As part of a 2017 Artist-in-Residency at Badlands National Park, Leslie McMurtry created an audio drama.
As I began researching the history of the Badlands, I realized there were so many stories to be told that I would have to make some choices about what aspects of this area to highlight. Furthermore, as the first audio dramatist (dramaturg?) at the Badlands National Park, I felt I had a duty to the art form, which is constantly being singled out as “dying” or “dead.” The audio drama I wrote and produced might be the first audio drama many visitors to the Badlands have ever heard, so it needed to showcase the form. In the resulting audio drama, I wanted to give as broad a picture of the Badlands as possible (chronologically and thematically) including human history (Native American and white culture) and geologic/paleontological record; in a relatively short audio drama format (for practical production purposes). I was determined that it needed to be radiogenic--making use of interesting, rich soundscapes, personifying non-human characters in a way that would be less successful in other media, and making use of what Dermot Rattigan calls radio’s “macro and micro scale” (the way radio and audio media address a large audience but also speak directly and intimately to each listener). I decided that the audio drama conversely must not be too complex so that listeners new to audio drama could follow along.
From this, I wondered: How many stories is it possible to tell in such parameters? Given the historical and ongoing contentions and conflicts in the Badlands area, was it more important to accurately depict these or to create a more positive, hopeful attitude to the piece that listeners would take away with them as their impression of the Badlands? Did I, I wondered, have a duty as an artist to tell certain stories or make certain statements?
Every place is connected to the past, and Look Under Your Feet, The Past Is There attempts to illustrate this by invoking the cyclical nature of time and the interconnectedness of its characters and settings (contemporary, 1806, 70 million years ago, 1946, 1886). The timeless, Greek chorus-like commentators, Wind and Grass, are able to unite these disparate threads and bring harmony to a cacophony. The past literally speaks to Mitchell, a bored urban visitor, as it does to his predecessor, the trapper Joseph Morgan. The past has a more ambiguous, haunting quality for Julia Walker as she abandons Conata, and Look Under Your Feet, The Past Is There is aware of echoes of adverse reactions to life in the Badlands.
Some say that radio “has the best pictures.” Visitors to the Badlands National Park are at an advantage when hearing this audio drama in situ, as they have stunning visual referents all around them. However, anyone can use his or her imagination and follow Mitchell and the Pteranodon to the balmy Cretaceous sea or huddle in a homestead with Leah Pickler and her family, listening to the coyotes. “It’s easy to find a link to the past. Anyone can do it.”
Kim ...........................................Natalie Heng
Mitchell ....................................Adam Dunham
The Pteranodon ......................Nick Armstrong
Morgan Tall Hat .......................Amaris Feland Ketcham
Joseph Morgan .......................Terry Cooper
Wanaghi ...................................Jasmine Isaksson
Jean-François Hunoult ...........Sebastian Touray
Julia Jessie Walker .................C. Eleiece Krawiec
Leah Wayne Pickler ................Rebecca Thomas
Park Ranger ............................James C. Ferguson
Tony .........................................Jesse Young
BBC Reporter ..........................Jamie Beckwith
NPR Reporter ..........................Leslie McMurtry
Jamie Beckwith (BBC Reporter) By day, Jamie works for a charity that provides affordable housing for women in London; by night, he is an aspiring screenwriter. He makes noises like a prairie dog when he sleeps.
Gemma Cartmell (Composer) is studying Music Composition at the University of Chichester and will be doing an MA in Composition for Film, TV and Games. Her influences are Chopin, Prokofiev, video game composer Jessica Curry and Tim Burton film composer Danny Elfman. She plays the piano and also writes novels and short stories.
James C. Ferguson (Park Ranger) is an award-winning writer whose plays have been produced throughout the United States,the UK and New Zealand. He has written two novels, numerous screenplays and a number of projects for television and the web. James is also the co-writer and director of the well-reviewed independent motion picture Happy Holidays, available through Amazon, Android Market, SNAG FILMS, Vudu and on DVD through TLA Video. For additional info. go to his web site – www.scalepluspoints.com or on Twitter @scalepluspoints.
Natalie Heng (Kim) is an writer and audiobook narrator with a passion for amateur dramatics. She enjoys giving life to the spectrum of human voices that colour our lives - the dark and the deep, the bright and the colourful, the light and the beautiful. She spends her time between Malaysia and the UK, you can find her writing and audio work at natalieheng.com or explore her audiobook titles on audible.com.
Amaris Feland Ketcham (Morgan Tall Hat) occupies her time with open space, white space, CMYK, flash nonfiction, long trails, f-stops, line breaks, and several Adobe Programs running simultaneously. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, the Los Angeles Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, and the Utne Reader.
She lives in Albuquerque, NM.
Eleiece Krawiec (Julia Jessie Walker) lives in the New Orleans, Louisiana metropolitan area. She got into voice-acting ten plus years ago…”on a whim,” discovered how much she enjoyed it, and has never looked back. She’s
voiced a variety of characters in that time, including her current ongoing role as Dr. Rachel Winston in the Audio Drama Outpost – A Star Trek Fan Production.
