Cahokia, IL (East St. Louis): June 30 – July 7, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

The temperature in Hannibal was closing in on 100 degrees each day. By the time we left, St. Louis was starting its 12 day stretch of triple digit temps. There wasn’t a lot we could do about it, since there were a number of reasons for booking the next week in Cahokia. Most of them centered around the Queen Mother of Schipperke Rescue, our dear friend Michele Kasten who lives next door in Belleville. Michele has three challenges in life: working for her family’s security business, partnering with her husband Tom, and, as she says in her e-mail tagline, responsible breeder and rescuer; proud to do both.” In terms of hourly input, I feel certain that the order is reversed.

We were passing acquaintances until the spring of 2006, when we towed our old tagalong out to the Bellville Fairgrounds to support her organization, Schipperke Club of Greater St. Louis. They were holding a Schip specialty as part of an all-breed show. This was our Serena’s banner year – she traveled 6,000 miles with us, and this trip contributed hugely to the outpouring of universal love for her. GSL and their rescue wing, Midwest Schipperke Rescue took up her cause, and they supported her slogan, Patron Saint of the Unadoptable Schipperke. We will never forget each other for those days.

In the spring of 2010, Michele took in a very abused rescue named Skipper. Because of his spirit, the Schipperke Club of America’s Trust Fund committed considerable funds to repair his injured body. She was looking forward to delivering him to a supportive family, and we volunteered. We drove back to Missouri in October of that year to pick him up, and the Schip-Dude has been a blessed part of our family since then.

We never replace dogs we’ve lost. They’re much too individual and embedded in our hearts. But if we have an empty crate, we are willing to bring in another Schip requiring a forever home. We took in Schip-Dude because Willie’s crate was empty. Now, Ted’s crate had been empty for about 10 months. Dot thought that we might find someone at Pat’s in Cabot, Arkansas, and while Pat offered us a choice, none were rescues. We decided to wait until we talked to Michele about what she might offer, and, as expected, there was no shortage. She came over to our campground with two potential guys, Max and Phantom. Max was a dog of her own breeding, a two year old who was beautiful, has been shown, and was very busy. He had issues with our Schip-Dude right off the bat; The Dude is our gentle alpha, and with all he’s been through, he does not deserve competition. So we turned our attention to Phantom. But it wasn’t easy. His personality was the exact opposite, basically a “fraidy-dog.” If you reached for him, he’d back away. If you called him, he wouldn’t come. But if you got up next to him, he’d accept all the love you wanted to give. And he’s a “blue;” his coat is slate rather than black, and his ears are edged in silver. He’d come from a commercial breeder (a.k.a. puppy mill) and was purported to be about 9 – though he’s younger than that. Despite the multiple colors below, he’s really more grey than brown! He’s got long legs, a long face similar to The Dude’s, and long toes!

We decided to try him out. This was Monday, and on Wednesday, Independence Day, we were all invited to Michele and Tom’s lakefront summer home, an hour away in southeastern Missouri. We told Michele that Phantom would be coming with us when we left town. She came back over to our campground to do the paperwork on Friday and say a teary farewell to her tenant of nine months. Since we already knew of two other blues named Phantom, and he wasn’t responding anyway, we decided to rename him Thomas. More likely, it will become Tom, the second half of his prior name!

So the majority of our Cahokia stop was Schips and Kastens. But we did get to see one historic site. When we visited this area in June, 2010; St. Charles, MO is where that we began our Lewis and Clark expedition. One piece of area history missed last time preceded them by about 900 years: The Cahokia Mounds. We’ve repeatedly seen how the Americas were populated about 12,000 years ago — via the Alaska land bridge after the last Ice Age. The immigrants were nomadic hunter-gatherers, many of whom eventually settled into more permanent communities. In the American Bottom Floodplain, a major evolution led to the Missisippians, who occupied this region between 900 and 1300 A.D. A highly structured village has been uncovered, or, perhaps, discovered, since so much of it towers above the ground. They were mound people, using earthen edifices of various shapes for various purposes, such as exalting leaders, protecting themselves from enemies, public squares, burial grounds and other personal and community functions. This village has been codified as the Cahokia Mounds, and by the 11th century, it became a regional center covering over 6 square miles. Over 50 million cubic yards of earth were moved to create the rises, and the largest, Monks Mound, contains almost half of that, covering 14+ acres and rising to 100 feet. South of it is the Grand Plaza, a forty acre marketplace, gathering place, ceremonial place and recreation center. The Twin Mounds and Mound 72 appear to have been burial chambers. In all there are 120 mounds identified. The community’s core was surrounded by a stockade fence almost two miles in length. Adjacent is Woodhenge, a series of five circles and arches – with diameters up to 500 feet — around which wooden posts were installed to measure cyclical time. A splendid Visitors Center hosts the site, with a movie, a tour (skipped because of the 100 degree heat) and a museum, the crux of which is a reconstructed village. Other exhibits provide further education on the site and its people; one display shows the various mound types and their uses. And the showstopper is the Birdman Tablet (first pic), its back etched in what is believed to be a snakeskin pattern, that was found in the excavation and believed to symbolizing the sky, the earth and the underworld. It’s the logo (or in today’s jargon, the “icon”) of the site. Equally striking is the entrance to the center, with huge doors decorated in bronze symbols of the ancient race.

With four crates filled again, we set off on our next adventure – two visits to Tennessee to complete unfinished business and show off our new addition.

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