October 24, 2017

.......Time's a-wastin'!

When my wife and I retired some years ago, I turned much of my attention to my interest in photography and history.  I then landed upon the notion of merging those activities into creating and maintaining a variety of websites for nonprofit organizations.  And a few websites for my own, sometimes peculiar, interests!

Other abiding hobbies – particularly genealogy – have taken a back seat.  As I gaze into the mirror and see this aging guy staring back at me, I've come to realize that it's time to move along and focus on family history.  Father time will not wait.

While immersing myself in websites has been fun – it was destined to make me lose ground on something that now seems more important:  sharing with our families a bit of what my wife and I have learned and what we remember about our parents, their parents, and the generations that came before.

Of course, the irony to all of this is.........family history is never done.  It'll never be "finished"!   But I now feel an urgency to pull together all of my past research and assemble it in a way that our children, grandchildren – and even our great-grandsons, the newest generation of our family – can learn about the ancestors they never knew.

So......all of this to say that this website is "Going Fishing"......at least for a time.  There'll be little new material from this date forward.  However, existing stories and images will remain – so long as the good folks at Google may allow.  The site is indexed, so if you're looking for something specific, you might start there.  Linked photo galleries will also remain intact.

It's been fun.  Thank You to the many folks who've contributed stories and photos....and those of you who have stopped by the site for a visit!

Larry Miller

September 2, 2017

Deadwood dying? We don't think so.

by Larry Miller

Historic Deadwood is losing actor Kevin Costner's Midnight Star Casino and Restaurant after a run of nearly 26 years.  While the news hit local print and broadcast media in the Black Hills, we found an online casino review site with a rather fascinating take on the closing.

Downtown Deadwood at dusk. 
(SD Dept. of Tourism)
Writer Kevin Horridge of Casino.org wrote that gaming revenues in Deadwood are down 3.5 percent this year and observed that – under the subheading Deadwood Dying – "No longer does the South Dakota history-rich town have the enticement of casinos to bring tourists to the remote hills."   Even if true, we doubt that spells the demise of Deadwood.

We're not big on gaming, but we're pleased at what it has done in bolstering the Deadwood economy since 1989 – and the significant residual benefits for historic preservation.

We wonder about plans to build a $40-50 million dollar casino and "entertainment destination" along the Missouri River at Yankton.  That idea was run up the flagpole earlier this year.

Of course, the real trick for folks promoting the Yankton initiative will be to get the South Dakota constitution amended.  They'll need the kind of latitude with gaming that thus far has been granted only to Deadwood.

Here are a couple of related links:

     Deadwood Struggles from Casino.org
     Yankton floats Casino Idea from Casino.org

Stay tuned!

August 7, 2017

The Lessons of Tiananmen Square

Few Miller family members have the frequent flier miles and visa endorsements that cousin Bruce Miller has tallied over the years.  And – as of August 2017 – he and his wife, HuSheng, are still at it.

A few months back Bruce penned the following e-mail to us, and I thought it might resonate with more than a few family members who occasionally visit this website.  Bruce wrote the piece after he had seen a video of a former Chinese student activist stressing the importance the Second Amendment to our U. S. Constitution.  That activist – like Bruce – was in Beijing's Tiananmen Square more than 28 years ago.  And Bruce refreshes our memories (and acquaints others) with that memorable night more than 28 years ago – and its importance to all of us.


Dear Folks,

 ...Should memory not serve you, the bloodletting in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on the nights of June 3rd and 4th, 1989 was precipitated when a malevolent and evil totalitarian one-party government murdered hundreds - perhaps thousands - of its own innocent citizens who were petitioning for nothing more than the right to assemble, speak openly, and campaign for the establishment of basic freedoms and equalities that we Americans have long taken for granted.  That malevolent one-party state still ruthlessly rules the destiny of the Chinese people today.

I was in Shanghai, China that Sunday morning of June 4th, 1989, on a university campus where I had been teaching English for nearly two years.  How vividly I recall speaking with several of my students on the central plaza of the university that morning as the sun rose and awareness of the massacre on Tiananmen Square was taking hold. One middle aged professor who had been my English student, with tears streaming down his face, told me, "Mr. Miller, what can we do? The government's police and army have all the weapons, what can we do?!"

