What’s up with the B-17 on that can?

If you’ve ever picked up a can of Bomber Mountain Amber Ale from Black Tooth Brewing in Wyoming, you’ll notice a WWII, B-17 Bomber on the side.

On a sunny Sunday in August of 1945, Wyoming cowboys Berl Bader and Albert Kirkpatrick noticed something shiny up ahead of them on a high ridge in the Bighorn Mountains. Climbing up the unnamed mountain ridge to investigate, the two discovered what appeared to be

the scattered wreckage of a plane along with several bodies.

In June of 1943, a B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed “Scharazad”, with a crew of ten, departed Pendleton Army Air Base in Oregon destined for Grand Island, Nebraska. From there, the bomber would join other members and continue to England to participate in the ongoing bombing campaign against Nazi Germany.

Around midnight, the captain radioed in that their position was near Powder River, Wyoming. That would be their last radio call. After they failed to arrive in Grand Island, the plane was declared missing and the Army mounted a search effort with no results. A second search was conducted the following year, concentrating on the Wind River Mountains, Absaroka Mountains and Big Horn Mountains, but still no wreckage was spotted until the Bader and Kirkpatrick discovery, two years later. The paint on the plane that matched the mountain side had faded, revealing shiny patches in the metal, making it easier to spot in the bright sun.

Although the plane reported its last position 40 miles northwest of Casper, the wreckage was found 110 miles north of Casper, indicating that the plane was either off-course or its navigational instruments were malfunctioning. This factor alone was significant in the delay of finding the missing plane. Weather may have also been a factor in the crash. No moon was visible on the evening of June 28th, 1945, so it is likely that the Pilot would not have noticed the approaching unnamed mountain peak rising before him until it was too late.

Secondly, area residents reported a freak snowstorm on that evening which may have played a factor as well. Army reports indicate that the crew was young and likely inexperienced, and the plane was flying too low. When the pilot noticed the looming peak, the engines were put to full throttle. While he pulled up the plane’s nose at the last minute, the tail section could not clear the mountain and the plane ripped in half, explaining the disbursement of wreckage on both the east and west sides of the mountain. It appears that the plane needed just 50 to 100 feet more to have cleared the mountain ridge.

The exact site of the crash, a precipice of more than 12,000-feet in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, was named by the Sheridan Chapter of American War Dads. And has been known ever since as Bomber Mountain. The crew is now forever memorialized in the Bighorn Mountains.

• William R. Ronaghan (pilot)

• Anthony J. Tilotta (co-pilot)

• Leonard H. Phillips (navigator)

• Charles H. Suppes (bombardier)

• James A. Hinds (aircraft engineer)

• Ferguson T. Bell, Jr. (radio operator)

• Lee ‘Vaughn’ Miller (assistant aircraft engineer)

• Charles E. Newburn, Jr (assistant radio operator)

• Jake F. Penick (aircraft gunner)

• Lewis M. Shepard (assistant aircraft gunner)

NP

Crow Peak, Black Tooth and Luminous Brewhouse.

I started the day with Crow Peak brewing in Spearfish, South Dakota within the realm of the Black Hills. http://www.crowpeakbrewing.com/

One of my go to brews when I’m out west is their Pile-O-Dirt-Porter. I’ve brought it to the Bighorns via can form in the past, but this was my first time straight from the faucet. Crow Peak Brewery has a warm and inviting atmosphere, and drinking by their fireplace on a 15 degree day, was a great way to take the chill off. There’s a small farmers market in the same parking lot, along with Bunky’s BBQ who makes a pretty kick ass pulled pork sandwich.

My next two stops were in Sheridan, Wyoming. The first being Black Tooth Brewing Company, http://www.blacktoothbrewingcompany.com/

A five year old brewery, located at the base of the majestic Big Horn Mountains. Makers of Saddle Bronc, and one of my favorites- I swear you can actually taste the toffee. Black Tooth now has three of its flagship beers, Saddle Bronc (Brown Ale), Bomber Mountain (Amber Ale) and Hot Streak (IPA) available in 6-Pack Cans and Draught statewide in Wyoming as well as parts of South Dakota and Montana.

Last stop was Luminous Brewhouse http://luminousbrewhouse.com/

I tried a few samples and settled on the Uphill Brew Ale, named after the infamous local mountain road “Red Grade”. Red in color, it has a tasty hop appeal. There was live music here and the atmosphere was jumping.

All three breweries are worth trekking off highway 90 for, especially the latter two during the spring when the access roads to the Bighorn Mountains and Yellowstone are in full swing. Off to Billings and Livingston tomorrow if the weather clears.

Of note- Powder River Pizza Co. in Sheridan makes a mean Greek pizza, and if you’re there, try Tensleep Brewings “Speed Goat Golden Ale.” http://tensleepbrewingco.com/

NP

“Give me 80 men and I’ll ride through the whole Sioux nation!”

