Articles from April 2012

What if The Abusers Changed?

A question which can come up any time you deal with an abuser, is, what if they change?

What if, through the court’s forcing them to cooperate with Social Services, Richard and Tracy turn their lives around?

What if they get education, get skills, get steady jobs, and that stressor is removed?

What if they go through counseling which eliminates the child and spousal abuse?

What if Richard decides not to be narcissistic anymore?

What if Tracy gets a diagnosis and treatment for whatever is causing her behavior?

That is a good question.  I’m not sure what my answer would be.  But unless someone who knows them tells me of these changes, or unless they come to me and demonstrate these changes, I have no way of knowing if they’ve happened, or if they’re for real.

Narcissists/Abusers are often able to pretend to have changed so they can suck the abused back in again.  And Richard told me things like, he was violent in his past but turned away from that, and he abused the kids once or twice in the past but doesn’t do that anymore–only to demonstrate that to be a lie.

Not only did his violence in other ways begin to show itself here and there over time, in comments he would make about his feelings toward violence, but he nearly killed one of his children, a few years after he told me that he had turned away from past child abuse.

So would I even be able to trust him if he came to me and said that he’s turned away from violence and abuse?

If they did come to me and beg forgiveness for the things they did to me and for how Richard threatened and intimidated my husband, I would probably want to grant them that forgiveness.

But to trust them? to let them back into my life?  That would take long, hard thought before doing it, and even if I allowed it, it would take a long time to trust either one of them.

Richard would no longer be my “bestie” because that trust in my best friend had been sorely betrayed and broken.  Not only will he have been on probation with the state, but he would now be on probation with me.

And I even find their politics disgusting, now that the true nature of their political parties has come more to light, and I know Richard and Tracy to be rabidly partisan to the point where they insult the intelligence of people who disagree.

Would I really be able to let them back in again and hear them say things about politics that I find repugnant because of the way their parties treat the poor and elderly, and deny reality?

If they supposedly “change” but do not come to me asking forgiveness, then I will have no basis on which to put a belief in their changing at all.

If they “change” but continue to think I’m at fault for Tracy’s abuse and bullying of me–

–that I need to be the one to go to them–

–that Tracy can rage with filthy and belittling comments and accusations, yet I’m supposed to believe Richard when he says I did worse (just by being a quiet person and scared of her) and that Tracy is “not a monster”–

–then that will be incontrovertible proof that they have not changed at all–

–just pushed the abuse down deep where they can fool social workers and probation officers and friends that they have changed.

I know from the newspaper that Tracy has been inducted into an honor society at a local college, so that means she’s getting an education which would help her get stable, better-paying employment.

So if Richard and Tracy do get stable employment and start being nicer to their kids and each other, then hey, that’s cool for them.  Maybe those kids will finally have a chance at a better life.

But if they never demonstrate to me that any change has happened, then all I have to go on is how they treated me in the past, how they abused each other in the past, and I will have no proof that they have truly changed at all.

I tried making peace with them before, only to find that their version of “peace” was for me to allow them to continue bullying and abusing me, without letting me have a voice or opinion of my own.

I can’t go by some fantasy fairy land dream; all I can go by is what I know from my own experience.  And that means that all the world can tell me they’ve changed, but I cannot, should not, must not believe it without it being proved to me.

Otherwise, I’ll just set myself up for disappointment, and probably more abuse and bullying in future.  And the first step for them to prove it to me, is to come to my husband and me and apologize for the bullying and abuse of me, and threatening and intimidating of my husband.

Here’s a blog post on this subject, just posted today, called Learning about predators from nature: leopards do not change their spots.  Shrink4Men’s blog was timely, not just because I posted this blog before I saw that one, but because I’ve been doing it again–missing Richard and wondering if he and Tracy are not really so bad as all that.  I have to keep reminding myself of the truth, lest I forget.

My trouble is, I’m way too freaking gullible.  I knew about Richard’s past–violence, dog with women, fooling a whole congregation as a preacher by faking speaking in tongues–but I believed he had changed.

I believe the lies of predators far too easily, and sometimes the lies are some real howlers.

I have to stay strong and remember that I know what Richard and Tracy are really like, even if their friends think they’re awesome.

