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  • Back in the early 80's, I had the dubious honour of working out in Rapid City, SD for three months. I do not know why it was called Rapid City, because nothing seemed to happen there particularly rapidly, and the only thing I knew Rapid City for was it's appearance in the Hitchcock film, North by North West.

    First impressions were that there were few things to see around there. The highlights seemed to be The Badlands, Mount Rushmore, The Dinosaur Park. My transportation options were limited, but being there for a few months, I was able to make friends with some of the people I worked with or at the hotel where I was staying. Everyone were warm and friendly, and often were happy to take me out to see more of the local area, and show me how much more the town and state had to offer.

    I formed a particularly close friendship with a guy I worked with, Bruce, and his family, his wife Karen, and his two daughters, Tricia and Kristina. They were a beautiful family, warm, friendly, great fun to be with, and they welcomed me into their home, their lives and their hearts. I often went to 'Shop Parties' after work with Bruce, had BBQ's at their house, and Karen used to make me up packages of Nachos with her home made cheese dip.

    Weekends we would get together, go watch a college football match (I now know where 'Bleachers' get their name from), have more BBQ's, watch movies, or go out for day trips.

    One weekend, they said, why don't we go to Devils Tower? It was across in the next state, Wyoming, and I had never heard of it. But then Bruce asked me, 'Have you seen 'Close Encounters'?' which I had, and he said, 'Devils Tower is the big rock formation that Richard Dreyfus made out of shaving foam, then again out of mud'. Now I was starting to get excited. However, nothing prepared me for the spectacle that was Devils Tower.

    The journey to get there was a couple of hours drive, but we could see the tower way before we got close to it. It was a huge, no, massive, protuberance of rock pushing skyward out of the plains. It would take us a good 30 minutes from first seeing it to reaching it.

    I struggled to comprehend just how huge it was. Standing at its base, I couldn't grasp the scale of it, or judge how huge the grooves and ridges on the face of the tower were. There was no frame of reference, nothing within eyesight that I could compare it with. But then, I spotted a couple of climbers ascending the tower, nestled in one of the grooves. Now I could see just how big this really was.

    It took a couple of hours walking just to go around the base of the tower, and it was here I also encountered my first wild porcupine. It wasn't like other wildlife I had seen. It wasn't timid! It was about the size of a large dog and the spines seemed to be on the same scale as Devils Tower, they must have been a foot or more in length. It was like a pin cushion from a nightmare, one that walks, but with all the needles sticking outwards, and it had no fear of us. It had this 'Ya wanna mess with me, then give it ya best shot' attitude. I just gave it a W I D E berth, and left it to swagger off undisturbed.

    There are a number of theories and stories of how Devils Tower was formed. One theory was that it was a huge magma plug pushed up out of the earth by volcanic activity.

    My favourite story though is the one told by the Lakota Sioux Indians. Some young Sioux girls were playing, when they were chased by bears. They found a rock and climbed onto it for safety, and there, they prayed to the Gods to keep them safe. The Great Spirit heard them and made the rock rise out of the ground to safety away from the bears. The bears left deep claw marks in the sides of the rock in their efforts to reach the girls, but eventually, the tower rose so high, it reached the sky where the young girls became the Seven Sisters, what we know as the Pleiades cluster.

    I owe a lot to Bruce, Karen, Tricia and Krisitina, for their friendship, their love, their generosity, and for opening my eyes to the Native Indians, their beliefs and their beautiful stories.
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