Machine vs. Mountain

The Curiosity Rover has arrived at the base of Mount Sharp in the middle of the Gale Crater on the planet Mars. It has taken our intrepid contraption two Earth years to get there, but the journey will be worth it once the machine completes its mission to dig a hole and sample some foothill soil.

This is a historic meeting between a tiny piece of human technology and a massive off-world landmark, akin to the time Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard hit a golf ball into Javelin Crater on the moon.

If it is our destiny to send an expedition to the red planet, this is a memorable moment – qualified for immortality in legend and song.

If we take the time to write the legend or song, that is.

So I asked Trail Baboon poet laureate Schuyler Tyler Wyler to come up with some heroic something to mark the occasion, and he said he would only do it if he could steal “The Kalevala” from the Finns. I said I was uneasy with that, but he could certainly swipe “The Song of Hiawatha” from Longfellow if he wanted to, and a deal was struck.

By the looming Martian mountain,
in the greater reddish crater,
sat an Earthly metal Rover.
Curiosity the Rover.

Said the mountain to the roller,
“Who are you to dare approach me?
You who are a shiny tiny
pile of nuts and bolts and washers?”

“Don’t be such a self-important
feature of the Martian landscape,”
said the Rover to the mountain.
“You are nice, but no Mt. Shasta.”

Darkly, then, the mountain grumbled.
Grumbled with the voice of ages,
calling out this cheeky gizmo
with its wheels all bent and dusty.

“Who are you to dare approach me?”
called the bulge of crimson boulders
in an atmosphere so wimpy
as it loomed above the Rover

“I am but the first of many,”
said the Rover to the mountain.
“More machines and then some people.
They will make you miss me sorely.”

“People here will scale your summit.
In your valleys, they’ll go bowling.
They’ll have picnics in your meadows
leaving trash that lasts forever.”

“Aeolis Mons will not be taken
by such silly, messy Earthlings.
I’m gigantic. Did you notice?
Far too big to be diminished.”

“Aeolis Mons may be a name that
sounds to you like that’s your label
But when humans take this planet
you’ll become Mt. Sharp forever.”

“And what’s more,” said the contraption
“on this spot will be a marker
to commemorate my journey
and my name will be emblazoned
high above your rosy foothills
on a neon sign announcing
the location of a strip mall
widely known as ‘Rover Plaza’.”

Where’s your favorite historical marker?

27 thoughts on “Machine vs. Mountain”

  1. Morning all! As much as I love traveling about and stopping at quirky spots and historical markers, I have never given a moment’s thought to which was my favorite. But if push comes to shove then I’ll have to say the marker at the top of Haleakala on Maui. At sunrise. When the sun comes up over the crater in the cold morning (& it IS cold up there), it is breathtaking.

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  2. All righty then – WP was acting up and Dale fixed it. I’ll have to say I think STW has outdone himself this time. Giggled all the way through that, Dale.

    I will have to think on this a bit – so far I’m remembering one about Princess We-no-nah that’s outside of Maiden Rock, WI overlooking the Mississippi. The view there is stunning, and this would be the princess Winona, MN was named for.

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    1. There are “Lover’s Leap” sites all over North America, places where an Indian princess is said to have jumped to her death because she wasn’t allowed to marry the man she loved. All, or almost all of them, are bogus. That raises the question of what the heck makes anyone invent such twisted myths? What does it say about race relations that this becomes the most enduring acknowledgment that this country was once occupied by a different civilization?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Sounds like a great view there BiR. I think all natural places should be enhanced by a plaque of some sort.
      In fact, maybe we should set up a historical marker in Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, where the trail of the masthead image on Trail Baboon winds through a patch of woods.

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      1. I didn’t realize that was Silverwood – I will have to go exploring on the paths and see if I see a Baboon (or a baboon). Darling Daughter took a couple art day camps up there this summer. We found plenty of dogs, a few toads, sculptures, but no non-human primates. Must have missed that path…

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  3. There is a grave marker on top of a butte west of Medora ND of a soldier who died while traveling with Custer on his trip to the Black Hills. It is a steep drive but quite pretty at the top. I wonder what sort of historical markers native americans would put up.