I have to remember how pleasant and peaceful it’s been without that nasty Tracy in my life.


Buy My Books! Buy My Books!

My books are available for purchase here and here and here.  E-book downloads are only $0.99.  You can see text previews at the Payhip link.  Descriptions:


A fairy tale for adults.  A mysterious girl named Tojet appears in a convent-run school one day.  Two teachers, Sister Elizabeth and oddly-named Merkit Terjit, take her under their care.

But is she a lost, imaginative orphan or a time traveler with fairy powers?  How does she know who Merkit is and how he was named?

Tragedy drives her away, but she returns as a young, beautiful woman, far more mature than she should be.  She shows Merkit a world of obsession and dark fairies.

He can’t help falling in love with her, but what about the monastic vows he’s about to take?  Can he fight the temptations that surround him?

—Preview available here.  So far, this book has been given the highest rating by four readers.  Also see professional reviews here and here[Update: Last link was to Wayback Machine, but doesn’t work anymore for some reason.]


The Lighthouse:

Enter the world of the Lighthouse, a club for supernatural beings and social misfits.  In this Gothic story collection you will find castles, ghosts, vampires, romance and terror:


Bedlam Castle–An American college girl loses herself in the hallways of a 900-year-old castle.  Eccentric characters invite her to dinner.  One is a genie, one is an undine, and most of the others are ghosts.  One man intrigues her the most–but is he a mortal man or a supernatural creature like the rest?


Jarkin–Becky Stevens falls in love against her will with Archibald Jarkin, an eccentric, austere and charismatic preacher.  Their passionate marriage is tested when Jarkin’s TV ministry turns into a witch hunt.  When Becky discovers the Lighthouse, their life together takes a startling new path.


Alexander Boa: Or, I was a co-ed vampire slave–When a young woman’s college is taken over by a vampire, she becomes his secret mistress.  Will she be torn apart when her friends decide to kill him?


Candida–A young man is stricken with a girl who falls under a vampire’s spell.  Soon married and pregnant with the vampire’s baby, she has no idea what danger she’ll be in if the baby is a boy.


The frame story–This story combines characters and settings from the other four stories.  Jenny, a social misfit, is introduced to the Lighthouse, supernatural creatures, and a deceptive man.  When he leaves her and then accuses her of stalking him, she can only vindicate herself by facing the horrors of a haunted cave.  Will she survive?  Will she fall in love again?

–Preview available here.

My College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke

Copyright 2006


“Roanoke” is a pseudonym to protect identities.

My memoirs are a mix of good times, along with stories of verbally/emotionally/sexually abusive boyfriends, and probably some undiagnosed form of NVLD/Asperger’s.  How dark times finally gave way to coming out into the light. 

They reflect 4 years of apparently dealing with a little-known learning disorder, without the benefit of knowing I had it.  It has caused difficulties.  But it also gave me certain abilities which helped with my writing and later jobs.  

These memoirs are meant to entertain, to help young women avoid making the relationship mistakes I made, and to show how I finally came through my relationship struggles triumphant.  

Also note that while I still struggle with many things because of NVLD, I graduated college and have made a decent life for myself–the roots of which are in my college story.


Link to my page on NVLD and a bit of my life story dealing with it
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Below: Links to all of the chapters of this web-book.


Freshman Year 

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:


December 1991: Ride the Greyhound


January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD


February 1992:


March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?


April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign


May 1992:


Sophomore Year 


Summer 1992:


September 1992:


October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:


November 1992


December 1992


January 1993


February 1993


March 1993


April 1993


May 1993



Junior Year 


Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams


September 1993


October 1993


November 1993


December 1993


January 1994


February 1994


March 1994


April 1994



Senior Year 


June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There


July & August 1994






January 1995


February 1995


March 1995



April 1995


May 1995

(Disclaimer: These memoirs are from my point of view.  The points of view of other people may differ.  Whether or not mine is correct is subjective.  It’s also probably safe to assume that most, if not all, of the people in these memoirs who did something that hurt me would act differently in the same situation today.  

I keep the details of bad things here not to hold onto hurts, but to make the story complete, and to help others who may be going through a similar situation and don’t know what to do.  These memoirs are also for the amusement of my friends, some of whom have lived through these events.)

