A Most Interesting Man


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David Bald Eagle, Lakota Chief, Musician, Cowboy And Actor, Dies At 97

Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle during the opening of the Days of '76 Museum in Deadwood, S.D. Bald Eagle died on Friday at the age of 97.

Chief David Beautiful Bald Eagle during the opening of the Days of ’76 Museum in Deadwood, S.D. Bald Eagle died on Friday at the age of 97.  Tom Griffith/Rapid City Journal via AP

In the U.K., the headlines note the passing of a “Dances With Wolvesactor.”

But appearing in an Oscar-award-winning film was one of the least interesting things David William Beautiful Bald Eagle ever did.

Bald Eagle died last Friday at 97. In his long, extraordinary life, he was a champion dancer — both ballroom and Lakota styles — a touring musician, a rodeo cowboy, a tribal chief, an actor, a stunt double, a war hero.

He danced with Marilyn Monroe. He drove race cars. He parachuted into enemy gunfire at Normandy. He played professional baseball. He was a leader not just of his tribe, but of the United Native Nations. He was an advocate for Native people.

And he was a bridge between the past and present — a man who, in his childhood, heard stories from survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Bald Eagle — whose full Lakota name translates to Wounded in Winter Beautiful Bald Eagle, the BBC reports — was born in 1919. At the time, he couldn’t be a U.S. citizen. He was 5 when America finally extended citizenship to indigenous people.

He lived with his grandfather White Feather as a child, the Rapid City Journal has written. His other grandfather was Chief White Bull, a relative of Sitting Bull and one of the leaders in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Both would tell young David their war stories, and exhort him to remember them.

Bald Eagle only spoke Lakota until he was 12, when he started school. He spent his teenage years learning English, playing sports — everything from pole vault to baseball — and competing in the rodeo.

He saw the West before barbed-wire fences and roads arrived, says his son, Kili Bald Eagle. “He used to tell me about how he could ride across the state and he’d never have to open a gate,” Kili says.

As a young man Bald Eagle enlisted in the horse cavalry. A few years later it was mechanized: The Army swapped his horse for a motorcycle, and made him a messenger.

He was discharged on Dec. 7, 1941. After he’d signed his papers, he heard the news about Pearl Harbor. At his commander’s request he reenlisted, joining as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.

Sgt. Bald Eagle’s first combat jump was during the invasion of Anzio, Italy. He was part of a regiment that fought so fiercely a captured German soldier called them “Devils in Baggy Pants.”

Then he parachuted into Normandy, suffering severe injuries when he was accidentally dropped directly over German troops, an easy target for gunfire.

“We were just like clay pigeons, coming down. Most of my outfit was wiped out,” he told the Rapid City Journal in 2001.


“The first medics to reach him left him for dead,” the paper wrote. “But some British commandos came along and found he still had a pulse.”

Bald Eagle survived. He started a musical career, as a drummer for Cliff Keyes’ Big Band, the BBC reports.

While he was in the Army, he’d met and fallen in love with an English dance teacher named Penny Rathburn. After he returned from the war, they were married.

As a couple, they were competitive ballroom dancerschampion ballroom dancers, in fact, dancing in St. Paul and Chicago.

Penny was pregnant with their first child when she died in a car crash. Bald Eagle was devastated.

“I became pretty much suicidal from then on,” he once said in an interview. “Why her, not me?”

So he took up dangerous pursuits.

He started race car driving, tried skydiving, returned to the rodeo circuit, took up bareback bull riding, became a stunt double in the movies.

But when chasing death, he came across success. His work as a stunt double “made his name,” according to Richard Bullock, who has written an obituary of Bald Eagle.

Shooting Westerns required “people who can actually ride horses,” as Sonny Skyhawk puts it. Skyhawk is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation who has been a film actor for nearly four decades.

So Bald Eagle, a talented rider, went on to appear in dozens of Hollywood films — which is how he met, and danced with, Marilyn Monroe.

The Westerns he was in represented Native people as less than human, Skyhawk says: “We were always being shot down or killed. With one bullet five or more Indians would fall.”

But Bald Eagle always tried to teach people about Native American history and life, whatever was happening around him, Skyhawk says.

“He excelled at being an educator, and did whatever it took, whatever his own power and talents, to bring that to the forefront,” Skyhawk says.