Leslie McMurtry (Writer/Producer) was born in Albuquerque, NM, and has lived in Swansea, London, and Manchester in the UK. She has been writing audio dramas since 2007. The Mesmerist, produced by Camino Real, was broadcast on KUNM FM in 2010. She currently teaches radio theory at the University of Salford.
Rebecca Thomas (Leah Wayne Pickler) is a Texas-based narrator and voice actor drawn to science fiction and fantasy audiobooks, audio dramas, and interactive projects. A former math, science, and writing teacher, Rebecca has long woven together her performing arts and teaching skills to present material, develop educational programming, and manage a variety of projects. Outside the studio, Rebecca reads compulsively, writes short
stories and novellas, blogs about autodidactism and communities of practice, and shares behind-the-scene glimpses into her creative practices.
Fiona Thraille (Wind) is a British voice actor, narrator and audio producer who has worked in voiceover, podcasts, and who has narrated and produced over a dozen audiobooks through Audible. For a year she recently co-hosted and produced The Audio Drama Production Podcast, and is excited to be part of their UK troupe taking new audio dramas to the stage this spring. Her audio drama When We Were Two will be released later this year, and she is due to work on production on Hell Is For Other People by Leslie McMurtry, for the Audio Drama Network this Summer. https://thraille.weebly.com/ http://audiodramaproduction.com/
Sebastian Touray (Jean-Francois Hunoult) 36 year-old linguist and translator, loves travel and
books, and has an over-active imagination. h t t p : / / g m e . s e k i z e n d o . c o m
Ted Wenskus (Grass) is a stage and voice actor from Rochester, NY. He has performed in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Judgment at Nuremberg, Hedda Gabbler, and Twelve Angry Men on stage and been featured in The Cherry Orchard, Abraham Lincoln, and Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince & Other Tales on audible.com. Ted is also a published playwright and has had works produced in England, Australia, the Philippines, and throughout New York, earning a Theatre Association of New York State award for playwriting in the process. He is currently working on numerous fiction, theater, and audio drama projects (as always).
Look Under Your Feet, the Past Is There
An audio drama exploring the past and present inhabitants of Badlands National Park.
LOOK UNDER YOUR FEET, THE PAST IS THERE v.15 May 17, 2017 By Leslie McMurtry Characters WIND, female, older GRASS, male, younger MITCHELL, 11, bored urban kid KIM, 40, Mitchell’s mom VOICE OF PTERANODON, raspy, wisecracking PARK RANGER 1, male or female, any age JOSEPH MORGAN, 22, Welsh trapper WANAGHI TACHANKU, 17, Lakota woman JEAN-FRANÇOIS HUNOULT, 30s, French-Canadian trapper JULIA JESSIE WALKER, postmistress of Conata, 50s LEAH WAYNE PICKLER, pioneer woman, 20s BBC RADIO ANNOUNCER, male, any age NPR RADIO ANNOUNCER, female, any age MORGAN TALL HAT, 30s, park ranger TONY, 20s, Morgan’s cousin, radio DJ MR HEATHER, 30s/40s, hillbilly RAMSEY STEWART, 20s, gallant SCENE 1: EXT. BADLANDS. DAY. (TIME IS ETERNITY). SFX: wind 1. WIND. There is no polar darkness like the darkness of the Badlands. SFX: grasses rustle 2. GRASS. I have not seen the Moon— 3. WIND. But I have, for the wind blows where it will, here most of all, and the caress of the wind is alike in canyon, crevasse, hollow, peak, as on the Moon. 4. GRASS. But grasses do not grow on that perfect topological map, do not skirt abandoned cities of weathered sediment, for moment by moment we are negotiating boundaries: 5. WIND. For you, it is the close clipped cosmetics of bison’s straight flat teeth, pronghorn’s skipping hooves 6. GRASS. A quivering white tail, a wrinkled nose, and a temporary temple built by a . . . SFX: A meadowlark sings several repetitions SFX: red-tailed hawk cries, wings rush Your playground is an unending sky. 7. WIND. You wind through crevices in scorching summer, send out spindly roots for rare water in cutting cold winter. Frost grabs a tight grip on stone and springs it open like a lock. SFX: trickling water 8. GRASS. Companion cedars greedily soak from the cut valleys where a backbone separates 9. WIND. Interior from spinal wall, for under the earth is growing and faint a thunder-beat of thrumming. 10. GRASS. Together we can weave a kaleidoscope of sounds, awareness of you made manifest by the attendance of me, and the touch of the wind ripples the grass, neither absence nor definable presence. Sweeping pinnacles, 11. WIND. Following the sheep on the highest table of earth, like an open book to the sky, 12. GRASS. But you are older than I, you were here when the crags were underwater marinas. 13. WIND. Time. SFX: Musical theme 14. GRASS. Time is eternity. 