On July 5, my wife, Robin, and I rolled out the Harley for a trip to ride five five scenic byways and part of the Bakken in one day. Of all the great sites we visited – Salem Sue, Killdeer Mountains, Knife River Indian Villages, north unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park – three things stuck out most. One, my wife is a great travel partner; two, motorcycle traffic in the Killdeer, Highway 85 area isn’t as dangerous as I thought it might be after my last excursion into the Bakken Oil Field; and Rose Eschenko really loves her job.
After a morning and early afternoon of travel, we reached the end of the trail, so to speak, and rode back out of TRNP and headed south, hoping to stay ahead of the approaching rain. On the way back, I turned it to Grassy Butte to show Robin the sod post office. As we pulled into the lot, Rose emerged from a car with her keys and offered to take us inside.
I told Rose we much appreciated the offer, but we were in a rush and I just wanted let my wife see the post office and take an exterior picture. We talked a little and she declined a snack cracker that I offered and went back to her car. I’m not sure, but I left wondering if Rose waits in her car daily in the little town of Grassy Butte to give tours to the ocassional traveler who stops in. If she does, that’s dedication.
It says something, too, about the many volunteers who staff the small-town “historical societies” and museums that keep the past alive. Sometimes we have a tendency to overlook these small-town treasures because “once you seen one you’ve seen them all.”
Well, we haven’t seen and talked to every Rose on the trail. These are people every bit as responsible for keeping history alive as the displays in the museums. In fact, they are the history. Rose, who must have been (and I’m guessing) 75 to 80 said she has spent her entire working life in Grassy Butte. That’s amazing.
I suggest if you visit some of these out-of-the way towns, stop at the museum and take time to talk to the people there. They are living history.