Dave Bald Eagle, at 95, playing the role of Dan in Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

Dave Bald Eagle, at 95, playing the role of Dan in Neither Wolf Nor Dog.  Courtesy of Steven Lewis Simpson

At one point in his life, he played semi-pro baseball in Minnesota, as a catcher. He was also a Lakota dancer — a champion in that, too.

And he toured with Casey Tibbs’ Wild West Show as a rodeo performer, under the name “Chips Warner,” because crowds didn’t like Indian names.

It was with Tibbs in Europe, at the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1958, that he met the second love of his life: Josee Kesteman, a young Belgian actress.

“When she came into my life, my life changed again,” Bald Eagle told theRapid City Journal. “She was the one who kept me alive.”

Their courtship spanned years and thousands of miles. And as described ina profile of one of the couple’s sons, it featured a movie-worthy parting line:

“Before he left Belgium … David told Josee that he had a cave in South Dakota waiting for her if she ever wanted to come live with him.

“All Josee could think about was that cave in South Dakota … she decided to leave Brussels behind in 1972.”

The cave comment was a joke, Bald Eagle later explained, but Josee seemed totally game for the plan. The two married the next year, and instead of a cave, they lived on a horse ranch on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

They raised a large family together, one that grew even larger when they adopted many children. Several of their children have served in the military, including two who served in the 82nd Airborne, like their father.

At times 20 to 30 people would be living at the ranch at a time, says Bald Eagle’s son, Kili Bald Eagle.

“We had teepees that were always set up in the back yard and we grew our own, so we had food always available,” he says. “If you came to the Bald Eagle Ranch you were going to earn your keep, but you were always welcome.”

After settling down, Bald Eagle became the chief of the Miniconjou Lakota. Then he became First Chief of the United Native Nations, an organization representing a number of tribes.

Chief Bald Eagle had extraordinary exploits and adventures, but Skyhawk says his greatest attribute was something quieter: his “silent compassion.”

“He loved children, he loved teaching, he loved educating people — he loved it all. He loved life to its extreme,” Skyhawk says. “No matter who you were, child, man, woman, he made you feel special. And that is a huge, huge mark on the telling of who you are as a human being, and he exemplified that.”

Bald Eagle continuously advocated for indigenous people and worked to preserve Lakota stories.


“I know we can’t go back there, back to where we were,” he told the Rapid City Journal in 2003. But we can tell the young ones how it was and they can remember, and they can bring it back. They can return.”

He was always adventurous.

“He rode his last bucking horse when he was 72 years old, on a dare,” Kili Bald Eagle says. “That’s my dad.”

He kept acting, too. There was that appearance in Dances with Wolves, after all. For decades, The Associated Press writes, Bald Eagle was the face of the Lakota in tourism ads for South Dakota.

And at the age of 95, he had his first lead role, after all those years as a stunt double: He starred in the independent film Neither Wolf Nor Dog.

He threw his heart into the role, director Steven Lewis Simpson said. At a key point in the plot, he improvised — speaking off the cuff about the massacre at Wounded Knee and how it affected his people.

“At that point he’s not acting — he is just literally a great Lakota elder sharing with us the historical trauma of his people,” Simpson says.

“He was an extraordinary human being,” Simpson says, pointing to Bald Eagle’s mischievous humor and his fearlessness. “His biography is filled with things that would have killed lesser men.”

He says Bald Eagle would reminisce about his days with Casey Tibbs and his time on the rodeo circuit, but that he was most proud of his family with Josee. They’d host huge family gatherings at their ranch, Simpson says.

How huge? Kili Bald Eagle estimates one Bald Eagle family reunion hosted 5,000 people. Two bands came to play.

Even in his late 90s, David Beautiful Bald Eagle was every bit the active head of the family.

“The funny thing is that normally when a 97-year-old passes you go, ‘Well, they had an incredible long life.’ You kind of think it’s the end of it,” Simpson said. “And yet in a strange way with Dave … You just didn’t feel there was an end to him.”

Skyhawk, too, says it’s hard to believe that Bald Eagle is gone — and nearly impossible to find the words to describe him.

“He was a short man in stature but he was immeasurable in what he has done for his fellow man and for his native people,” Skyhawk says.

“If I had to describe, him I’d say tatanka, which is the Lakota word for buffalo. And the male buffalo in the course of a storm, a blizzard, will stand there and face it head-on. He won’t lie down and he won’t hide behind anything. That’s what this man did: he faced everything with integrity and everything that he had in his own heart.

“And it would have taken a big heart.”