15. WIND. Time is now. SFX: wind, grass 14. WIND. Another day dawns. SFX: Car traffic on a small, windy, twisting road. SCENE 2: INT. BADLANDS CEDAR PASS VISITORS’ CENTER. DAY. (TIME IS NOW) SFX: door opens SFX: MITCHELL, KIM, and (silent) Dad walk in Background ambience: desk phone ringing in background, background wallah RANGER 1 and so erosion removed Cretaceous shales and sandstone from the Black Hills, rivers spread great quantities of sediment over the Badlands in the Oligocene era. And like the orientation film said, erosion rates are among the highest known—an inch per year. KIM. Excuse me—hi. RANGER 1. Hey there. KIM. Is this where we pay our fee? Mitchell, stop dragging your feet. RANGER 3. Yep, you can pay here. SFX: KIM reaches into her bag Where’re you from? 8. KIM. Manhattan. 11. RANGER 1. You’ve come a long way. Where’re you staying? 12. KIM. We’ll probably just drive through today on our way to Mount Rushmore. Mitchell, stop playing with that phone before I take it away. MITCHELL sighs laboriously. 13. RANGER 1. Is this a spring break family vacation? 14. KIM. Yeah. 15. RANGER 1. (to MITCHELL) And how old are you? 16. KIM. This is Mitchell. Come on, answer the gentleman. I swear he’s usually pretty friendly. 17. MITCHELL. Eleven. (to KIM) When are we leaving? 18. KIM. It was his father’s idea to come out here. 19. RANGER 1. Mitchell, are you interested in wildlife? 20. MITCHELL. Not really. 21. KIM. Sure you are. Don’t you want to see the bison and big-horned sheep that Dad was talking about? Do you guys have wolves here? 22. RANGER 1. No wolves anymore. You might see some coyotes, though. (to MITCHELL) Are you interested in fossils? 23. MITCHELL. Maybe. 24. RANGER 1. See here on the map? Try taking him through Fossil Exhibit Trail. 25. KIM. Thank you very much. Musical transition SCENE 3: EXT. BADLANDS, FOSSIL EXHIBIT TRAIL. DAY. SFX: Car door slams shut SFX: Wind, cars driving by SFX: MITCHELL, KIM, and (silent) Dad get out of car 1. KIM. . . . you’re right, it was really cool. Mitchell, didn’t you think the way those deer sort of ran up the side of those rock formations was pretty cool? 2. MITCHELL. I guess. SFX: they walk on Fossil Exhibit Trail boardwalk 3. KIM. And the bighorn sheep . . . just incredible. Rick, I guess if we keep driving we’ll get to where the man said we might see the bison, up here, near Sage Creek . . . SFX: MITCHELL’s footsteps move ahead on the boardwalk In the background, Kim is reading the procedure for reporting fossils1 MITCHELL sighing loudly 4. MITCHELL. Can I have my iPhone back now? SFX: KIM walks toward MITCHELL on the boardwalk 5. KIM. No, you cannot. 6. MITCHELL. Please? 7. KIM. No. 1 KIM: Your fossil discovery begins a scientific process. Every detail is important, even the area around the find. If you find a fossil, please do not disturb it. Note the location and report it to a park ranger. (This taken directly from the signage at Fossil Exhibit Trail.) 8. MITCHELL. Why not? 9. KIM. Dad and I are going to read about fossils. 10. MITCHELL. It’s boring. 11. KIM. You can join us if you want. 12. MITCHELL. Can I go back to the car? 13. KIM. No. Fossils were your favorite part of the Natural History Museum. 14. MITCHELL. I’ll just stand over here. 15. KIM. Fine. SFX: KIM walks down the boardwalk toward (silent) Dad SFX: MITCHELL kicks some rocks down the boardwalk 16. MITCHELL. If Mom wants me to find some fossils, I will. Not going to find any on this stupid trail, am I? SFX: He leaves the boardwalk and goes dashing off onto the Badlands 17. KIM. (off) Don’t wander too far, stay where I can see you! Musical dissolve SCENE 4: EXT. BADLANDS, FOSSIL EXHIBIT TRAIL. DAY. SFX: MITCHELL walking aimlessly around in the badlands 1. MITCHELL. This is so boring. All I see are rocks. How am I supposed to recognize a fossil anyway? I can’t wait to get home. SFX: fade out sounds of civilization – total silence – no wind, meadowlarks, etc. A rattling, rasping voice clears its throat. What was that? The voice breathes raspily. Something’s . . . breathing over there. Whoa, what’s that? Is that a . . . a bone? 2. PTERANODON. You think your life’s boring, try resting in pieces for 70 million years. MICHELL gasps 3. MITCHELL. This is not possible. 4. PTERANODON. Especially when you’re used to beachfront rookeries, tidal breeze, balmy sunbathing, and now look at this place—the biggest sandbox you ever saw. 5. MITCHELL. Someone’s playing a trick on me. I’m gonna call 911! Wait— Mom has my phone . . . Mom!! 6. PTERANODON. Hey, kid, relax. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m down here. 7. MITCHELL. I’m having a, a, a—what did Dad call it?—a nervous breakdown. Mom!! 8. PTERANODON. Try takin’ a closer look. 9. MITCHELL. You’re a rock. 10. PTERANODON. I’m not a rock, I’m a piece of bone. Fossilized bone, to be precise. The PTERANODON makes a bird-like squawk, like a verbal tic. 11. MITCHELL. Are you a dinosaur? 