Friday, August 14, 2009

Going underground and finding dinosaurs

Today was a day between farmers markets, so I stayed overnight in Havre and explored the area.

Havre has a wonderful underground tour. The downtown area burned to the ground in 1904 from a deliberately set fire. The merchants decided to rebuild from brick, but first they had to get a kiln and make enough bricks. So in the meantime, they continued serving customers from basement-level stores, many of which stayed in business until the 1920s.

Passages going underground were lit by skylights, and people could find a grocery store, a meat market, a pharmacy, a bakery, a soda fountain, a dentist, a bordello, a saloon, and even a funeral parlor. The saloon and bordello were hidden from the general public. When the wife of the owner of the meat market discovered the existence of the bordello, she insisted on moving to another location, saying she did not want to be near the "soiled doves."

During the hour tour underground, you see Havre as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. Many items are original as found below the streets when they were used, but some rooms on the tour are recreated from local donations to depict life in other areas of town. For example, there is a Chinese laundry (there was no running water underground), a blacksmith's shop (fumes would have killed everyone underground), and an opium den (totally illegal soon after 1900).

underground passage

soda fountain

portable dentist chair



"first call" caskets (we use body bags today); morticians also took to carrying gurneys and stethoscopes with them in case they found a live one

Fascinating as this was, it only took an hour, so I decided to drive to Rudyard (possibly named after Rudyard Kipling) to see the dinosaur museum. I am embarrassed to say I expected to find piles of dusty bones in a very boring exhibit. But once I saw the preserved baby dinosaurs climbing out of eggs, I was hooked for life.

I bought a dinosaur trail passport and joined the many who are traveling across northern and eastern Montana to explore the places where new dinosaurs have been discovered. Paleontologists Jack Horner and Bob Makela, both featured in the Jurassic Park book and first movie, were born and raised near Rudyard.

I can't possibly describe everything I learned today in a few words, but I can tell you there is a lot to see! I am fortunate that the rest of my farmers markets visits will take me to most of the remaining sites on the trail.

To top off this wonderful day I met the famous local "old sore head," Bob, at the Tire-Rama in town. He is really a sweetheart, doing all sorts of good deeds locally, and quite a joker. When I asked who the sore head was, he pointed at another man, whom I chased all over to get a photo of. I do not understand why there is a sore head at all, but this title is officially granted by the townspeople, and they've painted it on their welcome sign.

the official old sore head

the oldest sore head, in the process of being dug up near Rudyard

The official "biggest" and "oldest" sore head is the recent discovery at the nearby dig, a Maiasaura. When you visit Rudyard, be sure to say hi to both sore heads. They won't bite.

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