Meteor Showers Soon

One  Autumn weekend we stayed at the Lion Inn on the Penn State campus for Alice’s  alumni board meeting.  I was time for the Leonid meteor showers!  On our last night there in very good weather we crossed the road into the golf course (with a good number of others) to look up into a fairly dark sky.

It was a good shower–meteors zipping around up there at maybe 3-5 a minute.  Even the next morning when left  we were seeing shooting stars until the sun was well up.

Another time, we joined an Adler Planetarium boat trip to see  the Perseid showers. That was after midnight of course, with a clear sky over Lake Michigan.  After a couple hours of watching, there a few people who thought they had seen a shooting star, maybe.

Image result for meteor shower photography

Chicago Tribune  7.28.16

Ask Tom (Skillings)

Dear Tom,

Where in Illinois or Wisconsin is the best place to see the Perseid meteor shower?

Dear Eva,

We posed your question to Dan Joyce, astronomer at Triton College’s Cernan Earth and Space Center, and he informed us that the best viewing will be after midnight between Aug. 11-13.

Joyce emphasized that there is no need to travel great distances to see the meteor showers, just any dark rural location away from light pollution.

The Perseid meteor shower is visible each summer starting in mid-July and ending in mid- to late-August as the Earth passes through the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle.

Typically up to 80 meteors an hour are visible, but Joyce said that this year’s frequency could double that, with “outbursts” in excess of 150 meteors an hour at peak intensity.


Keeping an Eye on Old Guys

Image result for old man laughing photo

Yesterday I stepped out of the shower to get a bar of soap.  I got back in with my empty coffee cup–no soap!  RJN


The lay-out of this poem looks weird, an artifact of the software.                                       Just read it straight across.  Kind of fun.



 Without due thought I bought                                                           two hundred-fifty dollar boots                                                           that will never taste a mountain trail.                                                  A lot is lost, and sometimes I can think                                             comfortably I’m ready to let go.                                                         Easy to say when you can walk a bit                                                 and talk moderate sense, meds keep                                             major parts in tune,  and chances  do                                               look good for next week too.                                         

         But on this easy autumn day,                                                           I hear winter blowing, know some                                                     old guys will not make it through;                                                   might as well be me as you.

       Our accountant Jim Malone cleared                                                  his desk at five o’clock and putting                                                  on his coat would say,                                                                      I’ve made enough mistakes today—                                                I might as well go home.



Donald Didn’t Do “The Deal”


Note:  no one suggests that “ghost writing” is bad–it often results in a good book.  Usually the subject of the book recognizes the contribution of the ghost-writer.  Check the end of this post for more on that.  RJN


Product DetailsProduct Details


‘Art Of The Deal’ Ghostwriter On Why Trump Should Not Be President

Tony Schwartz (from left), Ivana Trump, photographer Francesco Scavullo and Donald Trump celebrate the publication of Donald Trump's 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, which was ghostwritten by Schwartz.

Tony Schwartz (from left), Ivana Trump, photographer Francesco Scavullo and Donald Trump celebrate the publication of Donald Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, which was ghostwritten by Schwartz.  Ron Galella/WireImage/Getty Images

In 1987, the book The Art of the Deal elevated Donald Trump from playboy developer to best-selling author.

From the opening paragraph of Trump’s self-portrait as a shrewd and creative dealmaker:

“I don’t do it for the money. I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”

Trump’s name is on the cover of that book. But there’s another one, too — beneath the portrait and the big golden letters spelling out TRUMP — the name of Tony Schwartz, the book’s ghostwriter.

Schwartz did not weigh in on the presidential campaign until this week in a lengthy interview with The New Yorker.

Schwartz tells All Things Considered‘s Robert Siegel that he is speaking out now because he is extremely concerned about what Trump would be like as a president.

He says the portrait that he painted of Trump in The Art of the Deal is not accurate.

“I helped to paint Trump as a vastly more appealing human being than he actually is. And I have no pride about that. … I did it for the money. It’s certainly weighed on me over the years,” Schwartz says. “Now, since he’s … in a position to potentially become president, it makes my decision back then look very different than it did at the time.”

Schwartz spent 18 months on the book, including eight or nine months sitting in Trump’s office virtually every morning to get the information he needed.

