5cense Redneck rants, wounded knees + freaky foots climbing in them Black Hills (June '94)


[17 NOV 2020>Digging back into our hand-written journals again, picking up from post 453, end of May 1994, after climbing Snowmass Peak in Colorado we continued on to the Black Hills of South Dakota where we settled in for a summer of climbing...]

May 29, 1994 — Custer, South Dakota
Farted around in Boulder, it took Jay a while to wake up. Bruce and I sat in front of his television getting bored and frustrated. Finally went to Pearl street to get breakfast. Went to this climbing shop and Jay purchased some shoes (rather than just borrow mine.) He even bought a guide book. Asked the salesperson to recommend some routes. He told us to go to the dome in Boulder canyon. We went up there though the weather looked sketchy. The sky wanted to cry. The parking lot was crammed full. Went up to the dome which was a choss pile of shit. It it was in Tucson, there wouldn't be any lines. There was lots of people cued up to do each crappy route. Seven people cued up to the route we wanted to do. I was getting fed up with this place. I told Jay that even if the weather wasn't so variable it wasn't worth it to wait to do a route here. Others seem to disagree. They were cueing up with their North Face jackets on. When somebody would mention the threatening clouds, their hard man friends or guides would say — "quit whining, this is true adventure." The wind started howling and it started pouring like a motherfucker just as we got back to the truck. So we tried our luck at El Dorado, but they wanted $3 just to drive in. The clouds still looked menacing so I told Jay it just wasn't going to happen. Even if the weather was good it looked like shitty rock. Went back to his house and he plopped in front of the TV. I gave Bruce a look like "let's blow this popsicle stand."
    We wet outside to start packing and Jay unglued himself from the TV to say— "come on you guys. We'll go up and climb. It's clear now." The sky looked depressed and on the verge of hysterical crying. Talked Jay into going to Nepalese food instead. It was yum. Said goodbye to him then we finally got out of the clusterfuck of politically correct, too-cool-for-school Boulder and got on the road again into the desolation of Wyoming. We were in good spirits, stopped for free coffee and doughnuts provided by the foresters (where were the forests?) Drove it all out, calling Sharon on the way. She told us we could crash at their place. Got in late and snuck downstairs. Grabbed a bed and now I'm still in bed after having the "coil" dream (which would be the start of Strip Mine)[see May 29, 1994 entry in our dream journal]. I'm waiting for a new chapter to unfold. Contemplating shaving off the goatee.

June 1, 1994 — Custer, S.D.
Today was supposed to be our first day of work, NOT! We went in on Saturday, right when we got in to get the key to our place, and they were like "Great! You guys are here. Here' an Apron." They put us right to work. Running around, setting up a buffer, cleaning, whatever. Totally frantic and hectic. High stress environment. We told this woman Shirley, who is responsible for our schedules that we wanted to work 4x10 hr weeks or at worst 5 days a week, and she's all— "nobody here works less than six days a week. I work 12 hours a day, everyday". I felt like saying "good for you, you dumb ass bitch" but instead said that we came here to enjoy our summer. And of course she goes— "I thought you came here to work." Yah, right. The way I figure it, they must think we’re doing a good job, that's why they want us to work so much. We just have to remember that they’re the ones desperate for employees so we can call the shots. Not only that, they don't pay overtime. We have another blackmail tool tho—the "venison brautwurst" is pork sausage, their "buffalo roast" is beef and their "Elk" is top sirloin. Criminal liar is what Sam (Rusty's uncle and manager of the Chief) is. He's the H.M.C. (head man in charge as they call him). Supposedly he has this superhuman I.Q. but if he's so smart and successful why does he sit all day long in his shitty restaurant? Anyways, so far it's not so bad. We're learning to be grill cooks and it pays the bills.
    Our place is a little small, a little studio with no kitchen (just a counter and hot plate). We wash the dishes in the bathtub and sleep in opposite ends of the room on the floor. We have to hang shit all over the walls to make room—we're basically camping out indoors. We have this psychotic neighbor named Bill Pike that gave us a bag of stale disgusting Easter cookies as some token gesture (even though Easter was like what? three months ago?). He's all— "come here, I wanna show you boys something" and he takes us into his "workshop" to show us these "saw canes" he's making. Canes with saw handles. Genius. Last night he was having a strange phone conversation that I couldn't help but to overhear being that our walls are just a thin sheet of that fake wood paneling, he'd hang up and say—"fucking whore!" Then he’d sing something like—"yippity do dah!" and go back to cursing and being generally psychotic. Today this FBI looking guy in a dark blue three piece suit with government plates was at his door. Hmmm.
    Bruce and I finally both got a morning off, working 2 to close (11 p.m) so we went to Sylvan Lake and started on Four Little Fishes (5.9) Excellent crystal nub-pulling face climbing. The fog was rolling in and it was cold, but I figured it was good practice climbing in shitty weather (for Patagonia). My fingers couldn't feel anything. When I got to the top I couldn't see anything but the spire I was on (the Aquarium) and fog and the ropes (twin 9 mm) trailing into the abyss. I could hear birds like ghosts, chirping from the pallid void, and distant voices. Ironic, the tower hugging the one we were on is called photographers peak because it commands such a great view but all we saw was the fine structure of crystallized rock.

