Ride for St. Judes at Ft Lincoln

Custer's home hosts riders again -- a reminder of 1875.

Custer’s home hosts riders again — a reminder of 1875.

Shades of history were repeated for children at St. Jude’s hospital.  A century ago, riders here were in a protective mode. This time, they’re in a supportive role.

Riders organize before the start of the trail ride fund raiser

Riders organize before the start of the trail ride fund-raiser

It was more than 130 years ago when blue-coated riders rode the hills along the west side of the Missouri River at Fort Abraham Lincoln.  Soldiers were posted there to protect railroad workers building the Northern Pacific Railroad, but their mission changed in the ill-begotten battle at Little Big Horn.

This summer, nearly 100 riders covered the hills above the Missouri at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park to raise thousands of dollars for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.  It was one of the best shoots I’ve ever been on. All the photos are here http://www.mykuhlsphotography.co/Events/St-Jude-Trail-Ride

Riders at the block houses

Riders at the block houses

I got a copy of the map where they’d ride and I intercepted them at various points such as at the blockhouses on a hill overlooking the valley.

A gorgeous day for weather, not too hot, not at all chilly, a good day for soaking up sun and riding without stressing the horses.

Past the blockhouses, the ride went past the original cemetery at the fort — an eerie reminder of life a century ago when people were considered “old” at 45.

Riding past the Ft. Lincoln cemetery

Riding past the Ft. Lincoln cemetery

Riders on hill

Riders in a line come up the hill

The ride started in the valley and went up the hill across the prairie and through the trees.  It was an easy pace — thankfully so that I could catch them at various points.

A family-centered kind of ride where children were more than welcomed — they were encouraged to get on board the powerful horses who gently submitted to the young hands.

Boy gets up Little girl rider

Then, it went back down to the river, and along the trees, out of the sun and in to the cooling shade.

Riding through the trees

Riding through the trees

Once back at the start, later that afternoon, a pot luck feed gave riders a feast that matched the greatness of the ride they just completed.  Grilled burgers, hot dogs and all the other kind of summer picnic food we love.

Good food, good chow line

Good food, good chow line

In the end, the ride raised several thousand dollars for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital — one of several rides in the nation to support the hospital.  Plans are already underway for next year’s ride.  Until then, here is where this year’s photographs are stored http://www.mykuhlsphotography.co/Events/St-Jude-Trail-Ride

Feb 16 Saturday Night Hoe-down

band board dancers 2

The Saturday night hoedown is alive and well on the Northern Plains.  Across the region, farm work slows for the winter.  Wednesday nights are reserved as church night, but Saturday night still reigns as dance night.  There was a time when the weekly ritual was in the “freshly-strawed” barn, but that’s a rarity by any count.  Instead farm folk head in to town to their local watering hole to get down.  That was the case at the generations-old Stage Stop Bar and Grill in Mandan this Saturday night.  The Low Down Dirty Dogs brought their talents to set up on the end of the building.


Amie wraps her vocal cords around a song that was popular 30 years before she was born.

There under the mixed up colored lights of beer signs, musicians set up next to the wide-screen TV with an outdoors program, hunting and fishing videos.  There wasn’t much a dance floor.  Old time dances had saw dust on the floor so dancers could slide and shuffle.  This well-weathered Berber carpet didn’t allow for much sliding and shuffling. Classic rock lovers packed the room, listening to the music, catching up with the neighbors and doing their part to make a profitable night for the bar. The crowd listened to and sometimes mouthed the words to songs that  Amie powerfully belted out — songs that were popular a decade or two before she was born.

All the band members have day jobs. Bob, for example works at the North Dakota

Bob the hydrology engineer

Water Commission.  He’s well past the age when many people retire, but he’d rather keep working his day job to support his weekend love: classic rock, classic country rock, outlaw rock, Americana.

Banjo pickin

North Dakota’s rural mindset doesn’t allow for much specialization of music genre.  When neighbors drive to town to mingle, drink and enjoy music, they don’t separate to their own respective establishment, some to a jazz club, others to a country western club, some to a blues club and others to a rock club.  Instead, one band at one place is expected to fit all the music tastes. That’s why the Low Down Dirty Dogs can shift from Janis Joplin to Waylon Jennings to Bob Dylan to Queen. It’s about keeping the audience entertained and giving them what they came to hear.

The Low Down Dirty Dogs were only one of several offerings in town Saturday night.  There must have been five or six bars, clubs and taverns with music, talented musicians playing their recognizable variations and arrangements of songs most of the crowd has heard on their tractor radio.

