Trail Talk Blog

Melting Pot

Many years ago there was a pretty good sitcom on network TV called “Welcome Back, Kotter”. The scripts were funny, the acting was good – it made a star out of John Travolta – but my favorite thing about that show was the name of one of the characters: Juan… read more >

Two Worlds Colliding

I was recently on the receiving end of a flattering and wholly unexpected accolade recognizing many decades of volunteer work promoting and preserving the history of South Dakota. This is what I do for fun, and despite the fact that my tour business grew out of my love of history,… read more >

The Thinker

No this isn’t going to be a blog about Rodin’s iconic sculpture. Francophobes can relax. You know how speaker introductions and biographies tend to define their subjects as inventor, politician, musician, business tycoon, etc? Well, I just heard a noted historical figure described as a “thinker”, and it stopped me… read more >

The Business of Fun

What is your job title? Are you a sales manager, vice-president, chief cook and bottle washer? Most businesses assign titles without much thought, relying mostly on old standbys. Some actually think a fancy designation is an acceptable substitute for a raise! I am fortunate to work in a business that… read more >

Seeing the Elephant

“Seeing the elephant”, I’m told, is a purely American phrase which gained popularity in the early 19th century. Coincidentally, the first circuses reached these shores from Europe in the 1830’s and they invariably included exotic animals that no American had ever seen. They were HUGE – almost overwhelming – and… read more >

Forgotten History

Andrew Carroll in his excellent new book (Here is Where) about what he calls America’s “forgotten history”, raises the question about the difficulty of learning from history when so much of it is either mis-remembered, or worse, just plain invented. Personal memoirs are particularly suspect because the author often has… read more >

Time Travel

One of my ever-lasting passions is for movies which toy with the space-time continuum, or time travel. There are tons of them out there, so many that they can even be broken down into sub-categories. But the reason Hollywood keeps making them (and movie-goers keep watching them) is the very… read more >

Valley of A Thousand Smokes

When I was growing up on my grandparents’ ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota, one of our favorite hikes was to what everybody referred to as “the moonshiner’s cabin”. Being teetotalers of the highest order, the older generation was deliberately vague about just what a moonshiner was, and… read more >

The Augury

I saw a robin last week. Forgive me for stating the obvious: It is January. On the northern plains. The temperature hasn’t been above freezing in about a decade. I don’t remember the last time I saw the ground. This is the kind of weather when – in a long-ago… read more >

Founding Fathers

History teachers and trivia buffs are fond of posing trick questions to their respective audiences. So here goes: I was leafing through a magazine article about the many restored Virginia homes of our founding fathers recently and when I got to James Monroe, our fifth president, I learned that not… read more >

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