History of these memoirs: I began writing detailed diaries and letters to friends in 1991.  At first, these “diaries” were mostly notes written into my day planner to record special moments with my boyfriend, Peter, such as details of the Link (explained in my memoirs) and things he told me.

In 1992, I was given a diary for Christmas, and began filling it with accounts of my troubles, since I was going through a breakup.  Soon, I filled that up and began using notebooks, filling several notebooks and diaries by the time I graduated in 1995.  These diaries were like any diary: a mix of good and bad experiences.

In 1992 or 1993, I typed my freshman year day planner into my word processor to preserve it, in case of fire.  I included more details that came to mind.

In early 1994, I began making notes for novels based on my own experiences, because I felt that nobody was capturing the kind of college experiences I and my friends were having.  The closest thing to that was the TV series Class of ’96, which was criticized as being unrealistic, and soon canceled.  Yet that show came closer to my reality than any other show or movie I had yet seen.

In late 1994 or early 1995, I began putting my experiences into a semi-fictionalized form for future publication, but the events of senior year put them on the backburner.

As I began my first job as an insurance clerk, I also began working again on my memoirs, putting them into fictional form as a series of dialogues between the protagonist and a wise, older friend.

Yes, this was much like Felicity’s tapes sent to a dear friend, in the first season of Felicity–only this was 1995 and 1996, a few years before anybody ever heard of Felicity Porter.  So I had the idea first.  Nyah.

I could change events as I wished, having my protagonist do what I wished I had done.  But first, I would write down the truth, to be fictionalized later.  In the meantime, I still wrote entries from the point of view of my protagonist’s friend, which basically were my own, wiser view a few years after the events.

Because of my job, I couldn’t go very fast on the memoirs, doing most of my writing–of the memoirs and of fictional works–on weekends and vacations.  In 1998, I was downsized and became a housewife; during that time, I made lots of progress.

However, I also read an article about libel, and feared I couldn’t publish my fictionalized version without being subject to libel suits.  I kept writing the true accounts for my own use, but no longer intended to fictionalize them in a novel.  Instead, they would be my journal of college.

In 2001, I neared completion of the accounts of freshman year (I had started working backwards because Phil’s abuses were fresh in my mind and needed to be dealt with immediately).

Friends from college kept saying, “I want to read your memoirs!”  But how was that possible, when they filled two fireproof vaults, and much of them were actually letters and personal diaries?

It was for my own use, so it was not made into an easily accessible form for anyone else to read without going to my house.  It was also full of private details.

So I decided to clip and paste bits of my journals, sometimes including copies of diary entries and letters, into e-mails sent to all those who wanted to read my memoirs.  This e-mailing began right before 9/11, and was kept up twice a week for quite some time.

In the years following, I kept the e-mails, and sent them to anyone new who wanted to see them.  But this was impractical because there were so many e-mails to send at one time.

In April 2006, I discovered Myspace.  On my Myspace blog, I started posting various things I had written before, such as travelogues.  I also posted them on this website in case Myspace crashed.

Then I began posting my memoirs–risky, because strangers could read them (including the Avenger, who happened across her story in maybe 2007).  I expanded and edited them as I went.

I put a copy of each blog on my website, calling them the Archives.  Which means even more people could read them.  It’s risky, but if I didn’t want anyone to read them, why did I spend so much of my life writing them?

At last, the story is out.  And yes, this is the true version, not at all fictional.  Eventually, I hope to also include memoirs of my childhood and possibly adulthood.

South Dakota Trip, 2001–Chased by Storm-Chasers

I wrote this as an e-mail to friends and family on May 21, 2001:

Cast of characters: Nyssa, Cugan, Cugan’s brother M–, Cugan’s parents

We headed out from Wisconsin and made it to the hills of Mississippi.  We stopped in Burr Oak, Iowa at a tiny house which Laura Ingalls’ family once ran as a hotel.  They’d fit 3 people to a bed there, and the beds were no bigger than a double or full-sized bed.  And no, I’ve read that people actually were not shorter or smaller back then.

That night, Cugan and I watched cartoons (Superman, Popeye, Looney Toons) to a Led Zeppelin CD in his new Discman.  Apparently Zeppelin and old cartoons go to the same beat, because they were remarkably in sync.  Then when the cartoons ended, the last one said, “That’s all, folks”–and the CD ended.

