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Kevin Holten

Holten: Rain, rain, go away

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columns Dickinson,North Dakota 58602 http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/32/1024/holten-kevin-web_1.jpg?itok=PHHvBNHg
The Dickinson Press
Holten: Rain, rain, go away
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Enough already, I mean, really, how much more of this do we need? This rain has got to stop!

The pasture I keep my horses in is starting to look like the state of Minnesota, complete with 10,000 ponds filled with armies of frogs who are chirping, as best I can ascertain, Lawrence Welk's greatest hits.

Lawns are turning into hayfields and a tomato plant just north of the interstate soared skyward like a beanstalk until a kid's kite got caught in it and he pulled it to the ground. Apparently he and his family were unfamiliar with the story of the golden goose and all.

We are soggy enough.

Basements are filling up, no one is getting tan, Ferris wheels can't spin and thunder has caused dogs to cower in the corner.

But worst of all, farmers can't seed their crops.

Apparently it's all or nothing when it comes to rain in North Dakota. Springtime begins with a minor drought and ends with a major flood of rain, setting records, to go with a tornado warning or two and I'm ready for it to end.

Sure, I love the green landscape, the abundance of hay, the special smell that radiates after a fresh rain, songs like "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" and a rainbow or two. But not every day. After all, who needs that many more clouds in their life?

Plus, days with above-freezing temperatures are tossed around like manhole covers and Los Angeles Dodgers tickets in these parts, so who wants to waste them watching geese honking and ducks swimming in your backyard?

I want to have some fun in the sun! I have horses to ride, fish to catch, steers to rope and skin to sunburn!

In "Songs of Sapphique," Catherine Fisher, author, broadcaster and adjudicator from Newport, Wales, might have said it best when she said:

"Beware the rain.

Beware the snow.

Beware the man

You think you know."

Rain is so life-giving and necessary, and yet so damaging and frustrating when it is something that we just can't control. Not that man hasn't tried.

The Cherokee tribe in the Southeast part of the United States was particularly famous for using rain dances to create rainfall and cleanse away evil spirits.

In fact, Cherokee legend says that the rain that fell each year was filled with the spirits of past tribal chiefs and that, as the raindrops fell, good spirits battled with evil spirits. Therefore, to the Cherokee and other tribes, rain dances were considered a religious ceremony.

But when the whites herded Native Americans onto reservations -- not that many years ago -- a lot of these traditional dances that were so special to the Indians were considered to be backwards and dangerous by whites. So the government banned many Native American dances, except the rain dance, because that was not perceived to be ceremonially important. Of course, they were wrong.

So what did the Indians do? They used the rain dance to cover up other dances that were considered illegal, like the sun dance, and as a result many Native American dances lived on, mostly misunderstood by the white race.

Of course, what makes these dances particularly interesting is that many aspects of tribal life and/or certain elements of the Earth are represented in their dances. For example, feathers were used to represent the wind and the turquoise on their costuming was used to symbolize rain.

Since dance traditions were continued via oral history, some of those specific traditions of each tribe's dance evolved or changed as the stories were passed along. Nevertheless, the main symbols, like feathers and turquoise, and the same mentality and purpose of dance never changed.

Yet, whether or not their rain dances actually worked, scientists have long considered Indians to be some of the best early meteorologists.

In fact, those who lived in the Midwest sometimes used their weather-predicting talents to barter with settlers. You see, they'd perform a rain dance, claim that the resulting rainfall was caused by that dance and then receive goods as payment for the dance.

It was a little misleading, but certainly effective. Kind of like modern-day politics.

Holten is the manager of The Drill.

Reach him at kholten@thedickinsonpress.com.

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