And that, in summary folks, is the strongest argument that I can propose to resist until our last breath the efforts of those in positions of power and authority in our statehouses, our federal government, our colleges and universities, and sadly, even many of our churches and religious institutions, to take away our right to freely keep and bear arms! 

We have a national administration and President in place today that strongly acknowledges our 2nd amendment rights enshrined in the Constitution, but the time may well come, and likely will, when "liberal", leftist politicians will again gain ascendency and undertake once more their efforts to disarm our citizenry. 

Look around, folks, even in our "democratic" world citizens have been effectively disarmed and accepted the lie of big government that "we'll protect  you - society is better and safer if only we have arms!" - (it's a given that the first thing totalitarian governments always take away is the right to bear arms).

In summary, remember, freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction!



January 12, 2017

Why a Spearfish Canyon State Park?

by Larry Miller

We've seen lots of state-generated information about how great it will be to have a new South Dakota state park in Spearfish Canyon – but we're still unconvinced.

As an "immigrant" to the Black Hills some 12 years ago, we chose the area largely because of the beauty of the region -- especially Spearfish Canyon.  We've biked it, hiked it, and have grown to love it.

Back in 2015, we heard from a reasonably reliable source that the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department had acquired – or planned to acquire – the old Homestake Hydroelectric Plant #2 just a few miles up the canyon from Spearfish.  Hmmmmm.  Curious that.

So early last year, when Governor Daugaard announced state plans for a new Spearfish Canyon State Park, it all began to crystalize, despite the fact that the specific real estate involved was not clearly identified.  Spearfish Canyon covers a lot of geography.

Then we heard that the U.S. Forest Service wasn't excited about the Governor's plans, at least the part that seemingly leaves the feds with the short end of the real estate stick.  Now, perhaps that was simply a financial qualm, but it did demonstrate that not everyone was excited about aspects of the envisioned park.

For the average northern hills citizen, the proposed park conjures up visions of Custer State Park.  So some folks have worried about an "entrance fee" being charged.   For months, there was no indication of such a fee, but in recent weeks, GFP has clarified that they weren't talking about "Spearfish Canyon" but "Little Spearfish Canyon."  And that there would be no fees charged for traversing Highway 14A, a "National Scenic Byway."  T'would have been good if that had been explained up front.

A point of disclosure here.  Shortly after moving to Spearfish in 2005, we heard about GFP plans for upgrading access and facilities at Roughlock Falls.  When public discussions were conducted at  Hudson Hall, we attended and were pleased with the openness and healthy exchanges between GFP representatives and members of the public.  When the project was finally completed, we had been won over by GFP.  They did a very good job of shepherding the project through the shoal waters of public opinion – and an even better job of expanding and updating the facilities at Roughlock Falls.

Alas, circumstances surrounding a Spearfish Canyon State Park are different.  Different in scale.  Different in scope.  Different in potential public impact.  And much different in the way it was rolled out.

Perhaps we missed it, but we never saw a specific website for the Roughlock Falls project, as has been done belatedly for a Spearfish Canyon State Park.  And in recent weeks, likely in response to public opposition and confusion, there've been increased numbers of GFP-sponsored public forums on the issue. 

It's been unclear to us exactly HOW MUCH the Game, Fish & Parks folks plan to spend on this project.  Significant resources already have been expended in just launching it, so how much -- in the end – will taxpayers and users of the facilities have to come up with?

What's the prospect that if GFP takes over custodianship of the Little Spearfish Canyon real estate,  followed by user fees and an increase in state taxes to pay for it, that we'll see a reduction in federal taxes commensurate with the maintenance/service fees incurred by the U.S. Forest Service?  None, I would proffer.

And what about Hydro Plant #2?  Is it at the other end of the patchwork quilt of a larger "Spearfish Canyon State Park," originally envisioned – and perhaps still envisioned – by the folks in Pierre?

An update (1/26/17):  In an e-mail to us, GF&P representative Nancy Surprenant has underscored that "there are no plans to expand the proposed Spearfish Canyon State Park boundaries beyond what is currently being proposed."  That provides a bit of consolation – but of course plans change over time, and a comment attributed to an architect hired by GF&P causes us to wonder.

Jolene Rieck with Peaks to Plains Design – who helped facilitate a public meeting (1/26/17) on the GF&P proposal – commented, "This is not something that gets finalized on by the end of March.  This could take years." This could be a signal that some in the Daugaard administration are prepared to do battle over a proposal that has had a less than lukewarm reception in the legislature – and considerable opposition from the general public.

