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$200,000 bond for man accused of molesting child

A 27-year-old man was ordered held Friday, Aug. 23, on $200,000 bond after he was accused of molesting a 4-year-old girl.

Derick Tilley was arrested Friday and charged with one class AA felony count of gross sexual imposition.

Few details were available about the accusations against Tilley.

No affidavit of probable cause was filed in the case. Instead an investigator gave in-person testimony to a judge, who then issued an arrest warrant.

The warrant accuses Tilley of molesting a 4-year-old girl earlier this month.

During a bond hearing Friday, Kathryn Preusse, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, asked for bond to be set at $200,000.

She said part of the reason for her request was the fact that a class AA felony carries a maximum possible penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole if Tilley were to be convicted. Also, Preusse told Northwest District Judge Benjamen Johnson that the charge carried a mandatory minimum prison sentence of five years.

The young age of the girl Tilley is accused of sexually assaulting was also a factor in the prosecution’s request.

“The state is concerned about the safety of the community,” Preusse said.

Tilley told Johnson that he was in the U.S. Army National Guard and was scheduled to report for duty in early September. Beyond that, he didn’t address the charges.

Tilley is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on Sept. 18.

Retracing the trip that created one of America's first millionaires

In his hands, a fire suddenly blooms, in gently cradled cottonwood fur and wispy snippets of grass.

If the beauty is burning his hands, the man called Amish shows no sign of distress.

Unhurriedly, he places this newly made rose of fire within a ring of stones placed lightly on the ground inside a lone tipi, raised just a night or so ago at Fort Union.

Nothing in the scene is missing that you might expect to find in an 1825 expedition.

There are period oilcloth bags containing provisions that hold precious sugar for coffee in the morning, or dried bits of jerky for chewing along the way.

There are tin cups to hold that joyful fist of first coffee in the morning. And there are, yes, like it or not, buckskin clothes that need to be repaired by the sunbeaten and wind-weathered hands of men.

Amish, known in the everyday world as Scott Staggs, is traveling with two other men at this point in their historic journey. Gerry Messmer of New York, who goes by Lucky in camp, and their ringleader, Jack Mitch, who is called Poncho.

This whole trip was Poncho’s idea.

“What we are doing is retracing the trail of a man named William Ashley, who owned the Rocky Mountain Fur Company,” Poncho says. “He had come out west to supply the men he had hired to trap for him. He held his first rendezvous at Henry’s Fork, west of the Green River near the Utah border.”

That Rendezvous, held July 1, 1825, was not the very first of its kind. But it was the first to show just how wildly successful this commercial model could be.

Ashley came up with supplies for his trappers, who in turn arrived to turn in pelts and furs that Ashley would take home with him to St. Louis — at least 9,000 beaver pelts in all.

Ashley's successful return with so many of the fur pelts, used at that time to make the fashionable, tall hats of the era, made him a fortune overnight. That fortune, added to what he already had, made him one of the New World's first millionaires, Messmer said. Among the first of what would one day be many self-made American men.

His trip home was fraught with many dangers, of course, not least of which were occasional bands of Indians. They had been known to sometimes attack travelers with such goods as Ashley had in his possession, and take them by brute force.

Ashley floated with this treasure trove of furs on the Big Horn River in bull boats all the way to the Yellowstone River. He arrived at its confluence with the Missouri in about the same time frame as Amish, Lucky and Poncho — albeit with a chasm of 193 years lying in between.

At the confluence, Ashley met two military officers who were making treaties with Indians, trying to get them to stop attacking supply boats. The two men let Ashley load his valuable furs onto their keel boats for the rest of the journey home to St. Louis.

Thus Ashley's model was not only been proven. It was a huge commercial success.

And the west would never be the same again.

Mitch, who is something of a contrarian, began thinking about Ashley’s return while participating in the national camps that American Mountain Men put on each year. One of these is near the site of that original Rendezvous.

“Men will sometimes ride into the camp a week before because they are that serious about being period correct,” Mitch said. “But no one has ever done a period correct return like Ashley's from a Rendezvous that I know of.”

As he was getting ready to retire, Mitch started talking out loud about the idea of recreating Ashley’s return to St. Louis. It'd be an 1,800-mile journey across the country. In period gear. With period transportation.

That would mean hundreds of miles on horseback. And miles of river in boats they would make themselves, by hand.

They would be exposed to 80 mph wind, driving rain, mosquitoes in the millions, and yes, there was even the possibility of death along the way.

They would take no modern conveniences. There would be no team following them with gear. There would be only a small medical aid kit, and a cell phone — turned off — to serve as an emergency beacon if there was an extreme need.

Yet Mitch’s idea blossomed, just like that tiny spark that grows into a beautiful fire each night in their campground. A fire that cooks their food as they talk about their day and keeps them warm as they dream, through the night.

Messmer, too, was getting ready to retire, he told Mitch, so the idea really appealed to him.

It was really perfect timing, the two decided. They had to do it.

Staggs is Mitch's neighbor, so Mitch told him about the idea one day while they were shooting pool and having a beer.

“I’ll do it,” Staggs said.

He didn't even think about it.