Driving from the edge of South Dakota to Rapid City demonstrates the meaning of “miles and miles of miles and miles,” our favorite phrase during the trip.  And in much of that state and part of Wyoming, I often had a hard time finding more than one or two stations on my Walkman.

The prairies do have small, rolling hills, but that, cows, pigs, a herd of sheep, and farms are practically all there is.  Once we stopped at a scenic overlook, and it was, if I remember correctly, about 100 degrees according to the van thermometer!  The prairie is like a desert: hot in day, cold at night.  The cows would often gather around billboards, probably for shade.

Come noon, we wanted lunch but had a hard time finding it.  The towns are so small and far between, and some exits were blocked off by construction, so we finally had to stop after 1:00 in a tiny town called Murdo.

First we stopped at a Virginia’s Junction Restaurant, but not only was it a truck stop, but it was full and had a wait because of a Mother’s Day buffet (and because it was the only place around).  We figured we wouldn’t get back out for a long time, so we left.

In Murdo we found a little restaurant, Star, rated AAA, which was clean/good/only half-full.  They had delicious milkshakes (which everybody else changed their order to after I ordered one) and buffalo burgers, my first one ever.  It had a mild taste, slightly different from beef but not by much.  It was kind of curled up at the edges, and very thin, though 1/4 pound.

Now for tons more prairie, but at least we were full and Rapid City wasn’t much farther.  A sign outside Murdo boasted of 8 restaurants, but ours appeared to be the best.  Before we found Star, Cugan’s dad said some of the restaurants we passed looked “a little rough,” and one of them had a sign saying, “Welcome Bikers”!

We stopped at the Corn Palace, after much arguing between mostly the parents and M– about which way to go around some construction to get to it.  It was decorated outside with corn, as it or a similar building has been yearly for the past 100+ years, but there wasn’t much else to it.

It didn’t even have a lightswitch in the women’s bathroom.  Many looked, but no one found.  Some settled on going in the dark while someone held the door open, but I wasn’t that brave, deciding to wait for a gas station.

By the way, gas stations are far cleaner and better now than they were back when I traveled with my parents as a kid.  In those days, you always had to check for soap/toilet paper/towels/water, at least one of which was usually out.  Some were even filthy.  They seemed little better than a hole in the ground.

I don’t know if somebody cracked down with regulations or what, but these days, a gas station bathroom is generally as good as one you might find in a restaurant.  By the way, the Star Restaurant bathroom was small and old and had a sign saying “Flush twice,” but it was clean and well-furnished.

On our way to the Badlands, we stopped at an Amoco station/trading post that called itself the last chance for gas before the Badlands (a stretch of land that, according to the French, are “bad lands to cross; rocky outcroppings, starkly beautiful, and desert-like, sometimes used as a hideout by criminals”).  It had a sign out front that said, “Got gas?”  These words were surrounded by buzzards, snakes, a bison, and probably a few other such lovely creatures.

Once in the Badlands National Park, Cugan’s dad offered me his hat because the heat was baking my brains, despite my putting sunscreen even on my part.  It was 100 degrees!  Except for the occasional shade of juniper bushes, it was so hot (dry heat) that we had to walk slowly and guzzle water from the water bottles Cugan’s mom had so prudently supplied.

Though I didn’t think we’d get to the top, Cugan and I made it all the way around and up one step-filled trail.  We see why many people may have died of exhaustion out here on the wagon trains.

To my dismay, the fossil trail was closed that day, and we also didn’t have a chance to see the Petrified Forest.  At least we saw the Everything Prehistoric museum, which is so small it fits into one of those shops like you find along a main street, yet is world-renowned.

Later in the day, we went to this tourist mall called Wall Drug, born of a drugstore that attracted customers by offering free ice water.  I got a straw hat there so I wouldn’t have to keep borrowing hats to keep my brains from baking.  I need my brains.

We also saw two six-foot rabbits (not Harvey from the Jimmy Stewart movie), a jackaloupe, and other “animals” on display.  One was a bison, and those things could probably feed a whole Indian village: they’re huge.  The T-rex display, a life-sized T-rex which roared every 12 minutes, seemed corny but was surprisingly scary.

