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Panhandle Passages with Justin Haag – She’s a Butte

Crow Butte Pronghorn
Even on a gray evening such as last night, Crow Butte, at right, helps improve this scene of pronghorns grazing.

What can I say? I kinda like her.

Crow Butte Sunset
Crow Butte can be seen in the distance from this view near the Black Hills Overlook at Chadron State Park.

She was a little roughened up last year and she has a sketchy history, but she still looks great. Considering that my wife is probably reading this, I’d better explain. I’m talking about Crow Butte – a true jewel of the Pine Ridge and an object of my affection.

One of our jobs as members of the magazine staff is to produce pretty photographs – it’s an exciting but intimidating task when considering the standard set by the magazine’s outstanding photographers through the years. After perusing photos from my first few weeks on the job, I’ve noticed that Crow Butte has become my go-to gal when it comes to getting a scenic shot. I’ve yet to produce anything that’s going to make people, especially my coworkers, go “ooohh, ahhh,” but if there’s anything that can pretty-up an average photograph, Crow Butte is it. And, the nice thing is, she’s visible from many points all over northwest Nebraska. Always posing it seems.

By roughened up, I mean she got pretty charred during the 2012 forest fires similar to so much of the Pine Ridge between Chadron and Crawford. It’s a sad deal, but it’s going to take a lot more than that to make her look less than attractive.

Crow Butte from Whitney Lake
Crow Butte even has a way of making these ugly tires at Whitney Lake look good.
Crow Butte Turkeys
I was pleased to see these turkeys roosting near Crow Butte as darkness was setting in last night.

By sketchy history, I’m referring to differing accounts of the legendary 1849 battle for which the butte is named. The story goes that a band of Crow Indians, under cover of darkness, used a rappel line constructed of blankets and rawhide clothing to descend from the butte’s top after being chased up there by members of the Brule Sioux. This thorough article, written in 2009 by George Ledbetter of the Chadron Record, recounts the fascinating tales uncovered by the research of James Hanson, the historian I consider to be the authority on such matters.

Crow Butte’s past isn’t all about wildfires and conflict, however. She also has been known for a good time. From the photo captions at this site dedicated to climbing, I see that NEBRASKAland associate editor Jeff Kurrus has spent some time with her.

Perhaps my most memorable memory with Crow Butte: She served as the backdrop for a Willie Nelson concert in a Crawford pasture on one beautiful late summer evening in 2002 when my wife was pregnant with our first child. Willie put on a great show and gave my son a proper introduction to classic country music. Crow Butte behind the stage, summer breeze, lawn chair time with my wife and unborn son, and Willie singing his classics — best concert ever.

I’m looking forward to this blossoming relationship with Crow Butte, not to mention the other beautiful buttes of the ridge. As long as she keeps posing, I’ll keep shooting.

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.

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