Bob Butch Drumer Amy Guitar

oOctober 18 My most popular image of Mandan

Mandan as seen from Bismarck at sunset

There. That’s better.  The week’s dreary, grey, lifeless sunsets were disappointing this week, but on this night, the clouds and the sun worked together to give a good backdrop to the landscape.

I was on the hilltop overlooking I-94 to shoot traffic and the bridge for one of my contracts, but the imagery of the cityscape took precedence.  I was surprised how the camera picked up the blue of the galvanized chain link fence.  The Interstate is blue, the bridge, and support structures are blue. They add a chill to the contrast of the warm sunset.  The river provides a good dividing line with its soft peach tones.

If you look closely to the north (right) you can make out the lights just starting to glow at North Dakota’s only oil refinery.

All in all, a good moment to capture forever.

Have you noticed how colors change, such as the galvanized fence, when the sun is filtered through the cloudsd?

September 24


Patriot Guard Riders flagline


Patriotism runs deep in most motorcycle clubs and organizations, but few exhibit the patriotic committment of the Patriot Guard Riders.  On this warm fall day, a group of Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) post the colors at a military funeral at the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery south of Mandan.

These moments often happen during the middle of the day during the middle of the week.  Even so, when the call is put out to station a flag line at an event, you can expect a couple dozen riders to leave work, or schedule their day to be on hand.  Their mission is to show the respect and honor of military personnel at military events, departures and arrivals of troops and of course at funerals.

What began as a response to the hate protests of the Westboro Baptist Church, to shield grieving families from the protesters, expanded in to a full bore show of support and respect for America and her fighting men and women.  No laws, no rules, no government involvement could have produced the expanding results that the Patriot Guard Riders have accomplished.  More than respond to protesters, the movement has grown to be a full-fledged military support group in many ways — from helping veterans at home to a quiet display of America’s red white and blue.

In this case,  the PGR gathered at a nearby supermarket parking lot and waited for the appointed hour.  They mounted their 3×5 flags to their bikes and rode staggered parade formation from Mandan, south along Highway 1806 to the cemetery.  They parked their bikes out of the way and stood in position during the entire interment ceremony.

When it was done, they mounted up and quietly rode off; well, as quiet as two dozen motorcycles can be.

August 18

United Way at Buckstop Junction

What a day. It was all about United Way.

I was completely honored and thrilled to spend the day shooting the United Way Day of Caring for the United Way Missouri Slope Area.  Hundreds of volunteers turned out to take on fix-up clean-up projects around Bismarck and Mandan.  These college and career-aged folks painted at Buckstop Junction, the historic village east of Bismarck.

In Mandan, volunteers at the Mandan Sr. Center helped distribute meals on wheels.  Another group at the center donned their car washing duds and washed the cars of some of the area’s senior citizens.  The same volunteer work happened in Bismarck, too where volunteers washed vehicles at the Senior Center. Fortunately, the day’s weather was perfect for such volunteer action outdoors.

Meanwhile, indoors, groups donned their painting duds to freshen up non-profit community support homes and offices.  I stayed busy through the day moving from site to site to shoot the volunteers.  It was a privilege and I’d love to do it again.  I had no idea what I was in for.  My years in TV news I guess came in handy, to be able to walk on to a site and see what is happening, shoot the images and pack up gear to head to the next spot.  Volunteers worked at more than 2-dozen locations. They came from area businesses and corporations that support United Way.

My last stop, at the end of the day was the Bismarck Zoo where I found the Day of Caring organizers and team leaders walking back from one of the projects at the Zoo.  As hard of work as it was for all, it was also a time of making and building friendships while improving the community.  I love it when people roll up their sleeves and pitch in, rather than shrug their shoulders and say, “Not my job.”

Rob, Dana, Jena, Dean

July 25

Ben and Chuck Suchy

The father and son duo of Chuck and Ben Suchy says more about North Dakota than just a couple of music makers getting together on a Sunday afternoon.  As you may know if you’ve been reading North Dakota 365, the Suchys farm south of Mandan. They’re quiet, unassuming people who diligently go about their work.  Chuck has been at it long enough he is easing out of the farm, passing it on to the next generation, Ben’s siblings.

Chuck Suchy

Chuck is also known as the North Dakota troubadour. He writes his own music, lyrics and  melody.  His lyrics tell stories, perhaps of a 1928 Indian Chief Motorcycle, or of a family matriarch whom everyone can relate to.  If you listen to Garrison Keilor’s Prairie Home Companion, you’ve heard Chuck sing his stories.

