Cemetery Tales and Prairie Sights

While we were waiting for the new hole to be dug yesterday at Mom’s gravesite, we heard two very interesting tales about the old Lismore cemetery. One concerned this tombstone. Apparently, some people from Canada showed up in Lismore several years ago, looking for an ancestor of theirs that was supposedly buried in the Protestant cemetery. This ancestor had served in the Civil War and been buried in Lismore but there didn’t seem to be any tombstone in evidence. The old plot map gave a general location but they just couldn’t find it.

After they left, the cemetery caretaker got his hands on a special water digger and dug around that area and about 3 feet under the surface, he struck something solid. It was the gravestone of the Canadian veteran. The caretaker told us that he got the tombstone out, took it home and washed it off in his bathtub, and then brought it back to the cemetery, reinforced it with metal rods and placed it back on a foundation and then made sure that a “veteran’s” star marked the spot.

The second interesting tale we heard involved this strange-looking circle. The caretaker pointed to one corner of the cemetery and said, “See those white things over there? Well, those are giant mushrooms. We couldn’t figure out what was causing them to grow in a giant circle until we mentioned it to a state historian and found out that this area used to be used by the Indians as a campground. They set their teepees up in this area and would use buffalo skins stretched over the tent frames. As the heat from the fires would warm the hides, oil from the skins would drip down on the ground and this soaked into the ground and acted as fertilizer to make the area extra fertile in that perfect circle…the shape of an Indian tipi. ”

We walked over to look more closely and the white things are huge mushrooms. Where there are no mushrooms, you can still see that the grass is greener than the surrounding grass. Now, Indian explanation aside, I have my own explanation. In folklore, this would be called a “fairy circle.” At night, the fairies come out to dance around this circle. Other traditions think it is witches who dance around it or the devil who churns butter in that circle. In almost any folklore tradition, it is considered dangerous to walk into the circle. I almost had done so the other day but for whatever reason, stayed outside the circle and just walked around it. Whew! Well, maybe the wee ones come out at night and play out there on the prairie. Who knows?

This morning, we got a good laugh as we compared the size of this truck cab with my little Prius-C before heading off towards Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Again, we saw so many giant windmills out there on the prairie as we drove the straight shot from Worthington to Sioux Falls. They are such an impressive sight to behold.

Soon we arrived at Sioux Falls and headed over to the actual falls. Thirty years ago, when John lived out here, he used to come here on hot days and slip off the rocks and into the pools of water to cool off. Now there is absolutely no swimming allowed.

The falls are in several levels. There is an upper level where you can walk out onto a rocky plateau and enjoy a fairly tame waterfall and there is the lower level, which is more spectacular. There are also ruins of a flour mill next to the falls. Do you see the train that is going across the falls in the background?

This old photograph of Sioux Falls shows those railroad tracks were still in existence back then. If you look to the left, you’ll see a seven-story building. That was the flour or grist mill.

From the falls, we headed into town to visit the old Courthouse Museum. There was this lovely old Norwegian loom in the lobby. It had provided textiles to several area families, who shared it.

This is some of the ceiling and wall detailing in the old courtroom. You can now rent out this room for special events. It would certainly be a nice site for a wedding reception.

I dragged my brother over to this exhibit. I had a dollhouse exactly like this, right down to all of this furniture. Oh, boy, did this bring back some memories. I sure wish I had it now because my granddaughter, Mika would love to play with it, I’m sure.

There was a room with lovely Indian artifacts. The beadwork alone was just exquisite. A separate display showed all of the things that the Indians made out of the buffalo. It was pretty astonishing. Not much was discarded. Even the bladder was cleaned up and used to hold water.

There was also an Isinglass furnace in the lobby. My grandparents had one just like this that sat in the dining room out on the farm. I can remember the winter my grandfather died. We had driven out to the farm and Grandma had set up a small bed in the dining room for me. She stoked the furnace with corn cobs and I lay in the bed watching the flames dance through the little windows of this furnace. It was mesmerizing.

Our final sightseeing stop was the Pettigrew Museum. Mr. Pettigrew was a U.S. Senator who bought this house and lived in it. When he died, he left it to the city to use as a museum to hold his extensive collection of stuff. We stopped in and toured the living quarters and then took a quick turn through the museum section of the house. It’s beautiful. I itched to go into one of the drawing rooms and play the piano that was there.

Then it was time to head over to the hotel and settle in for the night. Tomorrow we make a quick stop to visit with a cousin that I’ve only had the chance to chat with via email and then we head on to spend the day with cousins that we grew up with and to pop in to the nursing home to visit with our aunt. It will be a long but fun day. I hope you all have a safe and happy Fourth of July.

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