“One of the chief things I’m concerned about is the limits of his attention span, which are as severe as any person I think I’ve ever met,” Schwartz says. “No matter what question I asked, he would become impatient with it pretty quickly, and literally, from the very first time I sat down to start interviewing him, after about 10 or 15 minutes, he said, ‘You know, I don’t really wanna talk about this stuff, I’m not interested in it, I mean it’s over, it’s the past, I’m done with it, what else have you got?’ ”

The idea of a president in an “incredibly complex and threatening world who can’t pay attention is itself frightening,” Schwartz says.

Add to that the fact that Trump is so easily provoked, that what Schwartz calls Trump’s insecurity “makes him incredibly reactive whenever he feels threatened, which is very, very often.”

As an example, Schwartz says, his interview in The New Yorker came out on Monday. On Tuesday, he received “a long and threatening letter from his lawyer designed, I think, to muzzle me.”

“For 25 years, I think Trump has done a very, very effective job of muzzling anyone who has worked for him or with him by signing very, very strict nondisclosure agreements before they start working with him,” Schwartz says. “It just turns out that I started with him so early that he hadn’t thought of it yet.”

“The reason I’m stepping up is because no one else seems to be free or willing to do so,” Schwartz says. “Believe me, it is not fun.”

___________________________________________________________A ghostwriter is a person who is hired to authorbooks, manuscripts, screenplays, speeches, articles, blog posts, stories, reports, whitepapers, or other texts that are officially credited to another person.Celebrities, executives, participants in timely news stories, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written material. A common form of literature ghostwriters are hired for is a celebrity’s memoirs. In music, ghostwriters are often used for writing songs and lyrics. Screenplay authors can also use ghostwriters to either edit or rewrite their scripts to improve them.  Wikipedia

John Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage is a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning volume of short biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators throughout the Senate’s history …

Profiles was widely celebrated and became a best seller.John F. Kennedy is credited as the author, although the extent of his contribution has been questioned. In his 2008 autobiography, Kennedy’s speechwriter Ted Sorensen wrote that, while Kennedy provided the theme and supervised its production, Sorensen had written most of the book.  Wikipedia


A Large Gentleman

Bases loaded, burley Fielder grabbed his bat
and slapped a homer over right except that
five-eight Johnson topped the eight-foot wall
and came down with the grand-slam ball—

princely Fielder turned to right and tipped his hat.

Image result for prince fielder photos

Prince Fielder and Reed Johnson, Milwaukee, 6.12.09


Alice and I saw this incident, she in the ballpark, I on television.



History on Glenview Road


Judge Abner Mikva

Abner Mikva.jpg   1926-2016

I learned about Abner Mikva at my first American Federation of Teachers convention at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago.  Our delegation was composed of young teachers working to jump-start the the sleepy union local at our school.  Ab was a young state representative trying to fight the corruption and mismanagement in Illinois government.  In his speech he compared the state’s allowance for highways to that for education:  Said, The Department of Transportation has money up its asphalt!

The second time I saw him in person was in our house on Glenview Road when he rang our doorbell on a Sunday morning! He was campaigning to represent our largely Republican congressional district, having been been squeezed out of his home district  in Chicago by political powers, including Mayor Richard J. Daley, who didn’t like a smart,  honest,  progressive guy.   He said that it was lonely in the campaign and he wanted to meet some friends.  We drank coffee and had a good talk.

He’d been attracted by the car in our driveway with a lot of Democratic election signs on it.  Car belonged to a teacher who’d come to do some union work with me.  It was plastered with signs because he had a part-time political job.

I think Ab lost that election but later tried again and won the seat.

During a later campaign, he spoke at our school with opponent John Porter.  Porter spoke well,  a little stiff.  Ab came across warm, maybe even passionate. Ab won re-election narrowly.

Ab  was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and became Chief Judge.  He has had a number of special assignments like  leading a commission to investigate the University of Illinois  for admitting unqualified applicants with political connections.  He was an advisor to President Obama.

Obama awarded him the Presidenrtial Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

How did Ab get started?t

One of the stories that is told about my start in politics is that on the way home from law school one night in 1948, I stopped by the ward headquarters in the ward where I lived. There was a street-front, and the name Timothy O’Sullivan, Ward Committeeman, was painted on the front window. I walked in and I said “I’d like to volunteer to work for [Adlai] Stevenson and [Paul] Douglas.” This quintessential Chicago ward committeeman took the cigar out of his mouth and glared at me and said, “Who sent you?” I said, “Nobody sent me.” He put the cigar back in his mouth and he said, “We don’t want nobody that nobody sent.” This was the beginning of my political career in Chicago.  Wikipedia


Ab was a good guy,  a highly respected public servant, and I’m glad to have been in touch with him.