12. PTERANODON. What do you think I am? 13. MITCHELL. I don’t know! I’m not a scientist or one of those people who dig up fossils! This is crazy. I’m gonna pick you up and throw you where no one can ever fi— SFX: MITCHELL picks up the fossil Whoaaaaaa! SCENE 5: EXT. BADLANDS (WARM SHALLOW INLAND SEA). DAY. (TIME IS CRETACEOUS, 70 MILLION YEARS AGO). SFX: sudden and loud transition to the sound world of flying high above the Cretaceous sea – big ocean sounds, honking duck-bill dinosaurs distantly on the shore, wind, and bird-like pterosaur squawking Transitional soaring musical flourish 1. PTERANODON. Seems like only yesterday I was a flapling, learning how to stretch my wings and fly. The PTERANODON makes a bird-like squawk. SFX: Wings flapping, wind 2. MITCHELL. What ARE you? 3. PTERANODON. I’m a pteranodon. A flying reptile. SFX: wind, ocean sounds I was living the good life on the shore of the shallow sea. Raised generations of flaplings, eating the finest fish in the ocean. SFX: baby pteranodons fly past, make bird-like squawks SFX: splash and whoosh as the pteranodon dives, splash into water SFX: frenzied splashing and squawking SFX: hiss from mosasaur as it surfaces, then splash as it descends SFX: Wings flapping, wind There wasn’t a mosasaur born that could catch me. 4. MITCHELL. What’s a mosasaur? 5. PTERANODON. Big swimming lizard things. 6. MITCHELL. Yikes! 7. PTERANODON. Tell me about it. SFX: Wind, rain, thunder SFX: loud thunder SFX: Silence Cruising, free as a b- well, free as a pteranodon, ducking and diving in all kinds of weather, king of the sky. And then it ended. SCENE 6: EXT. BADLANDS, FOSSIL TRAIL. DAY. SFX: wind 1. MITCHELL. What happened to you? And how come there’s so little left of you? 2. PTERANODON. I got old. My wing fibers got fragile. Just ripped one day and . . . whoosh . . . down I plummeted, into the sea. 3. MITCHELL. And you’ve been sitting here ever since? 4. PTERANODON. Nah, I was down there. 5. MITCHELL. Where? 6. PTERANODON. In the Pierre2 Shale. 7. MITCHELL. Oh. Then how’d you get up here? 8. PTERANODON. Come on, use your own grey matter for a change. 9. MITCHELL. Huh? 10. PTERANODON. Talk to the experts. Come up with a theory. 11. MITCHELL. Oh, right! 2 Pron. PEER. 12. KIM (off). Mitchell?!? 13. MITCHELL. Mom! I’m over here. You’re not going to believe what I found. Oh. They said leave everything where . . . you found . . . it. SFX: he puts the fossil back on the ground 14. PTERANODON. Nice talkin’ to you. SFX: MITCHELL runs off to find his parents 15. MITCHELL. Mom! Dad! We gotta go back to the Visitors’ Center right away! SCENE 7: EXT. BADLANDS. DAY. (TIME IS ETERNITY). SFX: wind SFX: grasses rustle SFX: Prairie dog chatter, burrowing owl, intermittent meadowlark 1. WIND. The only thing constant is change. Tides turn, seas run dry. Bodies become porous, sediment drifts, the lamp of flesh becomes bone. 2. GRASS. Thousands of bison once pounded the steep tables, Sharp hills, cliff shelves, vantages high, gorges of the nadir. Cropped, kept close. 3. WIND. Sky-tinted summer, shadows in the grass, hunts, counting coup. 4. GRASS. Long autumn nights, dying fireflies, dying nights. 5. WIND. A winter of no words, only a bison’s breath. The piercing chill, the pluming sacred smoke. SFX: wind-blown snow sounds SCENE 8: EXT. BADLANDS. DAY, NORTH OF BEAR CREEK. (late winter 1806) Music: 1806 theme SFX: sound of Bear Creek SFX: sound of metal trap being set as man splashes in low water SFX: Man walking through short prairie grasses SFX: far-off rifle shots 1. JOSEPH. Nefoedd3! Who’s shooting in the Mako Sica4? SFX: he climbs up some of the badlands formations (grunting) Oh. (shouts, cupping his hands) Hunoult! 2. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. (very faintly) Joseph? Come down here. JOSEPH grunts as he climbs over the Badlands wall and down through Sage Creek Pass. SFX: JEAN-FRANÇOIS walks up to him. As he approaches, JEAN-FRANÇOIS can be heard whistling off-key, which he does on and off through the next two scenes. Joseph, mon vieux. He embraces and pats JOSEPH. What brings you so far up river? 3. JOSEPH. Wolf got caught in one my traps, got its foot out, I followed it out here. So, you caught one of those sheep with the horns. 4. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. Help me skin it. Oh, mon vieux, your eyes are as big as wagon wheels. Your wife tell you it was a land of spirits? 5. JOSEPH. Wanaghi doesn’t like to go into the Mako Sica unless there’s a good reason. Besides, there’s no water past the wall. Everyone knows that. 10. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. Have a look at this odd critter I found. SFX: cloth and bone 11. JOSEPH. Where’d you find that? 12. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. In there. The ground is full of carnage, where the soil is so hard a horse’s foot wouldn’t even make a print. You’re falling over red-shelled turtles / and great big bones 13. JOSEPH. (interior monologue) It was / a massive jawbone such as I had never seen with darkened, rippling, blunt, stone-like teeth. 14. JEAN-FRANÇOIS makes you hope you never meet one alive. 15. JOSEPH. What kind of critter is it? 16. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. Like a big ox or a horse, maybe? You want to take some of this meat home? 15. JOSEPH. Come with me to the dugout. Wanaghi will make us a nice supper. 16. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. I can’t say no to a woman’s cooking. As they begin walking away together: 3 I understand this is a Welsh exclamation for “(Good) heavens!” 4 PRO. “MAH-ko SHEE-ka.” Means literally “Bad land,” but not in the sense of being evil, just somewhere that is not hospitable to live. Haven’t seen many folk all winter. No one’s been coming through from St Louis5 way . . . SCENE 9: EXT/INT. LODGE, NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE CHEYENNE RIVER. NIGHT. SFX: Wolves howl in the distance; great horned owl hoots SFX: river in the distance SFX: crackling fire 1. WANAGHI. Did you get enough to eat? 2. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. It’s more than I deserve, Mrs Morgan. It will make me fat and lazy. 3. WANAGHI. I don’t think so. Your friend needs a wife, Joe. SFX: JOSEPH lights his pipe tobacco from the fire. The men smoke. 4. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. When is the little one due? 5. WANAGHI. A month or two. It will be a girl. 6. JOSEPH. I rather think he will be a bachgen terrwynn6, like his father. 7. WANAGHI. It will be a girl. I know it. 8. JEAN-FRANÇOIS. The Lakota say a wise man listens to his wife. Her grandmother was a medicine woman; she has the power. They all laugh. 9. JOSEPH. Yes, and so, Wanaghi, maybe you know about this. SFX: cloth and bone Hunoult says the ground beyond the wall of the Mako Sica is strewn with bones like these. Did you ever see such an animal as this? Musical sting – bone flute? 10. WANAGHI. I know what this is. JOSEPH and JEAN-FRANÇOIS exclaim in surprise. Though I have never seen it alive. 11. JOSEPH. What can you mean by that? 12. WANAGHI. In the Black Hills, the Thunder Birds dwelt. Their nest was a pile of snake bones. They were always fighting their mortal enemies the Uncke Ghila7. And there were Thunder Beings, 5 PRO. “San Loo-ee.” 6 My Welsh is pretty basic, but I think this means “a hearty big boy” or something to that effect. 7 PRO. “OON-KAH HEELA.” like giant horses striking lightning and thunder with their hooves. Thunder Horses, I suppose you would call them. SFX: thunder, boulders loudly falling down a hill, pounding hooves of a huge galloping animal Soaring musical flourish; music swells This is the jawbone of a Thunder Horse. 15. JOSEPH. So they lived in the Mako Sica but they dwell there no longer? 16. WANAGHI. Who can say? I only tell the stories that were told to me. Eerie transition music SCENE 10: EXT/INT. LODGE, NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE CHEYENNE RIVER. NIGHT SFX: Great horned owl hoots SFX: fire burning low SFX: furs are moved aside as JOSEPH in bed with WANAGHI tosses and turns 1. WANAGHI. Can’t you sleep, Joe? 2. JOSEPH. I can’t stop thinking about what you told me. 3. WANAGHI. Why let it disturb you? You’re not thinking of going into the Mako Sica? The water’s bad. The way is treacherous. Why risk it? 4. JOSEPH. You’re right, I won’t go until I bring the furs east of the river. 5. WANAGHI. Joseph. 6. JOSEPH. What is it? SFX: cloth, furs, bone Your medicine bundle. 7. WANAGHI. Inside is the bone of Unchke Ghila. See? We believe such things are powerful, Joe. Go into the Mako Sica if you must. Just . . . be careful. SFX: wolves howl – scene transition SCENE 12: EXT. BADLANDS. NIGHT. (TIME IS ETERNITY) SFX: wind – grass SFX: coyotes howl 1. WIND. Years passed—Joseph and Wanaghi’s children grew up, grew old, the wind blew in winter and in summer, and the world outside the Badlands changed beyond recognition for Wanaghi’s people. 2. GRASS. Trappers and traders were followed by settlers, homesteaders, town builders, fugitives, the lawless and impassioned, those with bad luck or no luck, men like Joseph and men unlike him, bone-hunters and those who spilled blood. 3. WIND. Drought followed fire, famine, and the moon of popping trees. Bones were bleached white by catastrophe. 4. GRASS. In the Badlands there were wild cherries, plums, buffalo berries, twining on the branch until after the frost, sweeter than honey, and crisp, and good. 5. WIND. The bison disappeared, the wolves hunted no more, animals moved back at the encroach of spade, steel rail, shod hoof. 4. GRASS. The cycle of the seasons wrapped round like rust-colored rings on yellow mounds, yet for people in prairie and river- land, something called progress seized brains with a fever for “the last great frontier.” SFX: horse hooves, wagon wheels on dirt 5. WIND. Dust on the wind, the people became, dust that blew and dispersed, eroding canyons into soft rock. 6. GRASS. The cedars remained. Their roots were deep, and they clung fast. SFX: silence SCENE 13: INT. CONATA BUILDING. DAY. (1947) SFX: wind SFX: old wooden door opens and creaks SFX: JULIA walks in—door closes SFX: wind calms down Music: Julia’s theme 1. JULIA. So, well, this is goodbye, Conata8. Conata in the west river country, just below the wall of the Badlands. Well, I suppose the “soddy poet” was right after all. In the boom times, we all said