Harter Con II
I am, as all who know me will admit, the compleat fan, a collector who prizes his mint copy of Dick and Jane meet Robby Robot, a club fan who is not just a club fan but also a diamond fan and a spade fan, a fanzine fan whose multitudinous publications, if not always award winning, certainly ought to be, and a convention fan noted for attending conventions that no one else attended. In other words, in every way and every aspect, I am that very exemplar of that epitome of fandom, that compleat fan who is a legend in his own mind.
Well, perhaps not. Still, from time to time I have stirred the pot. I can point to a fanzine published here there, a con or two attended here and there, conventions chaired, and even having bid for a worldcon. Which brings us to my latest convention that I have run, HarterCon II. Such an epochal event should be chronicled. Since the odds are high that no one else will undertake the task, it falls upon your humble servant to provide the savory details to a rapt public.
Birth of a con
It all started well before Denvention. The Evial Sorcerer Arluis (disguised as the mild mannered Tony Lewis) and the Big Hearted Purple Crusader (aka Suford Lewis) called yours truly about the possibilities of a sight seeing trip throughout the Dakotas after Denvention. Various plans were bruited about. In the end the plan was that they would rent a car, drive about the Dakotas to see hitherto unseen sights, return the car to Denver, and fly home. Since I was driving to Denvention, I would caravan with them on the first leg of their trip from Denver to Devil's Tower and stay with them that first night at a B&B they had lined up before heading home.
The climax of their trip was to be a visit at Chez Harter to see the sights of Highmore such as they are, and to answer the question, why on earth would Harter immure himself in the wilderness. I have chosen to construe the visit as a small mini-convention and shall report it thuswise.
Not all who wander are lost, but that's the way to bet
The day after Denvention I checked out of my motel and drove to Tony and Suford's hotel to pick them up. They had a google map (or mapquest or wherever they got it) that told us exactly how to get out to the car rental place where they were going to pick up their car. The map turned out to be very good - surprise, surprise - and we got there with no trouble. I waited patiently outside the gates while they stood in line, negotiated paper work, got their SUV, and had it inspected at the gate.
SUV you ask? Mr. Recycle rented an SUV? Well, yes. It seems with the price of gas being what it is, nobody wants to rent SUVs, so the rental company was renting them at half price. Being green is one thing, saving money is another.
Vehicle acquired we set out on our way to our B&B and Devil's Tower. The theory was that since I was the trusted native guide, I should lead. There was one little catch; they didn't have one of those handy little computer generated set of instructions to get from the car rental place to the interstate. I rather unwisely assumed that we could go back the way we came.
Ooops. It seems part of the route was one way. We couldn't go back the way we came. I made the only turn I could and we wandered a bit trying to recover. Eventually we got back to part of the route we had been on and stopped at a gas station and asked for directions. (No doubt Tony would wish it mentioned that it was he who said that we should ask for directions. Speaking for myself, this is just the sort of irrelevant detail that needn't be included in an account.) No problem, they said, go out the driveway and take a left. That was well within our path finding abilities and we were on our way, sort of.
Our plan had to been to retrace our steps back to I70, pick up I25, and head north to close encounters of the worst kind. Tony had suggested that we take a toll road, 470, that runs from the airport region to I25. Suford had said no, we don't want to take a toll road, and I had agreed. However when I looked at a map in the gas station it dawned on me that taking 470 probably would have been a good idea.
We got out of the gas station and onto the road to perdition; almost immediately the turnoff for 470 appeared. I made one the immediate on the spot executive decisions for which I am famed (the last one of those I made resulted in our driving through a winding mountain round in the middle of the night - I thought it was quite refreshing but Deb was terrified) and turned off on the exit.