[our new digs (small unit on the far left])

June 3, 1994 — Hill City
Sitting in Oriana's after a ten hour day and it's raining so we can't do our after dinner climb. I'm priming the pump of creative juices to start writing, or I should say majorly re-writing the Apu Kuntur story. Thursday we climbed Ice House rock (5.5) before work. We were gonna do another route but it started to rain. Yesterday was our first day off. We ran a few errands in the morning (after a night of drinking with Fawn and Tory, these 17 year olds that invited themselves over and had some jealous boyfriend that kept driving by stalking Fawn, hmmm). Then we set out for Cathedral Spires. What a magical place. It's hard to put in words the feeling you get roaming through the meadows in the nooks and crannies of the spiring towers. It's almost like a set for a science fiction movie. Like being in a fairy tale. First we did Rubaiyat route 4 (5.8), this cool jam crack, flake system that went up to a chimney. Two long sustained pitches. It was hard finding the top, I wove under huge blocks through huge chimneys and around spires, winding my way to the top, having to down-climb a few routes for not guessing the correct way. The book purposely doesn't give you much detail, to make it more "adventurous". We got coon-skin caps at The Chief and I glued mine to my helmet. After that we wandered up these gullys and through coves until we found Khayyam Spire route 6 (5.6). We thought we were doing the "wild man traverse" but after checking the book we realized it was not what we did. It fun anyways, though run-out.
    I have to put Apu Kuntur on the back burner— too many distractions. I worked on it for a while at Oriana's but now we're back at the crib after purchasing another bottle of wine. Our neighbor Bill Pike is unreal. He's blaring really, really bad almost sarcastic 70's music on a terrible sound system. He's clapping and yelling, it's unbelievable. He's in a quiet desperation, wanting us to hear. Wanting us to validate him, wanting to be accepted by us. Why us? I could learn something from this that is beyond words. He showed me his "system" earlier, that he got from Mary, "a steal of a deal," he yells over the blaring crackling speakers, "more than I bargained for". It's in a large fake wood cabinet, "hi-fi," built in 8-track and record player, and he's got a lot of lousy 8-tracks.

June 8, 1994 — Custer
Matter of fact to tay on the Bill Pick monologues, after a few evenings of listening to his drunken ranting and raving I recorded one of his prosaic monologues for prosperity [here's the original pages of us transcribing verbatim the rants of our redneck neighbor we could hear loud + clear thru the fake wood paneled walls:]





Getting into the routine 10 hours a day— went climbing a few times — either in the few hours before or after work. Monday did Queen Pin (5.9) Actually had trouble finding it. I was scampering around and ended up free soloing Duck pin (5.3)to get an aerial view of the surrounding pins before I found it. Had to simul-rap off and stopped at the belay for queen pin. Had Bruce just belay me from the ground, clipped the piton on the ledge then committed to some dicey moves to clip the first bolt, looking at a bad fall back onto the belay ledge. Than skirt right on crystal pinching for about ten feet then diagonal back left, and while I'm clipping the second bolt I'm thinking about the story in "Touch the Sky" about how Paul Muehl blew the second clip because he was laughing so hard at a tourist incident and pulled his belayer half-way through the piton. Would have been a shitty fall. It was getting dark so we TR'ed Queen Pin (2)(5.10) on the south face. Excellent sustained nub pulling and underclinging.
    Yesterday we did Cowboy Jazz (5.8) x 2 pitches, on photographers peak. Bruce led the first three bolts, got to the third and was not willing to commit to the bulge, hung around, finally did it, got about 10 feet past the bolt and I saw his body cowering into the rock like he was desperate so i braced myself, heard him yell— "Falling!" but couldn't see him, just heard commotion and chalk dust in the air and then he comes swinging around the corner upside down bouncing along the cliff on his tail bone, saying—"damn foot hold broke" before he even finished falling. Needless to say, he didn't feel like trying again so I went up to finish it off. Definitely stiff for 5.9. After the crux (10 feet over the bolt) it was easy and the second pitch was a waste of time. Rapped down to the this big horn and tried to rap directly off the horn but the rope wouldn't pull so I bat-manned back up and put webbing on the horn. Got back to the car at 1:47 and made it to work just on time (2:00)

