Mr. Neihardt-

I hesitate — and I am not pleased — to send you this poorly typed letter as well as the notes and comments on the slides and prints. But to get a good typing job done would mean another delay until August 10th


Please accept my apology for the crudities — we will trust that next time there will be better craftsmanship available.

Wanblee Ska
10 East Ellis Dr. Tempe, Arizona 85281
Dear Dr. Neihardt--Flaming Rainbow!

How, Kola! Wasicu Washtay!

Oh! You master of the printed and spoken word! What an experience to at last read "The River and I" and to share with you a series of adventures which occured four years before I was born!

I must comment at once, on the startling experience of reading in 1968, the 1908 concepts, interpertations, and conclusions relating to one man's reactions to the "Mighty Mo", which so closely matched my own during the period 1942 through 1947. Of course, I could not express mine as well as you. Ah! Mon Ami! What a wonderful description you give at the beginning of the book of that "living river" just as it still was to a great extent when I first began to experience it in the early 40's.

The sawyers; the sandbars; the on-river "dust storms"; the illusive "low water"; the raging, surging, "spring rises"; the awesome, all embracing consuming floods; and the tormented, destructive "ice gorges"--- truly, as you pictured it, the Missouri was a fantastically "possessed" giant striding down its own special track, ocean bound, through an epic land!

No wonder the Indians gave you names like "Little Buffalo Bull" and "Flaming Rainbow", for such could only fit a man who could experience and so accurately describe the ache of "the big lonely"; the soaring of the spirit before the majesty of the vastness and the power of natural wonders; and the ego enhancing experience resulting from contemplation in their presence. You are "in tune" with the "long hairs'" feelings of identification with their environment; their awe of and respect for "the great mysteries", for "medicine", for "wakan", and for the Great Spirit.

Yea, verily! Wasicu Washtay - you are truely "Wakan"!

The Grandfathers have blessed and burdened you with "Big Medicine"!.

I have wondered for the past year or more why it was that you stimulated me to the point of exhaustion when we met. The reading and re-reading of your works has given me a partial answer to the question, but I have found even more in "The River and I". You have "lived" that which so many seem to set "a part" and call it "being", "art", "philosophy", "faith", and even "religion". You are "for real"--- as are all great things and truth! Pages 132 and 133, in my opinion , say so much about this. To really "know" one must always remember the last two sentences of page 133. But, the greater part of the the answer also lies in the fact that in keeping with all epic philosophers, you are like your beloved Missouri, an "eternal Fighting Man"!!

Your mention and description of moonlight on the Missouri brought an aching wave of nostalgia! I have seen it too -- at Elbowwoods, at Wheeler Bridge, at Cheyenne Crossing, and just above Pierre. Each time I too was "taken up" in that mystic eerie "something".

Another stirring experience was to read your repeated references to "The unwritten epic", and then, to but raise my eyes to my copy of "A Cycle of the West", to see -- the completed epic!

You wondered in 1908 what "old Homer" could have done with the trappers tales and the Bunyanesque adventures of the factors, the bourgeous, couer-de-bois, the river runners, and the mountain men, not to mention their dusky native counterparts. Fortunately, we can today see what you, a worthy successor in the Homeric tradition, did with that "goose pimple raising" material. Neihardt the Saga Singer -- the Homer of the Mighty Mo --- Saga Maker of the Missouri -- whose poetry and prose pulsates, throbs, and courses like the very life blood of the epic figures moving through his songs, and the ebb and flow, T he sinuous twisting, and the flood-tide surging of "that river" which was at once their stage and their highway. Niehardt, the rampant Little Buffalo Bull, the Flaming Rainbow, who awakens the "giants of the earth" and translates their snorting, bellowing, stomping passage into meaningful symbols and experiences for the comman man!

Lord, man, how I enjoyed your "needling" of old Joe and your rendition of his "mot". I was "with you all the way" in your observation that it really wasn't the boils that almost got the better of Oll Job --- but, rather that his really great trial and tribulation was the "free advice".

Then, again, the sudden "belonging" at the rally or welcome for the local "great man". In the 40's I could still find it in such Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska communities as Winner, Philip, Kadoka, Murdo, Wall, Buffalo Gap, Olericks, Chadron, Valentine, White River, Chug Water, Rawhide, Mule Creek, Old Fort Pierre, Sweet Water, Belle Fourche, Bowman, Lemon, Fort Peck, Timber Lake and many others up and down the river and across the wide open grasslands of the high plains.

I was surprised to find such a profusion of pictures! On these I have some questions.

1. Were most of them taken by you or your party?

2. Do you recall the type of camera used?

3. Was the motor used an "in board" or a "out-board" type?

4. Did you take the picture on page 81? if you did not - could it be one taken by L.A. Huffman of Miles City, Montana?

5. Was the lady meeting "Atom II" at Sioux City, your wife?

6. Do you care to identify "the Kid"?

7. Do you know what happened to him in later life?

8. Do you think, perhaps, that the Missouri might be "winking" at us even today - somewhat as the Black Eagle Falls seemed to do to you in 1908?

Again, Thank you for the copy of "The River and I", and for the chance to share in some small way the "beginnings" of an epic work.

The Jennewein-Murthly Castle slides, prints, and notations relating to each are forewarded in a seperate package.

Now speaking of pictures - I seem to have failed to thank you for the new one of yourself. I like it. Fact it, darn if you don't look younger with those new glasses! Also, I like the "flash" that I detect in your glance - and the quandry it presents - will the next remark be a jest or a tidbit of profound philosophy? The nearer the "truth" they are, the harder it is to differentiate between them.

But I must close. After all you are a busy man. Here I come along and take so much of your time just to try and say that which you already know and have known for - why, "since the beginning" is it not so? Further, though I "string a line full" of fine words, I'm afraid they cannot express my true feelings and reactions nearly as well as those of an old Mountain Man who might have put it so economically and succinctly in this wise, "Waugh! That child shoots plum-center, he do for a fact. And though he's some fancy with the words, mark you, this child will tell you, he's got old grit in him, and a hair of the Black B'ar at that!"

Congratulations on your two most recent awards of recognition. Both, in my opinion justly deserved and honorably attained. How great is our need today for the principles and ideas of Thomas Jefferson and for the faith to "Walk with God" be it Wakon, Jehovah, the Lord, or some other concept of a loving but demanding force, power, or diefied being. May your voice be heard in all the land!

Sigurd's wife tells me you are now working in your teens-remembering. May your photographic memory focus easily and your rememberence approach total recall.


Rueben H. Nelson
Rueben H. Nelson
Wanblee Ska

P.S. Mrs. Nelson has just chided me for not adding her greetings and well-wishes to that charming "Admiral". Now, all hands, hear this! The greetings are extended. It always seems the ladies are partial to the Navy type. Of course, Caroline claims you are the "top rankingest" Naval Officer she has ever met — in fact still puts it this way — "One don't sit on a sofa with an Admiral of the Nebraska Navy everyday."