Another oops. My troops had no idea what was going on and pulled up. I pulled up and pulled out my cell phone to explain what was going on. Would you believe it - no cell service. So Tony and I walked from our respective cars and negotiated. I explained that regardless of what we had said earlier, 470 was a hell of a lot shorter and faster, we could get on 470 right now, and the besides of which we were a lot less likely to get lost yet again. (Little did I know.) That settled, we were on our way, 470 to I 25, 18 to Lusk, and 85 to Sundance. (If you want to know where these roads and places are, go look at a map of Wyoming.)
We must have eaten along the way but I don't recall where it was and what I ate. I assume that it was at an establishment approved by the local board of health, if there was one.
We stopped at Sundance where we had agreed to switch who was in the lead. The Lewises called the B&B and confirmed that we were on our way. They said that they didn't serve supper so we should stop and eat on the way. Suford said that there were restaurants on the outskirts of Sundance; at least that's what I thought she said. We set out on our way. It didn't take long before Sundance was well behind us. This doesn't look good, I said to myself. I thought we were going to stop to eat. Myself replied, look, you had your turn as glorious leader. Now you are taking your turn as faithful follower. Shut up and drive.
We drove towards Devil's Tower. Soon enough we spotted a restaurant/bar beside the road and pulled in. No luck. The restaurant was closed; the bar was open and had a couple of bikers as customers. This didn't seem promising so set off again. We were in luck. Rather closer to the Devil's Tower there was another roadside restaurant that was open. Tony and Suford surrounded some buffalo burgers while I contented myself with some fairly good fish and chips.
Fed, we set out to find our B&B, with Tony and Sue in the lead following their trusty Google directions which said, turn right on county road 740. We drove. We drove some more. Myself, I said, this can't be good. Myself has run out of platitudes so I shut and faithfully followed. Eventually we came to a turnoff on the right side of the road where some locals were working, or at least talking about working. We stopped and asked about directions. Good move. It seems that the county roads weren't marked with road numbers and that our trusty directions were essentially useless. What we wanted was Lytle Creek road which was back the way we came. In fact it was about five hundred feet or so from the restaurant we had eaten at.
We turned around and headed back; this time we found Lytle Creek road, which was a windy little two track gravel road headed up into the boondocks. By now it was getting dark which made finding our way just a trifle more difficult. According to their directions as they understood them we were supposed to come to a fork in the road and take a left.
They came to a left turn that could be construed as a left fork and took it. At first this looked promising. Off in the distance was a large building that looked like a lodge. Then we drove down a heavily rutted road. This did not look so promising. We crossed a rather dubious looking bridge that looked as though it would be washed away in the next flash flood. Up we went on yet more rutted road. The road wended off into the boondocks in the opposite direction from that inviting lodge. This did not look good.
Eventually the road was straddled by two tall poles with a crossbeam and a big sign hanging down that read, Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here. Er, well, no, it didn't actually say that. What it said was welcome to some ranch. It didn't at all look like it had anything to do with the Lytle Creek B&B. We stopped. I walked over to their car where Suford was unsuccessfully trying to call the B&B. No service. I tried my cell phone; it got through. Suford got out of the car and talked to our hosts. It seems that we shouldn't have made that left turn and should have gone straight instead. They said to turn around and get back on Lytle Creek Road and that they would send a car out to lead us to our beds.
Turning around was just a bit dicey. The road was a pair of gravel tracks. The side of the road was scrub brush. Matilda is a low slung little car. I carefully inspected the road side to make sure that I wouldn't high center and puncture my oil pan when I turned around.
Fortunately there weren't any nasty little rocks. We got turned around and headed back, down a steep rutted road, over a dubious bridge, up a steep rutted road, and back onto Lytle Creek Road. We creep along in the dark. I know we are creeping along because a huge green tractor passed us. Finally our pilot car shows up and leads us into the promised land. Yes, there was indeed a suite waiting for us to rest our weary bodies. It was filled rustic wood carving - no doubt the Lewisite will have pictures.
They who had been lost were found.
You came from where?
