The Pringle Place

Our family property in Pringle is generally referred to as “the Pringle Place.” It has a couple of other names, including “Spring-on-Hill,” referring, of course, to the stage stop by that name that crossed the property in the 1870s. But “the Pringle Place” just rolls off the tongue. Anyway, here are a few more shots from our adventure earlier this week. The terrain is so different from the Hills. If you look really hard, you can see the light colored spots on the far hill that were a herd of antelope. And it is hard to picture living in the little shack propped up on cinder blocks. The house, however, is situated in the most beautiful valley, a short drive away from the Pringle Place. I can readily picture living there…IMG_5486eIMG_5567eIMG_5611eThis place is so dear to my heart.

Ghost towns

After our short trek to the unnamed ghost town or homestead site on Sunday, and having our visit shortened by rain, we knew we wanted to spend some more time looking around there. We picked Tuesday as the day of choice, little knowing that we would end up enjoying all the variety of Black Hills weather in one day! Not that that would have deterred us, of course! Living in the Hills, one really does get used to very rapid changes in weather, sometimes rapid changes in one area, other times rapid changes due to, for instance, driving over the mountains. IMG_5178Sarah and I took Playhouse Road into Custer, partly for the scenery, partly because it actually is quicker than going over Mt. Rushmore, and the higher the elevation, the snowier it got. Boy, were the trees lovely to see! We met up with a friend in Custer, and drove down towards Pringle, seemingly leaving the snow behind. We poked around in the ruins for an hour or so, turning up pieces of a child’s skate, the top deal of a hand-cranked ice cream maker, the lid of a pressure canner, and lots of blue glass insulators. As much as I would have loved to “collect” them, we dutifully left them behind. I love blue insulators. But a $20,000 fine is a pretty good deterrent. However, it is too bad that cows and elk and weather don’t leave the artifacts alone, evidenced by the shards of glass everywhere. In another ten years of cows, elk, and weather, the artifacts will be all but gone.IMG_5261eWe examined the root cellar more closely, and realized that glass jars and bottles were built into the walls. Some of the bottles were identical to ones I found in our junk piles. Not sure the purpose of building bottles into the walls, but that is something we want to learn about. IMG_5239eWhen rummaging in the remnants of long-gone ghost towns and homes, it can be easy to compartmentalize those locations as being purely “historical.” As if the historical artifacts just planted themselves there, and weren’t put there by a living person. It is so easy to forget that these were places that were bubbling with life. These were homes, busy homes, built by people who knew the meaning of the word “work.” Whether dating to the first gold rush or the homestead and mining years of the early to mid 1900s, these people were true pioneers and adventurers, in ways we can’t even comprehend now.
IMG_5213eWe stayed for about an hour, findings other odds and ends, guessing what the structures might have been, marveling at a giant spreading aspen, so wizened that the bark on the lower trunk looked like an oak or cottonwood. I wonder how much smaller that tree was, when the homestead was being lived on.  The trees down the valley turned grey with approaching snow, and the squall blew in. Rain on Sunday, snow on Tuesday.
IMG_5280eIMG_5282eAs we drove down to our family property south of Pringle, near Argyle, it was still snowing in quite a winterly fashion, but cleared up when we headed west to the property. How variable the weather can be, from place to place and hour to hour! The following two pictures were taken the same afternoon, the first on our hike in to the Box Canyon, and the second on the hike back out, just a couple hours apart.
IMG_5313eIMG_5552eWe enjoyed the scenery, the history, the warm sun, the pasque flowers (well, I did, anyway), and Jake flew his drone over the Box Canyon and Spring-on-Hills Stage Stop. The stage stop dates back to the gold rush days, and was only in use for 2-3 years. IMG_5434eIMG_5336eThis stop would have fallen out of use as a regular stage stop when the entire route was re-routed west of Custer, due to dangerous conditions in this area. It probably continued to be used by immigrants and adventurers who chose to pass this way, but the stage itself was routed further west. All that is left are some foundations and a caving-in dugout. I remember the dugout being intact when I was a kid, but the heavy rain we had a couple of summers ago in particular brought the roof down. There are still old jars inside – Perhaps someone at sometime lived in the dugout, or maybe it was only ever used as a cellar. Who knows.
IMG_5334eThe clouds cleared off and the wind picked up a bit as well, making the drone flying some tricky business. On our hike back out, we saw a herd of antelope in the distance, which for me is always fun, since we don’t have antelope in the Hills. There was also a crazy coyote running around, and lots of bluebirds. I was also fortunate enough to find a patch of Easter daisies, one of the flowers I was hoping to see, since now is their time of year!
IMG_5518eIMG_5573eWe made one last stop on our way back to Custer, to explore some old cabins near the side of the road. We hit the valley right as the sun was getting low in the sky. Furniture and shoes still mouldered in the houses, and swallows had taken up residence. The pump still pumped water. Coat hooks still hung on the walls. A bedframe gleamed in the light from a window. How the past lingers, even as time marches on.
IMG_5595eIMG_5619eIt is rare that we are able to slate a whole day for hiking and exploration. Time marches on. But sometimes you just have to take a whole day to enjoy it.