“I’m always up for a challenge, something different that most people won't do," he explained. "Me and my son built a car and drove it to LA the day after he graduated from school.”

Soon, others were on board. It was a crazy, but wonderful idea. It had to happen.

Members from other states helped the men plot routes around modern-day obstacles such as interstate highways and dams. They also helped them figure out waypoints, where the men could resupply water and receive period-correct food, such as elk or antelope steaks.

Meanwhile, a Colorado man named William Bailey began making them an authentic keel boat for the final leg of their journey down the Missouri.

Bailey has used cotton and oakum, which is a tarred fiber, to seal the boat he’s building. There are benches and oarlocks for rowers, and a cabin on top of the craft, as well as a mast for a sail.

Keel boats were generally 50 feet long and up to 16 feet wide. They could haul a fair amount of trade goods upriver to trading posts — up to 30 tons in one trip.

Bailey’s boat will be 50 feet long and about 8 feet wide, and will accommodate about 6,500 pounds. It will also include a hidden outboard motor — a modern day requirement for being on the lower Missouri River. It's called the Muskrat.

The Muskrat is a little behind schedule, Mitch said.

The trio have also decided that they should not use this keel boat to cross Lake Sakakawea. Keel boats don't do well on large, windy lakes, for one. And that particular lake didn’t exist in Ashley’s timeframe. It is a modern-day challenge outside the scope of their historic adventure.

“We’re going to meet him at Gavin’s Point near Yankton and from there we will take the boat 800, 900 miles to St. Charles, which is near St. Louis,” Mitch said. “We’ll take out at the Lewis and Clark Center there, which is an appropriate place to end our trip.”

The three men say their trip so far has been eye-opening in many different ways, while also offering them a chance to share history in a different way.

The trio, for example, visited Rau School in Sidney Thursday afternoon to talk to the children in Leif Halvorson's class about the history of mountain men and William Ashley.

They demonstrated period fishing gear, showed off period guns and weapons, and Staggs showed them how to start a fire without a match.

“It’s amazing how much you can do without, and how little you can live on and how simply you can live, with just some tarps and your dried foods and just survive," Messmer said. "If you get wet, you dry everything out and you keep going.”

Staggs pointed out that each man is able to carry all his camp gear in one trip. Food is a different story. Due to modern day hunting seasons, they had to bring their food with them.

“But we would hunt for our food for this, too, if it were in season at this time of year,” Staggs said.

As it is, they have caught catfish and mountain white fish along the way. Which are delicious over a smoky campfire after a long day of travel.

They’ve also had enormous and unexpected help along the way, Staggs said. That’s been amazing and uplifting.

“The word is humanity I believe,” he said. “Seeing the people you meet along the way and how they will help you out as far as gear and food, offering anything we need. Nowadays, I feel in this world, there is not much of that. But on this trip, we have a received a lot of overwhelming support, and it’s been fantastic.”

Mitch said Discovery Channel had wanted to send a television crew with them, but he turned them down.

“We are not actors,” he said. “We are not going to produce drama for them, because then we couldn’t do our thing.”

Their thing, he explained is very simple. Like the beautiful fire that blooms in camp each night.

“It’s just informing people about this time period and this trip,” he said.

Maybe it inspires someone else to do something a little bit crazy. Maybe it educates them on a little sliver of history that is sometimes pushed aside. Or maybe it just lights a little fire of old-fashioned kindness in a world that desperately needs it.

Rain, humidity slowing progress of wheat crop

Scattered precipitation and higher than usual humidity in some areas has slowed the harvest of the U.S. spring wheat crop, which remains behind average, according to the latest crop reports.

The USDA’s most recent crop progress report shows just 16 percent of the nation’s spring wheat crop has been harvested, well behind the usual 50 percent average.

North Dakota’s harvest is just 12 percent complete, compared to a more usual 43 percent. Last year at this time, the state had harvested 55 percent of the crop.

Yields for what has been harvested are so far coming in lower than expected, with protein levels ranging from 13 to 15 percent. However, most of the crop is left to harvest, and its condition remains fairly stable at 70 percent good to excellent.

In Montana, the 20 percent of spring wheat has been harvested. Last year at this time, 42 percent of spring wheat had been harvested. The five-year average is 44 percent.

In the other big wheat-producing states, spring wheat harvests range from 14 to 27 percent complete, which is also well behind average.

North Dakota’s durum crop is about 7 percent harvested which is also behind the usual pace. Last year at this time the state had harvested 31 percent of its crop. Conditions have dropped slightly from the previous week, but are still high. The crop is 72 percent good to excellent.

Montana has meanwhile harvested 13 percent of its durum. That’s also well behind the average 32 percent.

North Dakota winter wheat is rated 78 percent good to excellent and 95 percent is mature. Harvest is at 57 percent, well behind 88 percent last year and the five-year average of 73 percent.

In Montana, 69 percent of winter wheat has been harvested. That’s behind last year’s 82 percent, and the five-year average, 91 percent.

Weather conditions next week have been forecast to be drier, which could help producers get these grain crops in the bin.