Stay tuned.

March 5, 2015

A matter of priorities

There was a time when college football coaches considered themselves educators who also coached an athletic team.  Admittedly, most of them probably preferred to be called "Coach," acknowledging their role with the team, but most had prepared themselves to be teachers/coaches.

A Mississippi friend shared this map with us, and we found it to be quite interesting.  Not surprising, however, since most people these days realize that college sports is big business.  It's football coaches who are overwhelmingly the highest paid public employees in states across the country.  There are   only a few exceptions.

And it's not just in the biggest and most famous institutions of higher education.  It might be that small college across town, wherever you live.

Essentially, the data shared by Reuben Fischer-Baum and reflected in the above map identifies the jobs held by the highest paid public employees in each state. There's no date on the map, but it appears to be a couple of years old -- probably from about 201213.  You can click on the map to see a larger version.

Rather than my trying to make a case for re-prioritizing the role of college athletics within higher education, let me suggest you visit the website whence this map came.  It's called Deadspin.

See you at the game.

January 15, 2015

Fox to launch TV history series

We read a short AP news story in the Black Hills Pioneer today that caught our attention.

Fox News Channel has announced it's unveiling a new 10-episode television series entitled "Legends & Lies: Into the West," whose executive producer will be Bill O'Reilly, the high profile and often controversial host of his own series, "The Factor."  The new series is scheduled to debut on Sunday, April 12.

The Associated Press observes that cable networks like CNN and Fox "...have been moving aggressively into the non-fiction realm because they're not dependent on news events to succeed and can be repeated frequently."

O'Reilly has teamed up with Martin Dugard to author a series of best-selling books, including "Killing Jesus,"  "Killing Lincoln," "Killing Kennedy," and others.

Not everyone is enamored with the historical accuracy of O'Reilly's books, but few can dispute their enormous popularity with the public.

We found interesting contrasts in how this new series was unveiled by a few media outlets:

October 5, 2013

Fox & MSNBC: Latecomers to the Blame Game

As one who grew up near the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I’ve been in proximity of both the racism and victimization that seems to remain festering in the hearts of some Native Americans and Anglos even into the 21st Century.

Since these are hot button issues that can consume those who elect to enter in to dialogues about them, I’ve declined to offer any observations or opinions about them on Black Hills Monitor.

However, after just posting a story and photograph on another website about Joe American Horse, a superb athlete from yesteryear, something interesting happened.

Mount Rushmore - 1929
A Google “Alert” notification arrived in my Inbox for another “Black Hills history” story.   

It was a story about Mount Rushmore posted on a site named Indian Country Today Media Network.  I don’t recall having visited this website before.  However, rummaging through its many topics and pages was fascinating – if a bit disappointing – so I’ve decided to offer those long-delayed “observations” …..and an opinion or two.  Nonetheless, Indian Country Today is worth visiting.  There's lots of good stuff there.  But...

I’m a white guy.  My interest in things relating to American Indians, however, is more than just passing.  I’ve dabbled in genealogy for decades and remember vividly some of the stories my mother used to tell about her childhood – and her Indian playmates.  My great-grandfather’s homestead was “in the gumbo” about 14 miles northeast of Chadron, Nebraska, adjacent to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

If it hadn’t been for the Indian kids, I often wouldn’t have had anyone to play with,” I recall her telling me over the years.  And my grandfather did business with tribal members.

As a kid growing up in Chadron, I don’t think I ever stopped to consider the plight of the Indians.  Usually, their circumstances were perceived through a local prism of strong cultural snobbery.  You might call it racism.  Like Gordon and Rushville, towns not far from Pine Ridge, Chadron was a favorite trade center for reservation residents.

That also meant it was a favorite watering hole not just for area farmers and ranchers – but Indians from Pine Ridge, too.  And while I’m not a scientist or sociologist, I do believe that there was/is a propensity for alcoholism among our neighbors from Pine Ridge. Coupled with a mutual lack of understanding about cultural differences and a widespread abuse of the U.S. government’s food commodity program, it seems that almost everything I learned about relationships between our races was tinged with abuse, indifference, and illegalities.