such thoughts were for those without backbone, those folks who were quitters not stickers. “In 8 PRO. “CON-ah-ta.” Last two syllables slurred together. the meantime I’m hungry and thirsty and hot,” he wrote, “and I’m sick of the country and I’m sick of my lot.” Things bein’ bad? They were always bad. Influenza outbreak in ’18, winter of ’19, drought of ’32 when EB Yoast and Chris Heather went broke while their farm machinery rusted in the sun. The drought of 1910—we must have lost about half the town. Fourth of July 1911 . . . silent as the grave. They came back. But never so many as there were before. Tricklin’ away. . . the Kruses moved off their homestead several years back . . . Lena Kruse was my best friend around these parts. Things haven’t been the same since they left. And why did we come? Well, for land, I suppose. For adventure. Our brother had already proved up on Potato Creek on 320 acres, so we thought we’d join him The last great frontier. SFX: several sets of horses’ hooves, as if walking slowly – slight reverb to suggest memory The three of us came to west river country . . . Pauline, Minnie, an’ me. Minnie married Dan Clifford, they had a ranch ‘bout seven miles out of Conata. All three of us were schoolteachers to begin with. Well, that would never do, even if demand for teachers in the west river country was high. Chris Heather used to say . . . 2. HEATHER. Man is made of dust. Dust settles. Be a man. 3. JULIA. The Chicago, Milwaukee, and Pacific passed through Creston and Conata on to Rapid City. We had water, you see, water available for the railroad here and in Weta9 in man-made reservoirs. Thought we had oil, too, back around ’26, but they never found much. SFX: fade in very softly crowd sounds – baseball bat hits a ball – fade out Pauline and Minnie an’ me used to climb the Badlands for fun and look for interesting rocks or Indian relics. The younger generation has had more variety in their entertainments—ice skating, picnics, wiener roasts, ballgames and rodeos. SFX: crickets SFX: small household clock strikes 12 times One night, after a dance—the whole town, all the ranches for miles, turned out for a dance—at midnight during the oyster stew—it was so elegant, we thought, so refined, Ramsey Stewart kissed me and asked 9 PRO. “WAY-tah.” 4. STEWART. Julia, will you marry me? 5. JULIA. I said I had to talk it over with Pauline. That was 1917. He was called up and went to France and . . . I never saw him again. SFX: distant trumpet plays taps But folks in Conata were good and neighborly, there was a lot to do in the early days. Pauline managed the store, I managed the post office. There were two stores here once, if you can believe it. Two stores and a hotel, and the hotel was always full! In our general store, the homemade windlass and elevator was Pauline’s idea. Pretty sophisticated. The delight on people’s faces when she winched cold soda bottles from the cellar cave even in August! SFX: wind blowing SFX: pages being turned. Musical transition to 1886 There were some terrible tragedies. Barney Black being discovered below the Badland wall . . . well . . . at least it was winter. He was a real old-country settler. He lived alone, was buried in Interior. As I say, some terrible tragedies. Some places can have a bad reputation. People have been known to be underhanded, unscrupulous, to get land. But some land people leave alone. This journal, someone found it in an old box cupboard in the abandoned Klatt place above the wall, wrapped in a copy of the Midland Mail. No one will live on that claim, people were murdered there, they say . . . SCENE 14: EXT. BADLANDS, NEAR WETA. DAY. (1886) SFX: howling wind SFX: pencil scratching on paper SFX: fire crackling Plaintive music (Leah’s theme) 1. LEAH. October 2nd, 1886. So tired that I can hardly be lonely. Seth’s boys fetched me by horse to the shack. The trail’s too rough for wagon yet. Truth be told, I was surprised to see it, though knowing Seth, I shouldn’t have been. I am told it was a way station operated by the Johnsons who have gone now that the railroad reaches to Rapid City— SFX: howling coyotes there’s still traces of the hay. We are the first family to homestead in the Badlands, the land not yet opened by the government for settlement. Why October? I asked Seth. There was no sod to break up in this strange and silent place. All day was taken up banking the house with manure. Seth says this will keep it warm in the winter. I asked what happened when it begins to smell in spring. “Why, we’ll take it away again,” he says. October 6th, 1886. It takes all of Monday and Tuesday to do the washing. Jane and the baby helped me make an old hussy lamp today. It is all the light we have. Seth persists in telling me of a night that the Badlands are burnt-out coalfields. So coal or oil is there somewhere under the weird spires and towers of our private hell. I’ll believe it when I see it. November 1st, 1886. Men by the names of White and Anderson were living above Rake Creek. Seth goes with them in search