Into the Alaskan wild (with a daughter)

A friend loaned me this book, “Braving It,” about a father-daughter trek into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

brave1It’s well-written, engaging, and it makes this father wonder how he would have fared with his daughter when she was 15. (My daughter, Kara, is now 33 and a much more competent back-country traveler than I am. But when she was 15, not so much).

In addition, James Campbell and his daughter Aidan are from Lodi, Wisconsin, near where Judy and I grew up. So it provides a sense of connection.


Book reduction

Judy and I (mostly Judy) went through our bookshelves and cleaned out some of our old books that we have read, and have no need of keeping.

They will go to the Palisade Altrusa Club’s annual book fair. We hope others will pick up and read some of these books that we have enjoyed. It’s always hard for me to part with books, even if I know I will never read them again or use them for research. I know some author put a lot of time and effort into producing each book, and I don’t want them to end up in the trash.


Where the buffalo roam(ed)

Several Silbernagel siblings (say that fast five times) are reading this book right now because of a shared interest in what has been North America’s largest mammal for the past 10,000 years or so.

I’m particularly interested in the American buffalo, or bison, because I’ve read several historic journals and reports that indicate they were once prominent in the mountains of Colorado, although never in the numbers that crowded the Great Plains.

The author, Steven Rinella, is an outdoorsman and writer who obtained a permit to hunt a buffalo in southeastern Alaska in 2005. He intersperses his stories of his successful hunt with a history of bison in North America, from pre-human times until they were nearly obliterated by white hunters, to more recent conservation efforts.


Rinella is an engaging writer, self-effacing and often funny.  I was pleasantly surprised that this isn’t a polemic about hunting, conservation, federal wildlife policies or anything else. It simply tells a good story, while adding some of the author’s views, not too stridently stated.

One minor critique: Some of the theories — which Rinella states as fact — about early human migration to this Continent and their immediate impact on megafauna of the day, are now being challenged by other scientists, according to articles I’ve read. But the book was published in 2008, and it may just be the fact that after nine years, research is challenging what was viewed as settled science a decade ago.

Fort Robinson

Last week, Judy and I visited Fort Robinson, in northwestern Nebraska.

The fort played a crucial role in some of the most important battles and confrontations of the Plains Indian Wars. Additionally, it was one of the longest-serving posts in the region, operating from 1874 until the end of World War II. But Fort Robinson also had some important connections with western Colorado and eastern Utah.

rob5First, the Ninth Cavalry — an African American unit also known as Buffalo  Soldiers — which played a role in the Milk Creek Battle and Meeker tragedy of 1879, and helped keep the peace at Fort Duschesne, Utah after most of Colorado’s Ute Indians were moved to Utah, was stationed at Fort Robinson for much of the 1880s and 1890s.

And in 1906, the 10th Cavalry — also Buffalo Soldiers — was instrumental in rounding up Utes who left the reservation in Utah in hopes of joining with Sioux Indians in South Dakota.

Also, Fort Robinson became a major station for the U.S. Army’s Cavalry Remount Service after 1919, and many horses raised in Colorado were sold to the Army there.

The Nebraska State Historical Society does a great job of maintaining the old Fort as a museum, and a place where you can camp or stay in old Army quarters. Naturally, while we were there, I picked up a book — or two. They were written by Thomas R. Buecker, the former curator of the museum at Fort Robinson. One gives the history of the Fort in the 20th century. I’ll discuss it in another post.

This first book looks at Fort Robinson’s history from its establishment until the end of the 19th century.  I’m reading it because I hope to write more in one of my Daily Sentinel history columns about the Buffalo Soldiers and their time in Colorado.

Buecker has done an excellent job of collecting data and placing it in the appropriate timeframe. Unfortunately, from my point of view, he hasn’t provided much detail about the Ninth Cavalry, and what it did before arriving at Fort Robinson. (I know, other books give greater detail about the African American units during the Indian Wars. Guess I’ll have to pick up one of them, as well.) And he doesn’t even mention one of the Ninth’s long-time members, Caleb Benson, who has his own place on a wall in the Fort Robinson museum.