I also got a trilobite fossil, curled up in death, and a little display case for it.  They sell fossils and rocks and gemstones all over the place in South Dakota and Wyoming.

Then we watched the sun begin to set in the Badlands.  The fauna (not much flora) included red-headed ants, deer, and circling turkey buzzards.  (They circled us for a minute, but ha ha, we were young and strong and not about to drop.)

A group of storm-chasers, mostly young (they and their trucks looked like the ones in Twister), were also at the park either this time or the first time we were there.  Cugan’s dad asked M– if they were friends of his.

At the time, I just thought they were a group of ham operators like M–, and that that was the reason for the antennas on their trucks.  M– was keeping an eye on a group of clouds off in the distance.  They just looked like clouds to me, but he saw a storm.

We later found out that the storm chasers were also watching it, but were on the wrong side of it and missed it.  It even had baseball-sized hail.

The chasers got to the AmericInn hotel in Rapid City just after we did (a nice, spacious place with a guest laundry).  Cugan’s dad said to one of them, “We just saw you in the Badlands, didn’t we?”

The next morning, Monday, we had to go to Perkins because I guess they filled the breakfast room.  We joked about M– (who thinks he should’ve been a meteorologist) running off and joining the storm chasers.  He heard them use the word “ominous” and said to them, “Is there something I should be concerned about?”

Off to Deadwood we went.  It doesn’t have a whole lot besides bars and casinos, and that seemed to be where the tour trolley (more a bus than an old-fashioned trolley) took people.  It did have some interesting bits, though.

We parked at the visitor center, where each spot had a number and you bought a ticket for that spot.  Not everyone could get up the steep hill leading to the cemetery (Cugan called me a billy goat), so M– went back and got our van to drive us all up.  We also gave a ride to an elderly couple we’d met.

This cemetery is where Wild Bill Hilcock, a beloved preacher killed by Indians, Calamity Jane, a prostitute or madam “with a heart of gold,” a guy with Cugan’s dad’s name, and other interesting people were buried.  Some guys in hard hats were digging and doing things with machines; considering this was far too full and old a cemetery for new residents, I didn’t want to see where they were digging or why.

There was even a small piece of land available for sale at the edge of the hill, right next to a child’s grave.  We wondered why in the world anyone would want to sell or buy that land.  Cugan’s dad said a house built there would be haunted.  Somebody wondered if it was actually a plot for sale.  It didn’t even look like a house would fit there.  Some graves, usually children’s, were on the very edges of the hill.

When we got back to the visitors’ center, there were the storm chasers again–and one of them had taken our parking spot!  We went to Diamond Lil’s Bar and Grill and casino (owned by Kevin Costner) for lunch, and there they soon followed.

On the way out, we saw one at the bar and a group sitting at a table in the casino downstairs.  At least one saw us, too.  (Cugan’s mom said the young woman looked just like me.  I hear that a lot.)  Then after M– and his mom played a few minutes in the casino, we went back to the visitor center parking lot, and there they were, grouped outside the building.

“There they are again,” said Cugan’s dad in his West Virginia accent, and we waved and they smiled and waved back.  We joked in the van that if they followed us to Devil’s Tower now, we’d have to introduce ourselves and say, “We’re the disturbance you’ve been following,” or “Hi, we’re the harbingers of the Apocalypse” (that’s Cugan’s).  We also joked that being followed by storm chasers made us nervous–were they just touring, or was there a bad storm we were heading straight for?

By the way, the Black Hills do look black, covered as they are with pine trees.

A whole stretch of the road to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming had no road!  A flagwoman would stop us and we’d wait, then a truck with the sign on the back, “Pilot car/Follow me,” would lead us through past the road work.  There was so much road work in Wyoming and South Dakota that we couldn’t believe it.

Wyoming is also sparsely populated; one town, Alva, had only 50 people, and M– said the houses looked like they belonged to squatters–small, rundown.

Occasionally, here and in South Dakota, I’d even see outhouses in the hills.  One appeared to belong to an old, abandoned house (lots of those, too), but some seemed to belong to inhabited houses.  I don’t know if the outhouses are still in use or not.