of gold. It is well that I am seldom alone at night, for I never can get used to that. It brings melancholia. November 12th, 1886. Between us, Seth and I have made a bed, a wardrobe, and a cupboard of goods-boxes and we’ll dig a cellar come spring. For Seth’s birthday, I made a pudding of fruit wrapped in bread dough, covered with molasses. December 20th, 1886. Seth has a chest cold, and I can get no onion for a poultice. We have had to make do with goose oil. Had no time for writing as weather’s been very cold. The nearest neighbors caught in a blizzard a few nights back, find frozen cattle everywhere. When the fire goes out at night we lay in bed listening to the coyotes. April 2nd, 1887. The baby stepped on a nail. I have no Epsom salts. I make up a poultice as best I can and give her goose oil. SFX: cicadas and a rattlesnake’s rattle July 6th, 1887. What water we’ve got I strain through cloth to get rid of the bugs, as there’s no clear well water to be had. I carry a hoe with me wherever I go, to kill rattlesnakes. So much heat, and no rain comes. Just wind. June 16th, 1887. The first time I have left the homestead since departing from Chamberlain last fall. There is SFX: crying children SFX: shovel in dirt nothing to do or see and nowhere to go. The same old routine over again. This hardly feels like living. September 5th, 1887. I dreamed last night about the farm in Wisconsin. I loved that time. Father would tell me about old New York. Those days are gone. I can’t imagine I will ever see Mother or Father again. I look to the weird formations in the Badlands for signs of life. Deer, antelope and other critters, but few people pass through. December 7th, 1887. Had no idea that we were to experience so much wind and cold. The children are sick with pneumonia. I must bear all my troubles alone. January 31st, 1888. When Seth can be persuaded to sit indoors, I try to teach him to read, with the children. In my two years of schoolteaching, I never had such a bad- tempered student as Seth. April 19th, 1888. Jane was killed by a rattlesnake today. We buried her. No preachers in these parts, so I said a few words from the Bible. June 20th, 1888. I have persuaded Seth that we should visit friends in town for the Fourth of July celebrations. I have received a letter from my sister and a receipt for Excellent Hair Dressing. One ounce Borax, one ounce ammonia, half a pint of whiskey, and one quart of water. I will strive to save the water in time to dress my hair for the picnic. There will be a dance at the Exchange Hotel that will last until dawn with cakes, sandwiches, and coffee. I must try to remember how to play the piano, and perhaps Mrs Johnson or Mrs Currier will sing . . . SFX: party sounds/background wallah SFX: piano music and singing, “Rosalie, the Prairie Flower”10 – fade out to Leah’s theme SFX: wind blows July 6th, 1888. What a night we had . . . singing and dancing . . . good company . . . a lovely supper . . . so good for the children to play with others. None of the women can understand how I can make it on my own in the Badlands. The night was over too soon . . . 10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfNZUX4VMZ4 http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/hasm_n0866/ SCENE 15: INT/EXT. CONATA. DAY. (1947) SFX: pages turn 1. JULIA. Who was that woman? Did the family move on? What became of her? The claim’s evil reputation is undeserved, I find . . . SFX: car horn SFX: footsteps That’ll be Pauline. Time to go. I suppose the journal comes with me, maybe someday someone will come looking for it. Only, I suppose . . . Oh how do you leave the only home you’ve ever known? SFX: shuts wooden door SFX: car engine running SFX: car door shuts SCENE 16: INT. BADLANDS, CAR. DAY. (TIME IS TODAY) SFX: car radio SFX: interior car driving over gravel SFX: pow wow music, fade out 1. TONY and as we know, life has been really difficult since the inception of the reservation era. Ninety-seven percent of those who live here in Pine Ridge are below the poverty line, and the teenage suicide rate is 150% higher than the national average. And now a new report suggests that these figures are not improving . . . MORGAN tsks. SFX: static as MORGAN switches the radio station 2. NPR REPORTER more on that from our correspondent in London. 3. BBC REPORTER. The recent study has been published in Science Advances and uses instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records with the conclusion that refutes the so-called “pause” has occurred in global warming in the last 15 years. In fact, say the paper’s authors, the rate of warming in the last two decades is no different from the rate of warming since 1970 or from 1950. 