Buecker writes well when he is simply telling the story of the fort and incidents in which its soldiers were involved, such as the killing of Crazy Horse at the Fort in 1877. But he gets lost in thickets of minutiae at times with too much detail of how the fort was funded, timber details and costs for the buildings.

Still, there is abundant information here, for anyone interested in one of the pre-eminent forts of the American West.


Back in the saddle, again

It’s been nine months since I rode my horse, due to foot surgery and complications related to the surgery. But Sunday was my 65th birthday, and it seemed like an opportune time to get back to work with Moose.ride

So, with the help of my good friend, Cricket Donoho, Moose was lunged and I was able to mount up. It went great, except for one brief stumble by Moose when I thought I might go off.

However, my foot is not entirely healed yet, and it’s important that pressure be distributed across my whole foot, and not just right under the arch, where the surgery was done. So I drew a rough design of a protective stirrup, and my friend and farrier, Brian Crandall, constructed it. There are still a few tweaks we need to do, but basically, it worked just fine. There are no vertical bars on the inside of the stirrup, so I can get my foot out quickly if I need to. But it stays in the stirrup well for basic riding.stirrup 1

Juan Rivera’s Colorado

Rivera-UtesGoing to see Steve Baker talk at the Museum of Western Colorado today. He’s the author of “Juan Rivera’s Colorado, 1765,” the story of the earliest Spanish exploration into this part of Colorado. Although his talk today isn’t focused exclusively on Rivera, I expect he will discuss it. Here are links to articles about Rivera and Baker’s book.

Rivera1 4-11-16

Rivera 2 4-25-16

Tartar: An Incredible War Horse

Just read this amazing story about Tartar, a U.S. Army horse that served in the Army expedition against the Mormons in Utah, and later in the Civil War. He was repeatedly injured, given up for dead several times, including on the plains of Wyoming one freezing winter. But always, he found his way back to the Army and to Sgt. James Stewart.

Flint & horseThere aren’t any photos of Tartar that I could find. This is of another Civil War horse named Flint. But it shows how Tartar would have been outfitted, minus the flowing tail in his later career. Click on the link below to read the full story.

Tartar the War Horse

A book in the works

The History Press of Charleston, South Carolina, is going to publish a book based on my history columns for The Daily Sentinel. I signed a contract with the company this month.

The book will focus on columns dealing withCarnegie horses1 historic travel in the Colorado Plateau region, such as these horse-drawn wagons confronting a newfangled automobile near Vernal, Utah.

I’m very excited. Now I just have to complete the necessary rewrites and get all the photos and maps I need.

The anticipated release date for the book is February, 2018.

Finally, a plan for Dominguez-Escalante

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management gave final approval to the management plan for the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area Management Plan. It’s a dnlcs-2ocument that’s been in the works since the NCA was established by Congress in 2009. A citizens advisory group and many representatives of different user groups worked for years with the BLM to develop the plan. So, thanks to everyone involved.

This is a photo of my buddy, Alan, and me on our horses in Dominguez Canyon. The photo was used on the cover of a BLM brochure a few years ago.

And here’s a link to the Colorado Canyons Association website, which works with BLM on Dominguez-Escalante and two other NCAs in western Colorado. I’m a member of the CCA board.

CCA info on Dominguez-Escalante plan



Happy New Year

Hi everyone, and welcome to 2017. It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. I had foot surgery in October, and haven’t done enough to warrant writing about it. But, it’s the new year, I’m still on crutches for a few more weeks, so it’s time to move forward.

bearded-menJust to show I haven’t entirely been sitting on my butt, here’s my history column that was published in The Daily Sentinel today. This day, by the way, is the 240th anniversary of the end of the famous Dominguez-Escalante expedition. This drawing is a close-up from one of the maps of the expedition.


In addition to writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time — too much, in fact — watching college bowl games and NFL football. Glad to see the Packers won this weekend, as did the Badgers, although the rest of the Big 10 hasn’t been doing too well. And sad news about the Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak stepping down for health reasons. He’s good guy.

But as for my watching too much, I think if I see another Chick-fillet ad with those cows telling people to eat more chickn, I’m going to go butcher a few Holsteins, just for spite. I grew up around Holsteins. Even spent a couple summers on a farm helping to milk and feed them. But those ads are annoying as hell. Plus, I like beef much better than chicken.