Saturday Adventures

The Pringle PlaceThe winds sound different in the pines. They hum and murmur and sing in the needles and in the sun-warmed grass, sweeping clouds from horizon to horizon, drying the earth and warming the earth and waking up all the little messengers of springtime. The earth feels different in the springtime, ready to burst with life, like a person holding back mirth, or like someone with a delightful secret. Tiny plants push through the red soil, little barrel cacti and the elusive pasque flower and star lilies not yet bloomed.

IMG_8921Any excuse to get down to the Pringle place is a good one for me, and today’s excuse was that my cousin Ben was down in Pringle with my aunt and uncle, and I was already going to be in Custer this morning, which is more than halfway there. So after cleaning the church, Roy and I drove down to Pringle – I, armed with my camera, Roy armed with various muskets and pistols – and picked up Ben for a hike.  We couldn’t have picked a better day than the one our Heavenly Father had picked for us.

IMG_8909Our hiking took us along Box Canyon, and down west of the old stage stop, through red gullies and golden meadows, in and out of deep-cut ravines, over and under barbed wire fencing, looking at the favorite places and searching out new. We stumbled across the remains of an ancient log cabin from the homesteading days, found a piece of a rusty old license plate from 1922 and an old stove lid, and picked up a rusted steel trap that must have washed down the gully, or been dragged there.

All the little early wildflowers are beginning to bloom, giving me fresh subjects to capture and identify, from little phlox-like flowers growing low to the red earth, to scrubby yellow complex flowers with foliage that smelled like celery, to a yellow succulent-like flower growing all by itself on a little hillside.
IMG_8897And yes, we found the pasque flowers today! A week ago down on the Pringle place, the little wind flowers were waking up, though were not yet awake, but today they were in beautiful bloom, tucked beneath scrubby pines, nestled down deep in last summer’s grasses.  Whimsical nodding blossoms of palest purple, covered with their coats of silver fur, blending in and almost invisible, but unmistakable. Pasque flowerGrasshoppers chirruped. Mountain bluebirds flickered like blue flames as they lighted on fence posts and fence wire and darted here and there. The junipers and pines were spicy in the warm air, the sky was brilliant and dappled with clouds, the wind was sweet and restless, and the rocks were cool to the touch. Lichens crusted the red stone, quartz sparkled dazzlingly, and the day was perfect.

IMG_8931We picnicked on the tailgate of Roy’s pickup, and when we were done hiking, we did some target shooting. “Shooting makes a bad day good and a good day better,” Roy said. Though, it hardly needed improving – Friends and family, God’s good and glorious creation, a sturdy camera, a picnic in the open air, and the sight of a small herd of antelope hightailing it across the prairie – And, yes, firing a few rounds at some makeshift targets.

