WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Close

The theme for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is “close” as in being near emotionally pr physically not as in “Close that door! You’re letting the heat out!” . If you grew up in Canada, or any other cold climate then you’ve probably heard that a few times.

Anyway. These are from the Saint Louis Zoo. Which since I named will cause every spammer out there to send me spam comments calling me “Louis”. The filters catch them but they’re always entertaining reading nevertheless.


Friendly flamingos.


Proximious penguins.


Happily hemmed in hippos.


Close Cuties.




©Virginia Spencer, thepurpledogpaintingblog, 2012

How to get Hustled in Five Easy Steps.

Now I’m not talking about the disco dance though that is pretty entertaining.  Nor I am talking about moving rapidly which is useful if you’re being chased by a bear, honeybees or your mother when she found out you put a big hole in the wall. Nor I am talking about the mean spirited hustlers of the day, ID thieves and other nasty bits of work.

No, I’m talking about a good old fashioned hustle, the kind where you get a little something and the hustler gets a little something and it’s a fair deal on all sides.

The first thing you have to do is to go to Saint Louis, Missouri. It’s a beautiful city and the people are so pleasant. Ridiculously pleasant. Like there’s something in the water kind of pleasant.

The second thing you have to do is to run around taking photos and letting everyone know you’re a tourist.

You could even think about taking a River Cruise, if the man in the lower left wearing a chemical protection suit and spraying down tent wires doesn’t worry you too much. Now it could be that that guy is just a conscientious type who worries about germs on tent wires but you don’t need a chemical suit for that. I mean you can wear any old thing to wash down tent wires. I’m sure there’s probably a reasonable explanation but I have been watching an awful lot of conspiracy theories on TV and that kind of mindset is catching. How can one resist blaming everything that happens on extraterrestrials beings who apparently have nothing better to do then come from galaxies far away to mess with us. Or on intelligent Yeti super militia forces or on top secret experiments that have turned squirrels and chipmunks into living eavesdropping devices so that the government can find out how much we’re gossiping about each other or talking all about what we’re going to wear tomorrow.



Or you can walk away from the man in the chemical suit and take some photos of  sidewalk art featuring fish people in high heels.

Fish heads, fish heads. Roly poly fish heads. Fish heads! Fish heads!

Eat them up..Yum!

You can ask a Fish Head anything but they won’t answer because they can’t talk..

(if you’ve never heard that song, do yourself a favor and youtube it).


And then for step three you have to go inside the Arch.  At which point after giving the armed Security Guards your belt and any metal objects, having your purse x-rayed and walking though a metal detector you will see this lovely mural.

As you can see from the mural the Arch is actually bigger then the Statue of Liberty, the Washington monument, Mount Rushmore and the Delicate Arch at the Arches National Park in Utah. It’s also bigger then the Eiffel Tower and the Seattle Space Needle. And yes it was designed by a man, how did you guess?



After looking at the mural and coming to the realization that these people assumed that you didn’t notice how big the Arch was even though you had to walk to it to get inside it you will then come to a rather nice little museum.

There’s historic portraits and covered wagons and cowboy hats and guns and all those fun things

And then you walk around a corner

And then..

You come to an understanding of why they took your belt.

It’s so you don’t freak out and whip the heck out of these creepy ass animatronic beings that are all yakking away and moving like B-movie horror characters.

(Side note: my spell check keeps trying to change animatronics to fornicators! Fornicators! My computer either has a dirty mind or was programmed by a Southern preacher. I’m sure there’s a conspiracy theory that could fit that)

This one here was some sort of medal making metallurgist. I’m not quite sure what that means but I like the alliteration.

He seemed to be trying to get me to take his medal but I didn’t fall for that.  I’ve seen too many Syfy movies. I knew if I took it, I would spend the rest of the day running around Saint Louis trying to avoid being annihilated by angry animatonics. (Or fornicators as my computer insists on typing.)



This one, wouldn’t make eye contact at all. He just kept talking and staring around at the ceiling. So to be neighborly I stared around at the ceiling too. Other then coming to the realization that their custodians must be awfully tidy, I mean there was not a speck of dust on the ceiling, the pot lights or the beams, I never did figure out what he was looking at.