Imagine you’re living on the frontier in a fort with your husband who is a lieutenant in the Military. There isn’t a week that has gone by where at least one man from the fort hasn’t been killed by the Sioux and Cheyenne. It’s still fresh in your mind that just recently a handsome friendly flirty photographer you chatted with from the National Geographic Society was found scalped not far from the fort walls.

On one particular day your husband along with 80 soldiers don’t return to the fort. You wait with fear and anticipation until sometime in the evening, a party of wagons carrying wood comes through the gates. Finally they’ve returned, what a relief! Then you hear the woman next to you scream and realize that’s not wood being carried in those wagons.

It was 151 years ago today that the U.S. Army had its greatest military defeat at the hands of Red Cloud and the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho Nations, until the Battle of the Little Bighorn years later. On this day, Mrs, Frances Grummond among many others became widows. The fort was abandoned not long after and gave Red Cloud a strategic victory, that closed the road west for almost a decade and was the only time the US government would concede to defeat at the hands of the Indians.

I spent my afternoon here today on the way up to Sheridan, Wyoming. After reading Frances Carrington’s journal (formerly Grummond) I was able to clearly visualize life here. It made for an interesting day to say the least. NP

The Brew Tour

Yesterday was the longest stretch of my journey. 735 miles to Rapid City from Dubuque. That’s a lot of Wall Drug signs. But it’s easy peasy from here on out as long as the weather cooperates. An inch of snow snuck in last night combined with high winds making the roads really shitty.

On the plus, the extra hour of gained mountain time allowed me to call a taxi and head over to Hay Camp Brewing Company and Lost Cabin Beer Company, before they closed at 10 last night. Both breweries had their own whiskey style beer, among many others. Being a former Rye guy, I had to try them.

My first pint was the “Barrel Aged Lord Grizzly Scotch Ale” at Lost Cabin Brewing Company https://lostcabin.beer/ Rightly named since it had an impressive 10.1% ABV. Aged in wooden whiskey barrels, I could taste the hint of bourbon. And cheers to the guy who played a mix of Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

The first thing you notice upon walking into Hay Camp Brewing http://www.haycampbrewing.com/phone/index.html are the old wooden frames along the bar in the tasting room. They were pulled out of an old mine in Lead. Very cool. For my first beer at Hay Camp, I chose the “The Lacto-Hand-Rye-Coordination,” based on a sample I had. Love the name. It had the Rye going on in spades, but again, it didn’t overpower the deep roasted chocolate taste. Also of note was their Victory Stout which was more like a Guinness but with a subtle smokey flavor.

I love the fact that these microbreweries are always experimenting. Always trying to take it to the next level to improve their products in unique ways. Having the beer making process on site, also allows them to trial and error with their customers. The staff were friendly at both, and the vibe of Rapid City as a whole, was ever cool as usual.

I tried grabbing a late night bite at the local Perkins, but the staff had all come down with a sickness and there was a 30 minute waiting list not to mention a sick coughing chef in the kitchen, so I settled with leftovers from the cooler. Needless to say, I slept like a baby last night.

Next on the list is Crow Peak Brewing in Spearfish, before I cross into Wyoming.

NP

“I think that most of us feel like something is missing from our lives. But life isn’t about searching endlessly to find what’s missing. It’s about learning to live with the missing parts.” – Michael Finkel.

Hey kid, wanna buy a sleeping bag?

The temps in Yellowstone over Christmas will be around 5 Fahrenheit for highs and -10 Fahrenheit for lows. That’s about -23 Celsius for my Canadian friends. My bag is rated for 0 Fahrenheit or -18 Celsius, so I’m off the mark a bit. It’s all in your mind though, right?

In another lifetime, I recall the owner of a surplus store trying to sell me a sleeping bag she claimed was so warm – “you can put raw eggs and bacon in at sunset and have a fully cooked breakfast by morning.” There was also a large hole in the bag which she claimed was from “heavy combat use.” I guess that was code for “campfire spark.”

Fortunately for her, I was a kid with birthday money, burning pockets and a dream – plus, I needed a sleeping bag for an upcoming camping trip and I wasn’t leaving the store without one. After a little negotiating, I bought the bag and even had a little money left over to piss away on something else.

After using the bag for the first time, I can honestly say it was the equivalent of an old moth eaten towel. I literally froze. As an extra kick in the nuts, the duct tape that I had used to put over the “heavy combat use” had come off during the night, and whenever I moved, it looked like a whales blowhole, shooting feathers all over my tent. It looked like my grandmas henhouse by morning. I guess I was the rooster.

So this brings me to my newly acquired and thoroughly researched -18 degree Nemo bag. I’m hoping to find consolation in this one, even it the temps hit the dreaded -20 mark. And what’s a little frostbite?

Hunter S. Thompson nailed it when he said- “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

NP