June 9, 1994 — Custer, SD
Broke my record for switching habitations. Yesterday after another night of Bills ranting and ravings Bruce and I went to Custer rental to check out available houses. Nothing really until July. We went to do our laundry and I talked to Sharon about the situation and she said Apt. #3 was available. (It's still next door to Bill.) It's a lot bigger and doesn't border on Bill's living room where he does most of his psycho-preaching. And I have my own room and we have a stove and hot water! Unprecedented. We were all over it and moved our shit in a matter of an hour and snagged some furniture as well from Brenda's (landlady's) basement. I feel much better having my own space and just more space in general and not sleeping on the floor. I just finished ripping up the gross mildewy yellow carpet in my room to reveal oak wood floors which I'm gonna sand and varnish. Got hit by this cold front yesterday which disabled us from climbing anyways.
    The new schedules were put up yesterday. They gave both Bruce and I three days off but they're staggered and don't overlap. So I made a proposal to the H.M.C. Sam, I arranged it so Bruce and I had three days in a row together without altering the number of night cooks on duty. Now all we have to do is wait and see if he goes for it. I'd be psyched if he did. Went to the "Gold Pan" — this redneck bar, with Willie and Tom. Willie slammed about 7 whiskies to our two beers. Met these semi-crunchy "naturalists" that work in the park.

June 12
Climbed at Middle Earth. Wandered through the ribs and spires and fins all named after Lord of the Rings stuff. "Wandered" (i.e. got lost and couldn't figure out what was what) until we went in a few circles. Finally got on Arch's Gollum (5.9) I cruised up this unprotected "inverted arch" onto some knobby face. By this time I was 20 feet up so I stepped over to a tree, tied off a branch and kept going to some bolts. Got a little off route but got back on run out easy stuff and up to this overhanging crack that was just the shit. Plenty of pro, flaring layback with a sharp arête next to it. Then onto a more runout face. My black and white 9 mm rope ran out and I had to finish on one rope. What a scam! The wind was howling, couldn't hear shit and I was freezing my ass off as Bruce followed. It was neat being in all these nooks and crannies filled with grassy meadows. Then Bruce led Kamp Crack (5.7–5.8), a great steep off-width hand crack. I tried to find Horsnby rock but ended up getting on this lame but very hard and sustained sport route (chopped route, 5.10d) and managed to flash it, though it was desperate and definitely not 5.9. Today is Bruce's B-day.

[Bruce in Middle Earth]

