South central Montana is dominated by the Yellowstone River which ambles through Billings. We had selected a KOA campground along the Yellowstone River with a small pond adjoining it. We backed right up onto the bank of the pond. In the background are the famed “rimrock” hills. In the morning we would awake to the screech of a male peacock which had the run of the camp It took a special liking to Laura, who was much more generous then I, when it came to morning treats. Billings was a mining and cattle town, as wide open as the “Big Skies” motto of Montana. Building up along the river banks between the “rimrock”, life was hard and death came easy for the careless or the unaware. Boot Hill cemetery, so named, because so many of it’s occupants went to their deaths with their boots on, was the burial grounds for Coulson, the Yellowstone river town existing from 1877 to 1885 on the edge of what was to be Billings Montana. The most famous person buried here was H. M. Muggins Taylor, the scout who took news of Custer’s massacre from the battlefield to Bozeman. He later became a deputy sheriff in Coulson, and in 1882 was gunned down in the laundry as he was breaking up a domestic violence between the laundress and her husband. The area was created 136 million years ago during what is now referred to as the upper cretaceous period, when an arm of the Pacific Ocean extended across this regon. Shifting of the continent resulted in a recession of the shoreline and the tide formed beaches along the raised area. The shoreline areas were deposits of sand and ocean mud. Through time and the effect of erosion, the resulting 250 to 300 foot deposits of sandstone known as the Eagle Sandstone formation make up the unique geological formation known as the “rimrock”. By the 1800’s, gold had been discovered and the boom was on. With the arrival of the railroad, the town grew by leaps and bounds until it became the biggest city in Montana. Into this development, came P.B. Moss who became one of it’s first millionaires. A separate article has been posted on the Moss Mansion. Not far out of town, overlooking the Bitter Creek, lies Pictograph Cave State Park. A series of three caves cut into the limestone by millions of years of erosion. The caves overlook an area where the Bitter Creek empties into the Yellowstone, through the Alkali Creek, one of the few breaks in the sandstone cliffs for a considerable distance. It is currently believed that this was the crossing point for the large buffalo herds and thus a common hunting ground for Indians for thousands of years. The archaeological finds in the caves would indicate that they were used as a living space for up to 5000 years ago by tribes of Indians existing long before the Crow climbed them. Not only were the caves used as a living places, but the protected cave walls were also used to record pictures of meaningful events and spiritual topics. Pictographs are painted images. They differ from petroglyphs, which are engraved into the surface. Together pictographs and petroglyphs are referred to as rock art. Common pigments used in painting pictographs probably included berry juices, charcoal, earth pigments and animal fat. The most common colors were red and black. We could find no exact interpretation for the specific drawings we found in the caves.
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