish, and this was the main excitement, enjoyment, and what we had to eat. That was what we were missing most this trip, our rifles!
When heading south along Crowley’s Ridge, we would never be able to take our rifles. This was a given after the one mistake—shooting domestic ducks off a pond—was made. It was decided then and there that we would ride bikes to our Sioux Indian friend’s place most of the time, doing a down and back the same day. If we were going to do what we enjoyed most, expeditions that required hunting and shooting, we had to go in a direction other than south. The old Castor River was only five miles north of Bloomfield and should provide everything needed for a good time. We agreed it needed exploring, but that is another adventure.
Michael I. Hobbs lives in Dexter, Missouri, and is completing a collection of essays. His work has appeared in each issue of Sweetgum Notes and his book, Through Eyes of Stone, a Vietnam memoir, was published by Sweetgum Press. (See Authors, this site.)
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