June 14, 1994 — Custer
Yesterday we had off so went climbing near Mt. Rushmore, taking the long way by all the tourists and the big presidential faces. A mile past the faces we pulled off to the "Chopping Block". All clip-ups in this area, left the rack in the truck. Bruce started us out on Baba Cool (5.10a) but had head problems on it. It was a great sustained line. I got on the one next to it, Meat Means Murder (5.11c) a little over my head but what the hell, this was sport climbing after all, and if I did it in bad style, cuz well the routes are in bad style to begin with. Pulled the opening boulder move over the overhang onto this low angle face that wasn’t too bad until towards the top where it got more and more desperate and steeper to a section I thought just wouldn't go, but I pulled it off, got the clip, then got overanxious to pull the last move and came off. Went back on and high-stepped with my left instead of right and finished the climb. Then Bruce led Wisconsin Beef (5.9+) which was pretty easy. I tried this 12a next to it but couldn't pull the opening bouldering move (on TR) so climbed around and did the rest of the route. Then I led Blue Mascara (5.10c) which was steep and pumpy and contrived, ended up skipping the last bolt, couldn't figure why they wanted you to go that way. God damn rap bolters. Then I led Static Cling (5.11a) despite warnings of "poorly designed clips", cruised up to the last bolt and assumed that was the clip he was talking about, had to let go, holding on to one desperate crystal, so I grabbed the draw, clipped, but didn't rest, got back on and found out there was a good hold to clip just a little higher—finished the route with no falls. Bruce T.R.ashed it, his first 11a trash. Our tips we're fried but I started up this other 11a before I had a reality check and backed off and went to Rapid City. Ate some Fetuccinni and drank some Killian's than went to this cafe and got Capuccinnos wondering what to do when this woman with a shaved head and a Hawaiian shirt asks us if she can share our table. She had a large microphone with her— ended up she was with some road crew from PBS doing a special on Poetry in America, "and we're just driving around looking for poets and interesting people, exploring different facets of American's life," and wanted to interview us. Initially she just asked us general questions (with the recorder on) about "what we loved about America" or "what was happiness?" and of course conversation switched to writing and climbing and then she totally got off on our climbing lingo and wanted Bruce and I to just go on with all our terminology. She got even more excited when se learned we did some writing ourselves, and that we had our notebooks in the car. So I went and got them and we had to move across the street to some Irish bar that had Black and Tans because the coffee shop was closing. Bruce read his poem about Blood and Bones, about his father's bone marrow transplant and it moved her to tears. I read the only poem I had, "Crossroads of the Summit", all 11 pages of it, cuz I didn't know what sections to read. A learning experience as I've never read anything of mine out loud and realized how bad it was. When I finished the 60 minute tape was on 59 min 36 sec. We continued talking for quite a while after that and she read us a poem of hers on Jackie-O.

June 17, 1994 — Custer
Bruce has gone off to Rapid City in El Chapo [what we named our truck]. I'm at the gaming parlor, sorting through my stories. Susanna and family are in Nevada, heading east and they want me to meet them in Boulder (for some wedding). Go all the way to sit with her in a wedding with Rocky Mtn. Natl. monument so near? Fat chance. Not only that, the world cup starts today!! Bruce and I borrowed Suzanne's (the chef at the chief) television and got cable hooked up to watch the games. Umbubarumba, goal man goal!
     I've been working on this poem "The Oregon Trail" and have pretty much finished it and am pleased with it. Nice being here w/ free time to write. Not too inspired to re-write the Log of Apu Kuntur though it needs to be done. Went climbing on Wednesday, set out to do the Conn route up the outer outlet but Bruce was leading the first pitch (which it wasn't) and had a frustrating couple of hours getting off. Then got lost in the gully below Nick of Time, chimneying up into the bowels of the outlets and ended up simul-rapping off this big fin. Wandered around and finally did this sport route (Harbinger 5.10) which was kick ass. Steep with big crystal jugs and beautiful moves. Maybe Bosch ain't so bad.
    Got paid $475 after taxes. And another $100 that I've been spotting Bruce and the $50 deposit from Southwest gas. On a good start to clearing the plastic debt.

(June 17)
Why is it I always neglect to mention the things that really matter in this journal? Such as planting the edible flower seeds or putting up the mailbox on the corner, or the cancer in mom's finger or Bruce's father's bone marrow transplant?

June 21
The world cup games have begun and we just watched Argentina take Greece to school (4-0). Went climbing yesterday for a ½ day. It was raining and of course we had to watch Brazil vs. Russia (2-0) then go to the stupid cooks meeting. The whole politics at the Chief is getting out of control. Sam the "master psychologist", "super-intelligent" big frog in the small pond and his evil sidekick, the two-sided Sue and her courtesy special smile, and Sam's under-age squeeze Kyla. Bruce caught Sam sucking the wax out of her ear with his tongue. More ammo to blackmail him with.
    Anyways, went for a Nantucket Sleigh Ride (5.10) an amazing line starting in a thin crack in a shallow dihedral desperateley trying to get RP's and small TCU's in a thin stem, then just groping out on the arête (crux) and up in the trough, a sleigh-ride up beautiful knobby and sustained (5.8–5.9) face sloshing back and forth in the trough and then some runout that gradually decreased in difficulty but further and further from the last bolt. Excellent route. Bruce did Tent Peg (5.7) after that, taking forever and having difficulties. I think he's in a leading slump. He couldn't deal with the 15 feet of last runout so he set up a belay and I went up and finished the route.