4. NPR REPORTER. The study was not welcomed by climate change skeptics . . . MORGAN sighs. SFX: radio turned off 5. MORGAN. I grew up in Wanblee11. The name comes from Wanblee Hokpiln12, means Eagles’ Nest Butte. I grew up with my grandparents. But I had relatives, way back down the line, on my dad’s side, in Conata. I drive past Conata on my way into the VC. There’s nothing left—an old rusting pickup, some foundations, but soon there won’t be nothing at all. Didn’t they know that Conata in Lakota means “skull”? Musical echo of Julia’s theme I’m called Morgan, it’s an old family name, and properly I should have Clifford in my name, that was the family in Conata. On my ranger name badge it says “M. Tall Hat.” Miz Tall Hat. The Tall Hat comes from the time of the Ghost Dancers. This is my Lakota side of the family. My Ghost Dancer ancestors—everyone’s heard of the Ghost Dance, everyone’s heard of Wounded Knee— were preparing to defend Stronghold Table, it must have been 1890; they were raiding nearby settlements and took some Wasicun13’s top hat. That made him mad. That’s where the Tall Hat comes from. I take care of my grandmother, Anna One Star. She used to live on the rez by herself after my grandfather died. Now me and my cousin Tony help her out. That was Tony on the community radio just now. He thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips, some kinda friggin’ actor. SFX: turns on the radio, country song is playing That could be my dad. My dad is a musician, lives in Wyoming. When I was a kid I was real obsessed with the Moon landing, I wanted to be an astronaut. So I’ve seen the surface of the Moon, and I pretend that every day when I go into work, I’m heading to the Moon. ‘Cause the formations by Window and Door Trail, squint and you could believe you’re on the Moon. So that’s me. Get gas in Interior. We’ve got space out here, you know? I don’t think I could live anywhere else. SFX: a can of Coke is opened Just another day at work. SFX: car stops – door opens SCENE 17: INT. BADLANDS CEDAR PASS VISITORS’ CENTER. DAY. 1. RANGER 1. Hey, Morgan, how’s it going? 2. MORGAN. Yeah, okay, you know. Has it been busy? 11 PRO. “WAN-blay.” 12 PRO. “WAN-blay HOHK-peel-n.” 13 PRO. “WAHH-SHEE-kun.” Means “white person.” 3. RANGER 1. Yeah, lots of kids in on spring break. The usual. I’m goin’ on lunch now? 4. MORGAN. Yeah, fine, I can cover the desk. SFX: RANGER 1 walks away from the desk SFX: VC door opens SFX: KIM and (silent) Dad walk in, MITCHELL runs in 5. KIM. We were in here earlier, and we went up to Fossil Trail, like the other ranger suggested. 6. MITCHELL. Look at what I found! 7. MORGAN (interior monologue). He hands me his phone. The photo shows that the kid had found a fossil—probably a marine reptile but maybe something even rarer. 8. MORGAN. Oh that is a nice find, young man. You didn’t pick it up? 9. MITCHELL. I left it where I found it. 10. MORGAN. Great job. This is really special. (interior monologue) That’s the cool thing about the Badlands. It’s easy to find a link to the past. Anyone can do it. SCENE 18: EXT. BADLANDS. DAY. (TIME IS ETERNITY). SFX: wind blows through the grass SFX: meadowlark under this scene 1. WIND. The Sacred Hoop—the holy number four—the root, the stems, the leaves, the fruit. 2. GRASS. Those that crawl, those that fly, those that walk on four legs, those that walk on two legs. 3. WIND. The sun, the moon, the sky, the stars. 4. GRASS. The only thing constant is change— 5. WIND. On the last great frontier. 6. GRASS. Wind will wash away the Badlands—all it will take is half a million years. 7. WIND. And that, to me, is no time at all. Fade out wind and theme music THE END
- Credit / Author:
- Written & Produced by Leslie McMurtry
- Date created:
- 2020-10-14 00:00:00.0
“Silver Threads Among the Gold” (1873) – piano and performance by Fred Feild of Sheet Music Singer Used with
“Night of the Owl” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com), Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
Licensed under Creative Commons 0 License: “Fiddlin' Around » Arkansas Traveler.wav” by ecfike
Licensed under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0 License: “Acoustic guitar of Valentin Sosnitskiy » Acoustic guitar –country” by Valentin Sosnitskiy
Licensed under a Creative Commons Public Domain / Sound Recording Common Law Protection License:
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame” by the Haydn Quartet (Antique Phonograph Music)
“Good-Night” by the Knickerbocker Quartet (Antique Phonograph Music)
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License: “Coal Miners” by Art of Escapism
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License: “El Diablo” by Cletus Got Shot
Licensed under Creative Commons 0 License
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· “Antique Car Approaching Slow”
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· “Red Tailed Hawk Montana (near Valier), Pondera County,
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From Sound Bible.com
· Old Car Horn Sound Effect
NPS Sound Gallery
· Musket Fire
With thanks to the cast, SFX recordists and musicians for making generous use
of their talent, Alelinge Agonifer, Elizabeth Beckwith and Jordan Stirland, Mary
Lewis, Carol Renfro, Illene Renfro, Christine Czazasty, Ed Welsh and all the
staff and volunteers at the Badlands National Park.