There were many exceptions, of course.  One American Indian classmate was an exceptional artist.  He later served in the Army and then worked with computers for many years.  I had looked forward to seeing him at our 50th high school class reunion a few years ago, but he didn’t make it.  I later saw his obituary.  Another Indian friend was a fine athlete and is a good friend.  He went on to graduate from the University of Nebraska and years later would return to the Pine Ridge area and work to improve the health of reservation residents.   

Having lived eight years in Mississippi later in life, I learned much about southern racism – although I think Mississippi often gets a bum wrap, when one considers rampant racism that has afflicted Detroit, Los Angeles and other areas of the country.  Author Shelby Foote put it well when he once talked about confronting racism in Mississippi:  “We aren’t where we want to be……we’re not where we should be…..but we sure aren’t where we used to be!

Newspaperman Bob Gordon
Many of my best friends in Mississippi grew up around the racism that seemed to inundate Mississippi back in the 1950s and '60s.   One of them was a man named Bob Gordon, one of the finest men I’ve ever known.  I’ll not recount his story, but if you want to know more, visit Saying Goodbye to a Friend.  And another good friend, a Jackson attorney, grew up in the thick of racism.  He and I visited about that occasionally, and I often wondered why he -- a very liberal and caring fellow -- wasn’t even more outspoken in his position against racism. 

Then, at some point, I stopped to reflect on my own upbringing, remembering the things I experienced as a youth.   As children, I suspect all of us grow up adapting to the culture we’re dealt.  As a teenager, I couldn’t understand how “whites in the south could be so racist against negroes.”  I never seriously reflected on  the plight of Indians and their relationship with whites in my own community.  Partly, as a teen, I was too involved with sports, girls, and my own circumstances.  In Mississippi, I finally confronted that inconsistency.

All of this to offer up this:

As thought-provoking and well done as it is, Indian Country Today provides for its readers much the same fodder as Fox News offers its viewers.  And as MSNBC feeds its audience.  Especially, it seems, during these confrontational days inside the Washington, D.C. beltway:  "I’m right.  You’re wrong.  Now I'm going to tell you who's to blame."  

That seems to be the mantra.  Whatever our plight; whatever our woes; we’ve got to blame someone, so let’s focus on the other guy!

Indian Country News is well done, but there is, not surprisingly -- but disappointingly, an undercurrent that seems to focus more on blaming whites rather than seeking solutions to the problems that face Native Americans – and our country.

All of us, at one time or another, have viewed ourselves as victims.  And few in our society have as much justification for that posture as Native Americans.  But until the crutch of justification and blame is put in the closet, it’s difficult to see meaningful improvements in the lives of our Native American brethren.

But the purveyors of blame at Fox, MSNBC, and others, know that controversy can lure more eyeballs and, thus, more advertising revenue.   And the good folks at Indian Country News probably believe, too, that a little invective and controversy can't help but strengthen readership.

And all of society is the worse for it.

April 6, 2013

Being able to choose your channels...

I have long believed that unbundling of cable and satellite channels would be a good thing.

The model for years has been for subscribers to pay a flat fee for a cable lineup that originally might have included a couple of dozen channels or so. As technology advanced, the cable industry was able to expand the number of channel offerings with a modest increase in cost.

When my wife and I were parents of young children, we would gladly have paid an additional fee to have the cable system filter out the burgeoning number of channels that contained content promoting violence, sex, and morbidity. While each of us has slightly different standards with regard to what's objectionable, there were ways that concerned parents and cable companies might have compromised.

Campbell Brown in action:
(see video below)
"Unworkable" was the basic response from the cable systems to proposals to unbundle channels, suggesting that the technology simply wasn't available to create a viable business model. That was back in the 1970's and '80's. Fast forward to 2013. Not only is the technology available to allow subscribers to pick and choose individual channels and pay only for those channels -- the need for doing so was never greater. It's often called "cherry picking."  The social cost of not offering subscribers this choice is potentially devastating. It's already left a mark on our society.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the current debate over gun control. Alas, the culpability of the media and entertainment businesses has been marginalized in the the national debate. Stepping up to focus on the issue is former NBC and CNN correspondent Campbell Brown. She was interviewed on MSNBC earlier this month (April 2013); while she didn't push hard on the "unbundling" of cable channels as a way to help parents -- and society -- she did have some cogent observations about the entertainment industry and some strategies that might work for reigning in an industry that displays little concern over the consequences of its product -- except the box office receipts.