29 July 2010

Pipe and Pow-wows

Mr. Fuzzy apologizes for the lack of recent posts. (1) He was away with his friend Joseph to the Pipekeepers Pow-wow in Pipestone, Minnesota (just 1,200 miles each way, easy to drive with Joseph as company & co-driver) and (2) he ain't been feelin hisself cause he's so bummed about how the sale of his old house has proceeded (and he's tryin like all get-out to not post a long whine about it).

The Pow-wow is a small event put on annually by The Keepers of the Sacred Tradition of Pipekeepers of which Mr. Fuzzy is mildly associated. He can't do any kinda dancin and that sure includes them thar fancy Plains steps but he sure do enjoy watchin 'em stomp out a beat to the sway of feathers, furs and bells. This year there were two particularly good drum groups.

Mainly, Mr. Fuzzy goes to visit with his friends (yes, indeed, he still has a couple) Argus, Breon, Ole, Bud & Rona, etc., and to make a pilgrimage to the Pipestone National Monument and visit the ancient quarries and watch some contemporary pipemakers at work. Here's a photo of Travis Erickson, one of the three demonstrators there... he is a fourth generation pipemaker and his quarry is probably the largest there - although very small by commercial standards since all work is performed with only hand tools. Traditional pipemakers like Travis work with only a few hand tools, the chief instrument of shaping being a Four-in-One file.

Alas, the layer of red stone, now known as Catlinite (after the artist George Catlin who was the first white man to paint the quarries), one of the softest stones in the world, is underneath Sioux Quartzite, one of the hardest stones in the world. You cannot imagine the effort it takes, measured in weeks of hand work, just to remove most of the overburden of dirt and then quartzite, before any Catlinite is seen at all (and few layers of it are homogeneous and thick enough to make a pipe). After any rain, the quarry is filled with water and must be bailed out to be worked again.

On the way back home, Joseph and Mr. Fuzzy stopped in Ohio at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park which protects one very small bit of mounds that once were the center of the amazingly advanced Hopewell culture circa 200BC-400AD. They made platform pipes with no metal tools that are just soooo beautiful. Ironically, there are very few on display but here are two, a wildcat and a frog.

To see the great Hopewell artifacts, visit the Ohio Historical Society Museum in Columbus, Ohio. Native American craftsmen from this culture also created exquisite masterpieces in mica sheets and copper that must been seen to be adequately appreciated.

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