Saint Louis Arch animatronics.


This one here was looking for tracks. He seemed to think that some rustlers had come through the museum. I didn’t spend much time with him seeing as he was so busy and those rustlers can be nasty. You don’t want to get caught up in the crossfire between a rustler and a lawman.



And then the last one was a historical rendition of the Used Car Salesman. He was pleasant, had a nice voice, lovely manners and moved really smoothly but like all car salesmen everywhere he made me a bit leery.



Okay, now step four is very important. You have to run out of that museum before the last guy sells you a two hundred year old covered wagon with rickety wheels, no warranty and 18.5% interest to boot. I’m telling you he’s good, run as fast as you can.

Take the tree lined path. And forget about taking any more photos of the Arch because the leaves while pleasantly providing much needed shade block the view. Then stand around aiming at the leaves as if your camera can magically see through them. Perhaps, you could sigh a little for effect.



And which point we are at Step Five and in comes the Hustler who while watching you trying to get a good shot and sighing over your inability to do so ingeniously explains to your husband how he likes to come down to the Park and act as a private guide and info center for visitors in the hopes of hustling up a bit of spare change.

Then this kind man will take you by the arm and he will walk you right through the woods into an open field and Voila! there’s the perfect shot (barring the overly bright morning light that is).



And then this kind hustler who has already informed you that he’s going to hustle you, goes into a nice long spiel on how good the chicken wings are over at this particular spot. And how for five dollars he can get enough chicken wings to fill his stomach for the day. Then he’ll blink and smile innocently. And you will give him ten dollars cause he might as well get a beer to wash his chicken wings and he was probably most likely going to get one anyway..

And it will be all be very pleasant because that’s how they do things in Saint Louis.

And if you want to know where those chicken wings are, well you just run over to Saint Louis and talk to this man. He’ll be happy to tell you all about them.

For five bucks.



Now if you’ll excuse me, my sister keeps sending me emails telling me to paint a hippo. I’m not sure what she has against hippos. They’re already a nice enough color.  But I aim to please so I am going to have to go find a hippo. And I think I need to get more paint. Hippos are awfully large animals, I don’t think I have enough paint to cover one up.

Have a good one, folks!




©Virginia Spencer, thepurpledogpaintingblog, 2012

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. His biggest fan and protector. Five of her six ends are pointy and she knows how to use them.


Well played, little dog, well played.





©Virginia Spencer, thepurpledogpaintingblog, 2012

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

The Great American Oddities…

One day, I am going to buy a big piece of land running along the road. Any road will do.

Why you ask?

So I can put up some big silly statues that make no sense along it to keep drivers entertained.

Check these out.

This one isn’t too odd. I have seen variations of the giant man statue. The amusement park that I grew up near had one so I’m fond of them.  They were mostly made in the 1960’s. The first ones held mufflers, then they starting popping up holding all sorts of implements. This one is in excellent shape and holds a mining pick and has a Harley belt buckle in honor of the Sturgis Rally.. Nice.

This miner was on the porch of the Big Thunder Mine in Keystone.I’m not sure if that’s a support or if he’s supposed to have trodden in gum. He’s a pretty gruff looking guy so I didn’t ask. If he needs help that doll with the supercilious grin looks ready to jump in.

These bulls are outside of one of the billion or so gold/jewelery stores in Rapid City. It’s not every day that you get to see flowery bison penned outside a jewelry store. It’s a good thing there is a pen because a stampede of flowery bison would for sure panic the masses.

And of course to go with the flowery bison, way out in the Badlands, at the ranch store (where you can see prairie dogs in a pen “Free!” as opposed to all over the fields) there is a six tonne prairie dog. A pink and yellow six tonne prairie dog at that.

I bet that thing could dig a heck of a hole.

Then there are these wooden statues also in Keystone. Wouldn’t you like to see that in your front yard while going to fetch your paper every morning?

Mini Mount Rushmore? These are sitting in a random field. Not sure what that’s all about but thanks.