June 25, 1994 — Custer
Went to the Wal-Mart in Rapid City on a rainy day to get fun little drawing toys [entry is in various colored pencils]. Kids today sure are lucky. Bruce's brother Brian got in today and is driving Bruce to Michigan for his Dad's bone marrow transplant. So looks like I'll be by myself for the next week.
    Another day we ran up (literally) Harney Peak in an eerie mist and high winds at the top. Did it in less than two hours round trip. The last two days we've been climbing at Sylvan lake. Actually, Thursday we went to Beecher rock, which aesthetically is very cool, but when it comes down to it, up close, the rock was manky and the pitons rusted. Ended up backing off of everything. Went to Sylvan lake to boulder around. Swam out to the big rock in the lake and traversed around and up this route up the overhanging prow. If I had come off I would have landed in the water! Great fun. Didn't jump off as we would've had to climb back up barefoot to get our shoes, but jumped off a smaller boulder instead next to it.
    The next day we went to Middle Earth with Twyla, her first time climbing. Did Quick Beam (5.5), Enting (5.5) and Hrum Hroom (5.7), all great easy routes. Twyla seemd to enjoy herself and is quite pretty... too bad she is only 15. She was flirty w/ us, think she sees us as her ticket to get the hell out of South Dakota. We swam in the lake afterwards — this time Bruce and I climbed up the boulder in the middle barefoot then jumped off, probably 20-25 feet. A lesson in gravity. [What a way to start the day, before work... here's the original page:]

June 27
Bruce went to Michigan for his father’s bone marrow transplant. Yesterday we took his twin brother out to Cathedral Spires to do Freak’s Foot (5.9), quite an adventure. I started off up this gully next to the Flying Buttress (which looks like its name) that eventually turned into a chimney. Plugged in my #7 friend and had to run it out quite a ways like 30-40 feet up until I got a #1 and #2 RP in and had to step out of the chimney and onto the Freak’s Foot… talk about exposure!  Looking at groundfall 100 feet below if my RP’s pulled. Stepped across (yikes!) to the face of Freak’s Foot, one of those moves where you basically have to lean and fall onto the face, no going back! Then you clip a bolt and then it’s great 5.8 face and then I opted for the 5.9 (run-out) ending. What a climb. This is like my 5th day in a wor working and I have to work tomorrow but the new schedule is up and both Bruce and I have 3 days in a row. 

[making the step across onto Freak's Foot]

June 30, 94
My first 3 day vacation and who do I do? I stay in South Dakota. Went climbing w/ Kyra on Wednesday, but not til she got off work at 2:00. Did a lot of scary 5.4s. First did Moby Dick (5.4, 3 pitches), unprotectable 5.4 face that Kyra fell on. Then we did the leaning tower (5.4) that was originally unprotected but this guy put up a bolted 5.6 next to it so I clipped one of the bolts that was within reach. We wandered around a lot and eventually went to Needle’s Eye and found Pimple (5.4) which was kick-ass, the best 5.4 I’ve ever done. Up a very thing pinnacle that you could almost bear hug toward the overhanging top.  Insane. Only gear was ½ way up. The crux was to straddle the top to set up a belay, felt like the rock would topple! Rode it like a horse belaying Kyra up.

[on top of The Pimple]

We thought we did the fan after that but ended up we did Twin Spires (5.0). Got pizza and then a hot tub then got ice cream w/ Mike, Jeff and Brian, who are friends w/ Paul Piana and Todd Skinner. Woke up today and decided to go to the Badlands. Went through the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and by Wounded Knee in a pensive state. Then went to The Badlands, this time in better company (alone) then I was last time I was here. I couldn’t get in the Interior way cuz I didn’t have $5 so I went in the long dirt road of Conasta [sp?], stopped the car and walked in a random canyon and laid down in a wash about the size of my body and fell asleep. Talk about erosion. Looped all the way back around through Wall Drug and Rapid City and now I’m watching Argentina vs. Bulgaria.

[... continues in next post]

809 <(current)> 811> A soul souring in a cave at Chasm Lake, a crack of Devil's Tower + the Needles (July 1994)
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