2009.02.04 The News from Eagle Butte

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Linda Shadbolt knew she was bringing me a great present when she brought in a copy of the West River Eagle a few weeks ago.

The Eagle is the weekly paper serving Eagle Butte, S.D., a community of about 600 people—about 80 percent of them Native Americans.

Linda’s daughter, Madonna Swimmer, is a subscriber since that’s where she and her brother, Orlin, grew up. Like many distant Observer subscribers, Madonna still wants to keep up with the people and events from her home town.

A lot of the news is different. You can see that right from the start with the headline “Local cowgirl selected.” She was chosen to serve as a chaperone for the Miss Rodeo America pageant. Another story tells that World War II Codetalker Clarence Wolf Guts was honored with the gift of a quilt.

The Eagle still uses plenty of what it calls the “locals,” those reports that tell who visited whom and where they ate lunch. I say they still use them because most papers in this area closed out the personal items years ago.

The old Observers printed the neighborhood reports from Morenci, Lyons, Medina, Lime Creek and other areas. Every week Mary Clymer would call around town to collect what some people saw merely as gossip, but that gossip was good reading for some people.

In the Eagle, I learn that Deb Doolittle joined Everett and Melinda Hunt and John and Laura Hunt in Pierre Wednesday afternoon where they sold their calves.

Over in Lantry, Amy Ulrich and Ann Marie visited at the Owen McLellan home Friday, where Amy helped winterize the windows.

As I read through the locals, I thought about Twitter. Twitter is one of those social networking tools that allows users to keep track of every little thing that a friend is doing, providing the friend wants to spend the time sending tweets.

For example, a person might send a tweet saying they’re at a particular store and heading toward a coffee shop. So any well-connected friend in the area can meet up for actual face-to-face contact.

The locals are like an ancient, snail-paced Twitter.

• Keith and Tiny Farlee attended the volleyball game in Eagle Butte Thursday evening.

• Rick and Kristi Farlee attended the football game in Murdo Friday night.

• Sunday dinner guests of Judy Farlee were Jaime and Chad Pulling and family.

• Tuesday, Mary Lu Griffith delivered her local news to the Eagle news office and then spent some time playing cards with Mary Walters and Alva Schneider.

Sorry you weren’t there. Should have tweeted.

Any newspaper from far away will provide amusement to those who aren’t locals. Why, for example, does the candidate for county treasurer—a grown woman who appears to be in her 30s or 40s—list as one of her two qualifications “The daughter of Lawrence and Debbie Goldade”? Maybe I’m misjudging her age.

Linda had a note attached to the copy of the Eagle that she dropped off, telling me to be sure to read the obituaries. I didn’t need a reminder. I always check to see if people in a particular newspaper simply die or go to a better place or go fishing with Jesus, etc. In the Eagle, everyone passes away.

At the funeral of Goldie Iron Hawk—the great-great-granddaughter of Ghost Horse who was killed at Wounded Knee—11 people crowded together to serve as casket bearers. There were also honorary casket bearers—at least 150 of them. I gave up counting.

The same thing with Viola Charging Cloud. Ten casket bearers and about 60 honoraries, from Pearl Hollow Horn and Gloria Sitting Crow to Zouie Lone Eagle and Rosie Roach.

The Eagle’s obits don’t tell how the person died—always a complaint of mine if an obit is to serve as a piece of family history—but they are rich in details. “Thousands of sourdough pancakes were served at Mary Lou’s table over the years.” “She was a pitcher for the Red Scaffold women’s fast-pitch team for many years. They won many tournament titles.”

The Eagle has some differences from the Observer, along with many similarities, and we could both learn some things from each other. Linda was right: I had a great time leafing through those pages.

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