    I also like the marker south of Rugby ND that marks the geographical center of North America. The actual spot is somewhere nearby but too far from the highway to get anyone to stop and certainly too far away for a profitable gift shop.

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  4. Just east of my cabin (or what was my cabin) near Cornucopia there lies a great and beautiful sandy bay where the Siskiwit River runs north and dumps into the icy vastness of Lake Superior. There is an artesian well there, a stream of wonderful fresh water bubbling up out of the earth. A historical marker there tells the story of the Tragedy of the Siskiwit.

    In the 17th century three Indian groups (Ojibwe, Dakota and Fox) fought bitterly for control of the lands of northern Wisconsin. An Ojibwe camp at Siskiwit Bay was raided by a war party of Fox braves, and that group managed to capture the son of the Ojibwe group’s chief. That chief trailed the Fox war party and found it just before his son was going to be tortured and killed. He offered himself as a sacrifice if his son could be spared, and the Fox agreed, releasing the son and killing the chief instead. The incident had many long-lasting consequences for the development of that area and northern Minnesota.

    I guess some people see love and heroism in that story. What I see is the monstrous tragedy of tribalism, revenge and the spirit of war that sums up all that is ugly in the human spirit. I have just been reading a lot about the brutality of the many ethnic, religious and ethnic groups who attacked and murdered each other right after WWII, committing every atrocity man has learned to invent. When you study what people have done to each other it will break your heart. I don’t think there is a historical marker I love, but I know which one I hate.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve read Anne Perry’s World War I series. She doesn’t glorify war – and her descriptions are truly horrifying. Everything I’ve read about WWI gives me the impression that it was incredibly gruesome and I don’t know how people came out of that war with any sanity left.

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  5. Good morning. The first historic marker I can think of that I like is one in Clarks Grove where I lived for many years. This marker gives information about a cooperative creamy which was the first one established in Minnesota. The town was founded by Danes who had a tradition of establishing cooperatives.

    The creamery is no longer operating. Also, at one time, the town had other cooperatives including a lumber yard, a mercantile, and a hardware store. The town still has a very good hardware store that was a cooperative and is now privately owned. The cooperative creamery and lumber yard were still in operation in the 80s when we moved to Clarks Grove.

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  6. I’m not sure I know exactly what qualifies as a “historical marker.” I do know that most of the signs I’ve seen along the highways and byways of America that designate some spot of historical significance are not very interesting or inspiring, at least not to me.

    I much prefer visiting places where some structure such as the great pyramids – which I haven’t seen – or The Great Wall of China – of which I’ve seen a small segment – are of much more interest to me.

    Would the Alexander Ramsey House be considered a historical marker? Or the house where Lincoln was born? I guess more visual stimulation is important to me in this connection, although I can understand the fascination with knowing exactly where some famous battle or other historical event took place.

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  7. I can remember some markers along winding words through the Rocky Mtns – up on Trail Ridge Road – and outside of Yellowstone Park. Don’t now remember what they commemorated, but The views at these stops were spectacular. That is what usually gets me to stop the car… not necessarily the content, although I usually do learn something.

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  8. My imagination is limited, and I have trouble visualizing events that happened a hundred years ago in the same physical plane I’m standing in now. In a a strictly intellectual way, I know that it’s the same world. But it doesn’t seem like the same world to me. History lives in the pages of books.

    I’ve been to the site of the Little House in the Big Woods near Pepin, but it doesn’t feel to me as if the Ingalls family ever really lived there. They lived in the books.

    I’m probably not making much sense. But then, I never make much sense after about 5:30.

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  9. On our family vacations, before I was 10, my parents LOVED to stop at any and all historical markers that we passed. I honestly couldn’t stand it, especially if my mom or dad would read it aloud. Perhaps, like Linda, it didn’t seem real to me. Not to mention they weren’t exactly written in an interesting manner. So – no favorite historical markers for me. Just drive on by.

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  10. Busy weekend
    My favorite is out by Renee
    Worlds largest cow
    I guess it’s kind of historical
    History that it was here last time I was and all my kids were littler

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