On this Sunday afternoon, the father and son duo were on the patio of a local watering hole on the banks of the Missouri River in Mandan.  They played solo and they played as a duet. They played as a team as equals who share a common gift, the gift of song.

These are the kind of summer days that make memories in North Dakota. They’re the kind of days that get you through the long cold winters because you know in a few months, you’ll be back out on the patio, listening to Chuck and Ben sing the stories of life on the Northern Plains.  They carry their music all across the Midwest.  Have you had a chance to hear them?

July 13

Headed west on Old 10 in Mandan

I love the traffic in Bismarck and Mandan. It is easy and peaceful, perhaps sometimes too easy and too peaceful. Some times people drive like they have no place to go.

Other times, you’ll get passed by an ’07 Road King on Memorial Highway in Mandan.  It used to be Highway 10, and before that The Old Red Highway or Old Red Trail.  After Interstate 94 came through North Dakota, the old 2-lane scenic route through the state was abandoned. 

Before you get to Mandan (provided you are headed East to West) you ride down Bismarck’s Main Street that was once a bustling traffic zone on Highway 10, or the Red Trail, or even before that some unmanned mud road in Edwinton which proceeded Bismarck.

There is almost nothing left of the old muddy road, or Highway 10 but just the four lanes of Bismarck’s Main Street.  It looks pretty much like every small town “Main Street” with pre-planned landscaping and building structure. You’ll see the same kind of look in Fargo, or Dickinson.

On the former “western edge” of Bismarck is Washington and Main. It once was a tricky dog leg through a railroad underpass, but modern design dropped the historic romance in favor of a more efficient design.

The intersection replacing the Hwy 10 dog leg under the RR tracks

In this photo, the right street in the intersection is “Front” which becomes Old Highway 10 or Memorial Highway.  It leads down the strip in Mandan as the firs photo shows.

Once you get to Mandan Old 10 becomes Main Street for that city. There you will find riders cruising “Main” on their bikes or their hot rods.  Further west and your out of the city, headed to the Scenic Highway of Old 10 across North Dakota.

On this summer evening, I drove from one city to the next and spotted cruisers on two wheels, all good to photograph.

June 13

Black Cat Rumble

It’s Friday night. Do you know where the good music is tonight?

Chances are, it’s where Black Cat Rumble is playing.  This is not your local garage band. You won’t find these guys doing all the cover songs that your local bar band

will be doing tonight. These are musicians who have soul.  Rockin’ blues, R&B, soul.

Sarah McMahon

Sarah McMahon on keyboard and vocals softens the edge of  Arnold’s gutsy guitar work.  But not much.  She’s got power and it is expressed in her fingers and her voice.

Arnold and Sarah

While Sarah has her own band and plays with others, she once was an integral part of the jam band FatDad.  Now she’s spreading around her talents and  on stage merges them well with Arnold Jordan.

He doesn’t play his guitar, he emotes through it.  His energy and  his vitality tear up the frets.  He’s not only a musician, but he’s an artist, and doggone it a good person whom I’ve had a beer with and have enjoyed getting to know better.


Catch them when you can. I know they play in Dickinson’s Brickhouse as well as various points in Bismarck and Mandan.  In this case, it was the Buggies and Blues bandshell performance where they held up that end of the billing — the blues.


May 30 deux

A dusty start

I found a new summertime entertainment — motocross.  I’ve always wanted to go to a race, and on this day decided to give it a look-see.

The course in Mandan is open and easy to view. For a photographer, the shots are more than plentiful with many good locations from which to shoot.  It was a lazy, hot day. The dust hung in the air. The sun was warm. It was a perfect day to hang out on the hill and watch the competition

The riders are mostly young boys, but there are a good number of young girls and some not-so-young men who run the course.  I’ve gotten to know some of the riders and their parents, and am lovin’ the fact that these are friends and neighbors, easily approachable and fun to be with.  My Sunday afternoons have a new event.

May 22

ND 500

Kids these days!  All they care about is fast cars and exciting motorcycles. Sheesh. When I was a kid at least we had a drag strip outside of town.  Not any more. Now they’re in to long road races and snappy performances of little cars with big horsepower such as the ND 500.

At KTM Cycle Hutt in Mandan a gathering of tuners and jumpers attracted the crowd.  A Christian testimony was presented by the kids who jump their bikes.




and headed for a landing

These trick riders amaze me.  I wouldn’t have the guts to get even one wheel up in the air let alone the entire bike. Of course if you talk to this rider, he’ll tell you about his numerous broken bones.  No thanks. Not for me.

Lemme guess, you’re all about trick riding like this? Wanna?