Devil’s Tower, a lava plug over 800 feet high, is impressive.  Tons (literally) of rocks surround the base, and trails go around it.  I believe Cugan and I took part of the Tower Base Trail.  I often had to wait for Cugan, especially going downhill: I’d run with the momentum, while he’d go more slowly because of his bad knees.  He said I was like a fairy who’d run on ahead and then stop and wait for this lumbering monster following her.  We saw falcons or buzzards circle the hill and go to the crags up near the top.

After this, we went to the nearby prairie dog town, which covered a clearing on both sides of the road.  They’d frolic and look for food, and one liked to pose for M– when he clicked at it.  They clicked and barked, and squeaked like squeak toys.  If any of you have seen Blackadder III, they sounded like the squirrels that highwaywoman shot.

Two were even fighting.  Two kept sneaking up to each other, sniffing butts, and then running away again.  One appeared to bite or somehow touch the other one’s butt, and then got chased away.  Cugan bought a prairie dog doll, which became our mascot for the rest of the trip.

We did not see the storm chasers again, which was disappointing.

On Tuesday, we saw Mount Rushmore.  Many, if not most, of the rocks around the base seem to have come from the sculpting scraps; many have notches which were made while getting the rock ready for blasting.  The rocks around the trails have slate, red mudrock, granite, even mica.  There was even a tree which grew twisted.

I got a bottle of 24K gold flakes in a solution in the giftshop.  We then went to a nearby collection of stores and such, and ate in a “Ruby House Family Restaurant.”  It was decked all in red and had pictures all over the walls, one a nude from probably the 19th century.  It appears to have once been a brothel.  All the themed restaurants in South Dakota seemed to have displays of antiques, Old West clothes and other mementoes.

The hills contain gold mines–I saw doors to a mine which may have been abandoned–and shine in spots that are brown and exposed.  It could have been mica, though I wondered if it were gold, too.

After lunch, we went to the Black Hills Caverns.  Though it didn’t seem like much after Mammoth Cave (which I saw back in 1988), it was still interesting–and strenuous.  There were some pretty formations and crystals; some crystals looked like snow, and one, a River something-or-other flow, looked like caramel.

Our tour guide was a retired man who must have been in good shape, but did have to sit for a few minutes after each tour.  A little girl liked to boast that she didn’t have to worry about “headbangers,” or parts of cave walls that could bang your head, and voiced her opinions loudly.  She was cute.  At one point, she started crying “headbanger” as a kind of siren warning.

Once, Cugan’s mom got hit in the head with one of the “headbangers,” and joked to Cugan’s dad that he should’ve warned her.  Then she said something about her watching for these things, and he cried, “Oh, no, here comes the explanation.”  Then he jokingly spread out his arms and told the whole group (about 11 1/2 people, the 1/2 being the girl) that he was to blame.  On the way out, the tour guide counted the girl as 1/2, when he made sure everybody who went in, came out.

The TV feeds on cable in Rapid City on Mountain Time were all screwy.  Some stations run an hour before they even do in Eastern, some run at the same time they would if it were Central, some run half an hour to an hour and a half late, and some, like WB, run a full two hours later than they would on Central Time!

On Wednesday, we traveled the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park.  You have to drive because the animals can get dangerous if approached.  At first, we thought we’d see nothing, and joked about asking for our money back.  Cugan wanted to see a mountain lion, and kept saying, “Here, kitty, kitty.”

Then we saw pronghorn antelopes, a lone bison who was obviously male, several herds of bison, a herd of burros right next to one of the bison herds, prairie dogs, a bunny, and a woodchuck (who was crossing the road).  The bison/buffalo/whatever were mostly grazing, but several wallowed in the dirt.  A few, I was told, tried some X-rated action, but I didn’t see that.

At the prairie dog town, as we pulled over, one dog sprang up so far he almost could’ve fallen backwards, and barked a greeting at us.  A couple ran up close to the van, but still a few yards away.  Once, one let out a warning chirp and they dived: a hawk was overhead.  The sentinels then sat up a few minutes later and each faced a different direction, watching out for that hawk, which had flown back over the pine trees.

There was road work on the intersection with the highway near the end of the loop, and some buffalo were close by there, too.  A couple of people were outside; one or two were in trucks; I’m not sure if the workers halted work while the buffalo were there.