This here is the yard of the King of Silly Statues. There’s a 25 tonne bull’s head being guarded by alien skeletons while red robed freaky beings overshadowed by a gigantic hammer look on. There’s also a large flower-pot with metal flowers, some dinosaurs and odd bugs, a few dancing robots and I believe that is a two-headed bison.

I want this yard.

But this is my favorite…absolute genius.

It’s nice to know in a day and age when so many people walk down the street (or drive) with their eyes glued to small screens that are still people in this world who have the balls to be a little different, to be a little silly, to be creative and amusing and entertaining and eccentric and charming.

It makes me happy.

The billboards…the drive continued..

I love billboards.  Fortunately South Dakota has many of them.

And I say fortunately because the majority of South Dakota is prairie grasslands. Sure it’s lovely for the first couple of hundred miles but after awhile the Eastern part of me starts to wondering. Where are the trees? I like trees. They’re pretty, they provide shade and if an uncivil UFO bent on world domination came down or Godzilla woke up and wanted to graze in the grasslands or even worse an  uncivil UFO bent on world domination carrying a grass grazing Godzilla came down, then you can hide behind a tree.

Unless you’re in the prairies.

Then you are out of luck.

Sure there’s a few trees here and there and you could technically hide behind one but it would be a bit obvious. Because all your neighbors would be hiding behind the tree too.

The head alien would say to his lieutenant “Where are all the people?”

And the lieutenant would reply “Behind that tree, sir.”

And the head alien would ask “Is that a tree or a bush?”

And Godzilla would say “Grrrr.”

So I like billboards because they distract me from thinking about being eaten alive in the prairies.

(By the way I took all of these photos while in a 75 mph zone. So please excuse any fuzziness. I would have slowed down but the prairies kind of freak me out.)

So get comfy, pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of Red Ass wine and I’ll share them with you.

Vet’s Whoa n’ Go! I love the colors, the silliness of the name and the little guy riding a runaway donkey. I don’t know why there’s a runaway donkey. But it’s cute.

The Reptile Gardens, had dozens of billboards. These are a few of my favorites.

Old styling font, great colors against a beautiful scene. What’s not to like.

I like the outright threatening message on this one..

Especially since the next one is this cutesy train. Talk about mixed messages.

The cows don’t seem to mind a train carrying various reptiles and a goose for some reason (I’m thinking it must have been bring your own lunch) being driven by a turtle running through their pasture. Odd. You would think cows would mind that sort of thing.

Not fond of reptiles? You could go to the Taxidermy Exhibit.

Yes, you too can see dead stuffed animals “in action”.

Speaking of dead animals. Are you wearing any fur?

Why not?!?!?!!!

Hungry yet? How about an appealing little hotdog named “Senor Wiener”..

C’mon you know you want him..

No? How about a walleye burger? or a buffalo burger? Anyone?

Or you could get a pop for 10 cents. Though truth be told after all that prairie I was more excited about seeing a river. I am an excellent swimmer. I could hide from UFO’s and/or Godzilla in a river.

Or we could just stop at the “Busted Nut” and have a beer…

Not too many though, that sign is fuzzy enough..

If we can’t drive we could always get a “toe”

Might need one since I refused to be bullied into buying gas..

Ahh, that’s better. Short and to the point.

Too bad the sign is pointing an at an dilapidated barn and there’s nothing else in sight. Including an exit.

We can always walk.

Oh nevermind…

We could stop for the night…

This hotel sounds good, especially if you’re a mass murderer and your victims scream a lot.

(Note to my single friends, do NOT date anyone who makes reservations at this place.)

Not tired? Well let’s shop then.

How about we go buy some rocks. No not the diamond kind, just regular old rocks..

in a ghost town. A ghost town with a rock shop. And a gas station. And a grocery store. And people…

And yes I did buy a rock! For a $1.75.

Because I always enjoy a good con. Well done people, well done.

Now here’s another con I enjoyed thoroughly.

Especially since it was free.

Yes! You too can see prairie dogs for free!! Free!  On the prairies. At this store.

Oh look! Here it is!


No? Oh that’s right,we’re going to Deadwood.

Wow, that’s a little harsh.

Alright I’m done for the time being.

Don’t worry I have Wall Drug signs too.  But that is a whole different post.

And I mean different.