The next morning we were served a hearty breakfast. We chatted up our hosts and they chatted us up. They told us about their remodeling (more like rebuilding) efforts. Then they asked where we all came from. Tony and Suford allowed as how they were from Boston. Tben I allowed as how I was from Highmore. That produced a surprise; they knew all about Highmore. It seems their daughter-in-law is a Peterson girl from Highmore.
It's a small world; no matter where you go, somebody has heard of Highmore. That would be Freddy Highmore, of course.
The Devil, you say
Off we went to Devil's Tower. There is not much to say about it, except that it is big and that there is nothing like it anywhere around there. People climb it, which says something about our species that I don't want to know about. We walked around it and took lots of pictures. Pictures just don't do it justice.
A high point of the visit was when I handed my golden age park pass to the ranger at the guard gate. She looked at it and me suspiciously and demanded to know if it was really mine. I said it was. She said doubtfully that I looked awfully young. I thanked her profusely and went on my way. I think they train these people to say such things to make seniors feel good.
Once we completed our close encounters of the perverse kind, Tony and Suford headed off to Dickinson, North Dakota, and I headed off to Chez Harter to prepare for the forthcoming convention.
Look who was here
While I was being reunited with Deborah, the Large Black Dog, and Evil Jimmy, the Lewises trekked about the Dakotas. This included looking at Dinosaurs in Dickinson, visiting George Gladfelter in Rapid City, visiting the Crazy Horse and Rushmore monuments, and wandering about the Black Hills.
While they were in the Black Hills they stayed at a lodge called The Black Forest Inn. Deb and I could recommend it highly because we had stayed there in 2003; a weekend there had been my birthday present to her.
They searched the guest register and made a copy of my comments back in 2003. Sooner or later everything you do comes back to haunt you - in a good way, of course.
Where have my lost sheep gone?
The plan was that T&S would head out for Highmore Friday morning. I figured that they might head out about ten o'clock Rapid City time, which would be eleven o'clock Highmore time. The drive is about four hours. However I had insisted that they drive through the SD Badlands, so I allowed an extra hour for that. All of that figured in, I estimated that they would arrive somewhere between four and five in the afternoon. Our Lady of the Large Black Dog accused me of being a hopeless optimist. She said they would spend a lot of time in the Badlands.
Sure enough, I get a call a little after two, telling me that they are just entering the Bad Lands. Oops. We seem to be running a bit behind schedule. Oh, well, they should still get here a little after five. Wrong.
A little after six I get a call that they are just leaving the Bad Lands! It seems that they stopped at every viewing site and took hundreds of pictures. Tony claims that at one outlook he blew the minds of the people next to them by commenting to Suford, "You certainly have strange geology on your planet." Apparently Deborah was right.
Sometime around eight thirty they showed up at the convention hotel, that being the rustic Chateau Chez Harter. Master chef Deborah Rinehart had hamburgers and vegetables wrapped in tinfoil ready for them on the grill. Not, perhaps, gourmet dining but very tasty indeed.
After a typical late night con party, the convention committee retired to the con suite (that would be Our Lady's residence) and left the convention attendees to their own devices in the convention hotel.
A trek across the prairie
In the morning the convention attendees set out to inspect the fabled June Harter Waterfowl Production Area. We looked at the rock with the plaque on it. As it happens, there is a water hole known as the East Dam that is about half a mile away from the entrance. It is an easy walk so we set off across the prairie to see waterfowl.
Along the way Suford made a discovery - prairie is not just one uniform sea of grass. There are different kinds of grass and a wide variety of wild flowers, and they are different in different places. She kept asking all sorts of questions that I was ill equipped to answer.
After a leisurely walk we arrived at the East Dam. I suppose it seems very ordinary to a native, but it is wild and beautiful in a small way. We came up on a ridge before we saw the water hole itself. There was a deer foraging who watched us for several minutes before strutting across the prairie. There were ducks, many ducks, swimming in the water. Suford took lots of pictures.
