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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Ken Steinken’s MyTown Blogand Remembering Carl Sanson

Field trip on the old Sanson Ranch, 2012
The Sanson family owned this property from 1882 to 1987. It then passed to the Casey family, and now is part of Wind Cave National Park.
Photo by Ken Steinken
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Ken Steinken, who has worked on his writing at Windbreak House Retreat, has been getting paid to write (and take pictures) for KOTA's MyTown website. He chooses his topics and is able to, as he says "drive around the Hills looking for ideas." The site is set up so that all Ken’s articles are archived by author and readers can subscribe to his posts– almost like having his own blog.

Ken Steinken's KOTA TV MyTown blog

Ken says:
Anybody can write for the MyTown website as long as it has connections to the Black Hills area or to Gillette and Sheridan, Wyoming. And writers who contribute regularly may even become eligible to receive concert tickets and occasional cash incentives in appreciation for their participation. Potential new writers should send an email expressing their interest to Kandi@RobertSharpAssociates.com

The editors are open to any kind of writing including poetry and would consider starting a specific section for poetry if they got enough people submitting. The site may eventually expand into the Nebraska Panhandle as well.


A few years ago I encouraged Ken to join the Great Plains Native Plant Society. He admits he should have heeded my advice sooner (!) But now that he’s a member, he enjoys field trips. The most recent was participating as an inventory volunteer on the Sanson Ranch property which has just become part of Wind Cave National Park. I am delighted to present this link:

Ken's blog “Up-close Look at Wind Cave's Sanson Ranch”

I’m especially happy to know about this land acquisition since Carl Sanson was a great influence on my life as a horsewoman. He helped advise a horse club that a friend, Mikkey Murphy, and I organized when we were teenagers. Patiently, Carl worked with a dozen horse-crazy kids, teaching us how to respect our horses as well as to get the best performance from them. He also hauled our horses around when we were short of qualified drivers and stock trailers. We devised a number of intricate maneuvers to execute at a gallop in the arena. When we had horse wrecks, Carl was there to pick us up, dust us off and tell us to get back on those horses. I recall that he sat up several nights nursing his own horse when it was gored by a buffalo during the annual roundup in Custer State Park.

I find it fitting that the ranch on which he lived a bachelor life has become part of our national and state heritage.

Take a look at some of Ken’s other pieces while you’re exploring. Steinken: The Next Generation, is about becoming a grandfather. Follow the Shootingstars resulted from a gathering of the Prairie Winds writing group (for which I also once taught workshops) in June of this year.

After you've read Ken's great pieces, consider writing your own.

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The Eco Prayer Park at Trinity Lutheran Church, Rapid City

Plans for the Trinity Eco Prayer Park.
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Some retreat writers might recognize Ken Steinken's name from seeing it in the house journal. During the years when I didn't live on the ranch, Ken came often to Homestead House, at least once riding his bicycle twenty-some miles from Rapid City, to write in the retreat solitude. He signed the house journal, saying he'd tried to erase all testosterone from the premises before a women's writing retreat started.

Ken's new project is to help establish an Eco Prayer Park on one fourth of a city block now vacant on the corner of Fourth and Saint Joseph Streets, beside Trinity Lutheran Church in Rapid City.

"Our goal is to create a peaceful, natural place downtown that will preserve open space and enhance the vitality of the downtown experience," Ken says.

The park will contain a circular path leading visitors past four zones representing different biomes: Black Hills, midgrass prairie, shortgrass prairie and wetlands. The park will be practical as well, with swales that will conserve stormwater runoff from surrounding asphalt parking lots, allowing it to seep slowly into the ground instead of entering the city's storm-sewer system. Designed to contain water from a 100-year flood event, the park will have no standing water elements. It will provide examples of native species that local property owners can use in their own water-conserving landscaping.

Here's how Ken Steinken explains the name of the park:

The Name: Trinity Eco Prayer Park
* Trinity -- connects the park to the Trinity Lutheran Church
* Eco Park -- a park that uses and encourages others to use sustainable landscaping
* Prayer Park -- a peaceful place downtown to pray and reflect
* Eco Prayer -- a prayer for the care of the planet; a plea to work with nature instead of against it

I was a little concerned that the word "Eco" might be a little too political; it's a goofy, trendy word but it allows us to avoid "Sustainable" which is clunky; and "Natural" is just too vanilla. The word "Prayer" has been overused and abused, and may unsettle folks on both ends of the political spectrum, so it sets up a creative tension that I like. The official name collects all the elements, but perhaps the park will be best-known simply as Trinity Park, a place to reflect on how we relate to God, one another, and the planet.


The project is planned for completion by 2014, in time for the church's 100th anniversary celebration. Ken hopes most costs will be covered by in-kind donations from church and community members and volunteer labor. "We need every kind of help imaginable," he says.

I'll be donating plugs of buffalo grass and other native grasses as well as any wildflower seeds the project needs and can find on my land.

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For more information:

Website for the Trinity Eco Prayer Park. This is a bare-bones Google Group website that has newsletter-type updates on the park and links for further information.

Read an article about the park in the Rapid City Journal. Includes a photo of the existing bare lot and depictions of what the park will look like.

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