We then drove up to Coolidge Peak.  M– had to drive because his dad just couldn’t: those are some steep and narrow roads.  Coolidge Peak is a lookout point at the top of the Black Hills.  We were so high up that we could see the earth curve all around us.  Though the view up was gorgeous, everyone was so nervous that I kept my eyes on my journal on the way down.

We went to the Crazy Horse Memorial, a carving in a mountain, which is supposed to be bigger even than the one on Mount Rushmore, once the original sculptor’s descendants finish it a few centuries from now.  In the ’50s, an Indian chief asked him to carve it, to show that Indians have heroes, too.

Crazy Horse is to be shown on the back of a horse, pointing out toward the lands where his people’s dead were buried, illustrating his act of defiance when his lands were taken and somebody asked him derisively where his lands were.  “My lands are where my dead lie buried,” he said.

Casinos are everywhere in South Dakota, even in gas stations.  One was in a station which also included a Burger King.  I also saw some major fast food chains sharing buildings.

We stopped in DeSmet, another spot with an Ingalls house/Laura Ingalls museum.  It had bathrooms outside–marked Ma and Pa–and one house was the comfortable home where the Ingalls family retired soon after Laura married.

Another house was the little surveyor’s house where the family stayed for a winter when Laura was little.  To her, it was a mansion full of as much food as you’d find in a grocery store, provided by Pa’s employer.

Out back of the retirement house was a replica of the tiny, one-room schoolhouse where Laura had once taught.  It was no bigger than maybe a big bedroom or a living room.

M– got after Cugan once for playing with his straw, saying it was childish or something, but Cugan felt better when I told him my dad plays with his straws, too.  This is sort of related to this schoolhouse, because it had a display of pictures from Laura’s books, one of which showed Laura pulling a knife impaling a girl’s pigtail out of a desk.  The culprit, a boy, laughed.

Cugan didn’t understand what was going on, and I explained that boys liked to play with girls’ pigtails in those days.  My dad had often joked about boys dipping girls’ pigtails in inkwells.

We took a circular route back home over the next few days.  We drove through Walnut Grove, Minnesota, population I think about 700, but weren’t able to stop at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.  Part of our route was even on the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial highway, number 14.  We kept laughing because memorials to Laura were all over these states, and it was like seeing “George Washington slept here” signs all over the place.

We drove through Minneapolis, and I discovered that B96 of Chicago came in all the way up there, though nowhere else in between.  They have a great selection of stations there.

Up we went to the upper part of Wisconsin, where the Big Woods of Wisconsin still exist.  Cugan and I had a hotel room near Ashland that looked out over the bay of Lake Superior, and land stuck out on either side.

At night we could see city lights on the right side, and there were about three lighthouses shining.  Two lights, red and blue, belonged to a ship.  The shoreline glowed white in the faint city light.

In the morning, a goose family with both parents and five goslings swam along the shore, looking for food and occasionally coming on shore.  The goslings would lean over so far to grab for food under the water, sticking their butts up in the air, that they would almost fall all the way over.

We saw the waterfalls in that area.  The first was a bust, a tiny thing at the end of a mosquito-infested trail, reached after driving forever on a dirt road with no directional signs.  At least we saw a wildcat’s footprint.

The second was much better, Copper Falls and Blackstone Falls on Bad River (which looks like foaming root beer, as our breakfast waitress had remarked).  It had a bigger park with better-managed trails and fewer mosquitoes.

After hiking around the falls, Cugan and I had to wait for the others, so we swung on some swings for a while.  Cugan taught a pre-teen girl how to make a Zen garden in the sand, then showed his dad the same thing by drawing lines on the back of the now-filthy van.

The third stop was either Peterson, Patterson or Patteson Falls (there was some confusion about which name it was).  A short, dirt road led to it, and it seemed that it might be better than the first–until we stepped out of the van and into tent caterpillar webs on the trail.

They infested the place, so M– and his dad refused to go any further.  The caterpillars even covered the ground.  Some got into the van, and we kept finding them in there.  Some got on the van.  Some got smashed into the van as it drove around.  You could say we fled.

(I have always wondered if this was related to the tent caterpillar infestation in Fond du Lac that summer.)

Then we got home, and the story ends.