As we headed back to the convention hotel, I asked if they would like to see a real working cattle ranch with lots of horses. In response I got something that sounded like the sounds of panting, "Yes, yes, yes." Deb called her brother's place where Brady and Wendi Rinehart run herds of horses and cattle to see if we could give our guests a tour. Wendi said, sure come on out but I can't give you much time because I've got company. We allowed as how that was fine.
When we got there Wendi was outside. We asked her where the mares were. All of a sudden she was on the ATV and was leading us throughout pastures in search of horses and cattle. Wendi is rightfully proud of the Pompadour Hills Ranch.
We traipsed across the prairie and inspected horses and cattle. Tony and Suford got to see a solar powered electric fence. (Green sometimes is the only way you can go.) And we got to meet Clarabelle.
Clarabelle is a cow. When Clarabelle was a calf Wendi's daughter Kylee bottle fed her. Clarabelle grew up to be people friendly; she knows her own name and will come when called.
Wendi led us to a water tank in the prairie where Clarabelle and the rest of senior bovine sisterhood was hanging out. Wendi called Clarabelle over, and Tony and Sue got the chance to pet Clarabelle. Sometimes it's worth travelling 2000 miles for the chance to pet a cow.
The ranch buildings are in sort of a bowl with a high ridge behind it. Wendi took us up on the ridge and showed us tepee rings - circles of stones that Indians used to hold down tepees.
Apparently Suford had not been entirely satisfied with me as a source of information about grasses and native flora, so she started asking Wendi questions. This may or may not have been a mistake. Wendi has a long standing love affair with the prairie. To ask of her is to be overwhelmed with information. She quickly gathered together a bouquet of native flora and handed it to Suford, along with a collection of handbooks, and informed Suford that her assignment was to figure out what everything was.
A naughty dog and a deceptive cat
After the trip to the ranch we returned to the con suite (Deb's place) where master chef Deborah Rinehart prepared a simple repast for the weary travelers. Since Deb was one of the weary travelers the repast was not one of those sauce laden specialties that take hours upon hours to make. As I recall it was some very good steaks on the grill, vegetable side dishes, and home made ice cream (vanilla with real vanilla) for dessert. I don't recall if we mentioned it to the Lewises but all of the beef was grown locally.
Tony had earlier informed me that he particularly wanted to meet the Large Black Dog and Evial Jimmy. I must say that I was disappointed in each of them. Bridger's table manners were of the worst; he was importuning everyone for scraps until Suford finally whapped him on the nose. Jimmy was in the cellar, of course. He simply can't be let near food on a table.
This form of bad behaviour on his part was not evident for the simple reason it was not allowed. When he was out, however, he was on his best behaviour. He did not stalk anyone; he did not bite anyone, and he did not scratch anyone. Tony made pointed remarks about what a nice kitty cat Jimmy was. This was pure deception on Jimmy's part. Once Tony and Suford left, he reverted to normal. In retrospect, I think I know what happened. Jimmy has always been excessively tolerant of children and behaves very well with them. Jimmy is not too bright, and I think he actually thought that Tony and Suford were small children.
A dillar, a dollar, a ten o'clock scholar
After supper Tony, Deborah, and I retired to the TV room where we watched something or the other and held seemly conversation, such as might be heard in the drawing rooms of civilized gentry. In the meantimes Suford sat at the dining room table surrounded by her assignment of flora, her guide books, and pads of yellow paper. She did very well, patiently matching the characteristics of each bit of plant life to the descriptions in the guide books. After three hours she had properly categorized them all. It was all quite admirable; I am sure that she could be a great scientist when she grows up.
All's well that ends well
Early Sunday morning (far earlier than yours truly is willing to rise) the satiated convention attendees returned to Denver. Monday they flew back to Boston where they faced the daunting prospect of sorting through thousands of picture. Meantimes the convention committee went back to life as usual, hoping that the guests had had a wonderful time. I know that we certainly did.
This page was last updated September 1, 2008.