Posts Tagged ‘Agate’

Peace and Unquiet

I find something magical in the Great Plains. I know, it’s just this big expanse of nuttin’, but I love the big, wide-open spaces. To stand in a spot where you can’t see anything, for miles and miles, feels so mentally and spiritually cleansing. It’s all about space, just experiencing the vastness of all dimensions, it’s … captivating.

View from Agate — © America In Context 2007

My very first experience with the Plains was not so captivating. I was returning from a business trip to San Jose, California. Shortly after the plane passed the Rocky Mountains, we hit a patch of turbulence. Patch? Patch nothing … the plane shook for nearly an hour! I really hate flying, I mean really hate it. We’re talking sheer, white-knuckled terror, and that’s on a good flight! This tumultuous one, well, either the plane was going to crash, or I was going to shake myself apart from the tension. Looking out the window, wide-eyed with fear, I could see the vast, unpopulated plains of Nebraska looming below me. “Anywhere but there”, I said to myself. “I don’t want to die in the middle of Nebraska!”

The pilot then comes on, and blurts out “well, we’re going to try to go up 5,000 more feet, see if it quiets down.” A twitch of the flaps and there we were, smooth as glass. I wanted to go up front and bitch-slap that bastard for waiting so long, but I couldn’t pry my fingers out of the armrests.

Being on the ground in Nebraska is so much better than flying over it.

Back On Topic

Funky Diorama — © America In Context 2007Agate Fossil Beds itself is nothing special. It’s just a couple of knolls in the prairie. But it does tell a fascinating paleontologic story. See, a couple of million years ago, there was this watering hole. Big herbivores loved this watering hole. Then, one day, it dried up. The herbivores started to starve. Then the predators came and ate them all up, but they too started to starve, for there were no more herbivores. Then the scavengers showed up and ate all the dead predators, but then they, too died, for there was nothing left to scavenge. All of them died in this big heap. A few million years later, paleontologists showed up, and wondered just what the hell happened! Was this some cultic suicide, did these Miocene animals drink some prehistoric Kool-Aid at the bidding of a dinosaur with a bad haircut wearing Ray-Bans? Or was it something more natural? It’s a neat story to those so inclined.

Agate does another wonderful thing: it helps preserve Native American culture. Here’s another case of individual bravery in the face of government brutality: a man by the name of James Cook owned a ranch near the fossil beds during the heyday of their excavation. He managed to befriend Red Cloud, chief of the Oglala Sioux. He often gave Red Cloud’s people aid and comfort during the painful years of reservation life. Red Cloud honored Cook through gifts of many Sioux-crafted items, all now displayed at Agate Fossil Beds. It’s a small, but quite impressive, collection. They also support Native artisans, and have regular showings of their current works.

It’s quite off the beaten path, but take a few hours to drive there. Lose yourself in the wide expanse that is the Great Plains (I recommend getting out of the car first, though. No zoning out behind the wheel, please).

Hide Painting — © America In Context 2007

[All pictures on this entry are originals by the blog owner.]

See all original photos of Agate Fossil Beds


Agate Fossil Beds National Monument

Google map to Agate Fossil Beds


Just for the heck of it, here’s a picture of a bunny:

Agate Bunny — © America In Context 2007

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