And I’m sorry he’s gone.

Very readable article on Ab’s life and service  here.



Frigatebird Can Sail For Weeks Over Ocean

Nonstop Flight: How The Frigatebird Can Soar For Weeks Without Stopping

Frigatebirds have to find ways to stay aloft because they can’t land on the water. This bird was flying between the Galapagos islands of Santiago and Bartolome.         Harvey Barrison/Flickr

Frigatebirds, seagoing fliers with a 6-foot wingspan, can stay aloft for weeks at a time, (similarly, the albatross  RJN)  a new study has found. The results paint an astonishing picture of the bird’s life, much of which is spent soaring inside the clouds.

Frigatebirds are unique among aquatic birds. Their feathers are not waterproof, so they can’t rest on the waves. Males sport a vivid red pouch along their throats that they inflate when trying to attract females. They’re known for stealing food from other seabirds.

Since the frigatebird spends most of its life at sea, its habits outside of when it breeds on land aren’t well-known — until researchers started tracking them around the Indian Ocean. What the researchers discovered is that the birds’ flying ability almost defies belief.



We saw the frigate birds’ communal ritual in the Galapagos Islands.In a field were about 18 nests of branches about 10 feet across, each with a male frigate bird on it, his scarlet sac inflated under his bill. The males called continuously, raucously, to the females circling above.  A few nests had mated pairs in them.



Ornithologist Henri Weimerskirch put satellite tags on a couple of dozen frigatebirds, as well as instruments that measured body functions such as heart rate. When the data started to come in, he could hardly believe how high the birds flew.

“First, we found, ‘Whoa, 1,500 meters. Wow. Excellent, fantastique,’ ” says Weimerskirch, who is with the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris. “And after 2,000, after 3,000, after 4,000 meters — OK, at this altitude they are in freezing conditions, especially surprising for a tropical bird.”

Four thousand meters is more than 12,000 feet, or as high as parts of the Rocky Mountains. “There is no other bird flying so high relative to the sea surface,” he says.

One of the frigatebirds that researchers tagged soared 40 miles over the Indian Ocean without a wing-flap. These birds were photographed in the Galapagos.                  Lucy Rickards/Flickr

Weimerskirch says that kind of flying should take a huge amount of energy. But the instruments monitoring the birds’ heartbeats showed that the birds weren’t even working up a sweat. (They wouldn’t, actually, since birds don’t sweat, but their heart rate wasn’t going up.)

How did they do it? By flying into a cloud.

“It’s the only bird that is known to intentionally enter into a cloud,” Weimerskirch says. And not just any cloud — a fluffy, white cumulus cloud. Over the ocean, these clouds tend to form in places where warm air rises from the sea surface. The birds hitch a ride on the updraft, all the way up to the top of the cloud.

Frigatebirds have to find ways to stay aloft because they can’t land on the water. Since their feathers aren’t waterproof, the birds would drown in short order. They feed by harassing other birds in flight until they regurgitate whatever fish they’ve eaten and the frigatebird takes it. Or they fly over a fish-feeding frenzy on the ocean surface and scoop up small fish that leap out of the water to escape larger fish.

So in between meals, apparently, frigatebirds soar … and soar … and soar.

In one case, for two months — continuously aloft.

“Absolutely incredible,” says Curtis Deutsch, an oceanographer at the University of Washington. “They’re doing it right through these cumulus clouds. You know, if you’ve ever been on an airplane, flying through turbulence, you know it can be a little bit nerve-wracking.”

One of the tagged birds soared 40 miles without a wing-flap. Several covered more than 300 miles a day on average, and flew continuously for weeks. They are blessed with an unusual body. No bird has a higher ratio of wing surface area compared with body weight — something called “wing loading.”

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers discovered that frigatebirds have also capitalized on a lucky coincidence. Winds that form these updrafts in the atmosphere also disrupt waves at the sea surface.

“We found that there’s a remarkably good correspondence between those two things,” Deutsch says. And when the regularity of waves is disrupted, deeper water rises to the surface, carrying with it things such as phytoplankton that attract small fish. The small fish attract bigger fish, which creates the feeding frenzy that frigatebirds need to dine.

So it seems the life of a frigatebird is simply hopping off at the bottom of this atmospheric roller coaster, eating and getting back on again to search for the next meal.