Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: Walking along the Heart River

For those of you keeping records, we natives have been quite pleased with the winter of 2012. However, we aren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves because in any normal winter we all complain about the weather in February. Thus we’ve all had to find something else to complain about so dig this one…

It’s been nice enough for me to walk from my house to Anytime Fitness (a downhill mile to it and an uphill mile home)… without gloves, without a facemask, but not in shorts. It’s also been nice enough to take a long stroll along the Heart River dike, and that’s what I did last Saturday.

The temp was pushing 45 above, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the sun was warm and there was only a slight breeze as I approached the train bridge south of our house. When I got to the bridge there was a coal train blocking my path so I decided to go under the bridge.

As I descended the dike toward the river I started thinking it would be cool to walk down the river ice for a ways. So that’s what I did. Yes, I had a moment of trepidation, but the ice was thick and I thought what the heck…

I gently whittled my way down the steep bank and slowly crept out onto the main channel… and it didn’t take me long to realize that there was no snow covering the ice… rather, the surface of the ice had a slippery glaze, so I decided it was easier to skate than walk….

Of course I had on jogging shoes, not skates, so it didn’t take long for me to realize that the probability of falling on the ice was much greater than the probability of falling through the ice… but that didn’t slow me down. I skated for about half mile and then walked along the banks to Sitting Bull Bridge before remounting the dike for the uphill trek home.

The Heart River has always been in my life, when we were kids we skinny-dipped at BAB’s (I’ll let you figure out what that stands for). One day we dang near drowned Sputz and Jabo. Neither could swim so we got a log to float them across. They panicked, let go, lost their clothes (shoes included), and ended up walking home in their underwear. We floated on inner tubes from the second train bridge to the first train bridge; it usually took about four hours (remember to take two vehicles – one at your drop point and one at the pickup point… we learned the hard way and had to hitchhike back to our only car).

We’ve canoed from Heart Butte Dam to Mandan (on one trip the river was at flood stage and we made it in three days, then there was that year we made it 19 miles in five days… it’s a 140 river miles from Lake Tschida to Mandan). In the winter we used to have a 16-foot toboggan that we’d tie onto the bumper on my 1947 Willy’s jeep and somewhere around 10 people would climb on then we’d buzz up the up the frozen river channel for miles. We used to skate at the Syndicate rink and sneak over the dike and skate forever (yes, I broke through the ice, fortunately the water was only waste deep… it was one of the coldest walks home I’ve ever survived… there have been worse since, but I’ll spare you). Then there was that time when the front end of my jeep broke through the ice and I thanked God for four wheel drive. And I could go on but I gotta get back to whatever my point was here.

So there I was walking down the river thinking what a cool area we live in. I got home sat down to tell you about it, the phone rang and the ache in my thighs wouldn’t allow me get up in time to catch the call. As I groaned my way back into typing position I discovered one of many substitutes for complaining about the weather… self-inflicted wounds. Once you reach the senior discount and use muscles that you forgot you had and you repeat these kind of endeavors over and over you gotta start wondering if folks like me don’t enjoy banging their heads against the wall because it feels so good when you stop.

Here’s hoping you can replace complaining about the weather with something besides yourself… Peace…