A good day. A very good day.

Laura Elizabeth




DSCN0785.1 Within minutes of scrambling out of the pickup trucks at stage stop Spring-on-Hill, we were suddenly treading very carefully at the sight of a rattlesnake retreating into the old dugout stage stop, and the warning rattle of at least one other in the grass nearby. DSCN0787.1We tread carefully and put a safe distance between ourselves and the hidden snakes, but we also tossed small stones gingerly in their general direction, just to hear the fascinating sound of the rattle. Finally, it was clear that Mr. Rattlesnake inoffensively wanted to be left alone, so we very obligingly left the serpents to their lair. There was more to see.

DSCN0793.1This particular stage stop has its own legend of lost gold, and Custer himself in crossing this land wrote of it as a desolate, barren wasteland. Hardly flattering, but barren as it may be in some regards, it is simply teeming with life in others. While drier than the more northerly Hills, there was still water in the ravines and canyons, and Spring-on-Hill itself, the Spring, was actually feeding a small creek, instead of simply soaking into the dry, thirsty gumbo.

DSCN0813.1We scrambled up the ravine towards the Spring, up and down the bank, over rock ledges, through briars and a stand of juniper, and came to the source, which bubbles up out of a concrete housing. Pipes used to run from the Spring, carrying the water further than it could flow itself, dry as it is out here. Now, it just pours from a crack in the housing, feeding a muddy, mossy pool. Some of the water makes it further down, due to the wet spring and summer we’ve had.

DSCN0927.1The grass, rented by a local rancher woman, is sufficient to support a small herd of cattle. The cattle were skittish and suspicious, but the heifer calves were beautiful. So delicate. When we marched through part of the herd, one of the cows, probably a younger mama, couldn’t get far enough away from us. As we approached, she’d move away, watching us, and move away again as we moved closer. Finally, with a frisk and a snort, she took off, taking with her a couple of calves and a spotted old steer. Off they ran, not content to just move out of our way, but with a need to be once-for-all out of our sight. Never saw them again.

We stopped for a few minutes by a little piece of red, muddy stream and watched the tadpoles. The sun was warm, and the air was quiet. On the other side of the trees and up a bank, we could hear the cows munching on the grass.

DSCN0812.1Out on the Spring-on-Hill ranch, the grass is scrubby and sparse, but the low-growing scrub was fragrant in the warm summer air. From time to time, the heady perfume would make me stand up and look around for the source of the perfume. It was a minty fragrance, and we finally figured out which of the scrubby plants it was coming from. It must be some sort of a sage, but I haven’t yet identified it.

DSCN0848.1Growing fast to the gumbo, lichen clung, flourishing in the barren region. I read once that lichen growth is a sign of a healthy climate or ecosystem. It must be a healthy region out here, then, because lichen grows in subtle abundance. The low-growing, rootless things are almost invisible against the rock and red soil. If you didn’t stop to crouch down and just look, you’d miss them altogether. But they are there, in their reds and greens and whites, defying the harshest of weather.

DSCN0914.2lowerrezAfter our fill of hiking, rock hunting, and exploring, the men brought out the guns and did some target shooting. The women got in on it, too, but it was fun just watching the enthusiasm and expertise of the men in the group. Always eager to learn more, to improve their marksmanship, and to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights. Don’t mess with this crew, I’m tellin’ you!

DSCN0905.1It was hard to leave–Such a beautiful place, so much to marvel at, to wonder at, to revel in, to savor. God is a God of beauty, goodness, and creativity. Who can look at this landscape and think it happened by chance? I can’t. Someone high and wonderful must have thought out this landscape and planned the intricate details. They’re too exquisite to have been a mere accident. And I’m glad He gave us the chance to enjoy and experience His handiwork. He could have landed us in a colorless, shapeless world. He could have made us see in black-and-white. But He didn’t.

Laura Elizabeth