Cemeteries and Black Cats…

It has been a chilly, gloomy rainy week.

A perfect time to clean the house or closets or..no no that won’t do.

We rarely have long periods of gloom here so in keeping with the atmosphere I have bravely ignored the housework and instead have reflected on our trip to Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Mount Moriah, a cemetery established in Deadwood after the old one filled up, is an interesting place. It’s the final resting place of the some of the most infamous of Westerners. Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Sheriff Bullock and Preacher Smith. It’s been said that Calamity Jane was buried next to Hickok as a rather rude joke as she drove him nuts in real life. The more likely explanation is that interest in the cemetery was waning and they needed a tourist boost. They still charge admission to the cemetery to pay for it’s upkeep.

I had envisioned a much tackier tourist attraction, I mean really who charges admission to a cemetery. Being from Niagara Falls , Canada, I’m a bit of a cynic, tourist attraction wise. I’ve seen many wolves come out to try and fleece the tourists for all they’re worth.  But like much of what we saw in South Dakota, the spirit of the west, the charm and ruggedness of the scenery and the decency of the people overrode any modern attempts to exploit it.  I wish we had taken the time in Niagara Falls to care for, maintain and respect both our natural beauties and history as the people South Dakota have.  Hats off to them.

This is an acrylic miniature (4×6 inches) of a path that leads up to Sheriff Seth Bullock’s grave. The Sheriff, a Rough Rider under Roosevelt was a tough, rugged and fair man. He managed to stabilize the rough lawless town of Deadwood and surprised everyone by doing it without killing anyone.  His grave is up on the mountain, 750 ft above the rest of the cemetery facing Mount Rushmore.





I took many photographs of Mount Moriah as well. Don’t worry they encourage that, the visitors and admissions pay for the upkeep of this absolutely beautiful resting place.

I don’t normally much like sepia toned photos but I thought it suited these.


This one appeared to be made of petrified wood.


Overlooking the mountains.


Mass grave of the victims of a boarding house fire.


Wild Bill Hickok.



Meanwhile back at the ranch..

It’s still raining, both dogs are soaked. Zeus being a lab is impervious to the rain.

But Sampson is soaked and he smells. So I helpfully mentioned a bath might be in order. Sampson hates baths.

And this is his “We are not amused” face.


Normally we do this little dance. I run the bath. He hides, behind the couch, behind the curtains, or he will continually walk around the dining room table with me in slow pursuit.

Today he upped his little game and instead of hiding he chose to sit behind the one thing that could stop me from bugging him. The most vile, ignominious, evil tempered creature with a heart as black as her fur. Five of her six ends are pointy and she knows how to use them. Oh sure she has her good points, she really likes the dog for one.


Well played, little dog, well played.





©Virginia Spencer, thepurpledogpaintingblog, 2012



The tire swing..

All over the roads of South Dakota we saw abandoned buildings. I always wonder when I see those buildings why they lie empty. I tell myself endless stories of these lost buildings.

I based this miniature on one such building. A house, a home at one time in a field. And behind that house was a tree with a tire wing hanging forlornly from it.

A little bit sad I thought.

“The Tire Swing”, Acrylic, 3.5 by 2.5 inches. (ATC, or ACEO size)

I’m not terribly thrilled with the painting. It’s okay but it’s not what I meant to do. I like the tree and the swing but not the rest. Goes to show that art like anything else is not all talent, it takes practice and when you don’t paint for a little bit you get rusty. I think that may be what discourages so many beginners. They think you need a lot of talent when it’s more like you need a good eye (or talent if you prefer) and a lot of practice. So if you’re a beginner, or just haven’t done it in years, take your time and and do many many paintings. Don’t be too hard on yourself, it will come.

In case you’ve been wondering Dummy did go on the trip with us. I’m not sure where he’s gone off to though…

Oh there he is!  Climbing around Custer State Park.

He’s so agile.

Oh dear….

©Virginia Spencer,  thepurpledogpaintingblog.com, 2011

Mount Rushmore…

We set out one day to find Mount Rushmore. We drove on winding roads lined with dark forests on a gloomy overcast day. As we rounded a corner in the road, I caught my first glimpse of a rugged granite face. A ray of sun came out and danced on that noble face of the man who refused to become King.

After all the silliness, kitsch and generally amusing tourist traps, I did not expect much.

I did not expect to be charmed. But I was.

I did not expect to be awed. But I was.

I did not expect to be touched. But I was.

I did not expect to be humbled. But I was.

What an enchanting and beautiful memorial.

©Virginia Spencer,  thepurpledogpaintingblog.com, 2011