For other MonDak crops:

Soybean condition in North Dakota is rated 63 percent good to excellent, and the bloom is 96 percent, which is near 100 percent last year and 99 percent for the five-year average. Setting pods is 78 percent, which is behind 96 percent last year and 91 percent average. Dropping leaves is only 1 percent, behind 16 percent last year and 7 percent average.

North Dakota Corn is 73 percent good to excellent. Corn silking is 94 percent, which is behind the usual average of 97 percent. Dough is 18 percent, well behind 81 percent last year and the 58 percent average.

Corn in Montana is rated 75 percent good to excellent. Its progress wasn’t given.

North Dakota Barley is 19 percent harvested, well behind 77 percent last year and 62 percent average. The crop is rated 77 percent excellent. In Montana, Barley is 65 percent good to excellent and 30 percent harvested. That’s behind last year’s 48 percent and the 57 percent average.

North Dakota Canola is 68 percent good to excellent. Harvested is 5 percent, behind 24 last year and 17 average. In Montana, 10 percent of canola has been harvested, which is about the same as last year’s 12 percent, but behind the five-year average, 36 percent.

Sugar beet condition is 89 percent good to excellent in North Dakota and 79 percent good to excellent in Montana.

North Dakota dry edible peas are 77 percent good to excellent. Harvest is at 44 percent, well behind 80 last year and 64 percent average. In Montana, 60 percent of the crop has been harvested, behind last year’s 74 percent and the five-year average 81 percent. The crop is rated 75 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota dry edible beans meanwhile, were 50 percent good to excellent. Beans setting pods is at 94 percent. Dropping leaves is at 21 percent. That’s behind 56 percent last year, but is close to the 27 percent average. In Montana, 5 percent of dry edible beans have been harvested.

The North Dakota lentil harvest is at 4 percent, well behind 35 percent last year. Montana lentils are also behind at 29 percent harvested, which compares to last year’s 58 percent and the five-year average 66 percent. Montana lentils are rated 68 percent good to excellent.

North Dakota sunflowers are 79 percent good to excellent. Bloom is at 83 percent, which is behind 97 last year. Ray flowers drying is at 10 percent, well behind 33 percent last year.

Montana safflower, meanwhile, is 82 percent in bloom, with 35 percent turning color. Bloom is about where it was last year at 81 percent. Turning color at this time last year was 52 percent.

Alfalfa, second cutting harvested, is at 46 percent complete in Montana, which is behind last year’s 84 percent and the five-year average 75 percent. North Dakota’s second cut is 70 percent complete, also behind 86 percent last year and the 79 percent average. The crop is rated 64 percent good to excellent.

Pasture and range in Montana is rated 75 percent good to excellent and 67 percent good to excellent in North Dakota.

Williston Community Library begins improvement projects to give building an updated look

The Williston Community Library is getting a much needed face lift, making updates to the facility’s 36-year-old landscaping.

Work began on Thursday, Aug. 22 as workers from Slagle Services began removing the decades-old bushes and shrubs in preparation to create a whole new landscaping look for the facility. Library Director Andrea Placher said the project had been on her mind since she took over the position, and the timing and budget finally fell into place to begin the work.

“All of our landscaping is original to the building,” Placher told the Williston Herald. “It’s 36 years old, and it’s just time to change it. Plants have a life expectancy, bushes have a life expectancy. We have maintenance people and we’ve done what we could, but there’s just a time when you have to do something a little different.”

Placher said the plants had become too high and overgrow, causing some safety concerns as well as hiding the building from view. The ground had become uneven, with tatters of black tarp creeping through the rocks and plants. The landscaping project will be quite intensive, she said, with the bushes and shrubs having already been pulled out and workers preparing to remove the old landscaping rock and replace it with new, larger and more manageable stones to be added.

Placher said once the old landscaping is fully removed, crew will begin putting in new plants and grass, along with the rocks. Decorative wheatgrass will be added, as well as boulders to add to the fresh look of the building. In the future, she added, she hopes to make further exterior improvements, such as adding benches to the lawn for employees and patrons to use and enjoy.

“We wanted something that is going to be low maintenance, but still beautifies the property.” Placher said. “We’re pretty excited about it. We have such a beautiful are here with the park and the baseball field, so this will add to the overall aesthetic.”

Placher said the work should only take a few weeks, meaning patrons won’t have to wait long before they’re able to enjoy the library’s fresh new look. While Placher said that the project was part of the library’s budget, the cost is still considerable, but one she and the board feel is worthwhile to keeping the library updated and modern for its current and future patrons.

“This landscaping is probably going to last another 30 years,” she said. “It’s an investment in our library and in our community. It’s going to beautify the city, it’s going to beautify our area and it’s going to modernize the library’s look. Our community deserves a beautiful place to come and sit outside and read.”

The landscaping is not the only beautification project on the horizon for the library, as Placher said there are plans to update the paint and carpet inside the building within the next year, as well as making updates to the facility’s technology room.

Stenehjem leads state AGs against proposed water rule

BISMARCK — A bipartisan group of a dozen attorneys general, led by North Dakota’s Wayne Stenehjem, has asked the Trump administration to withdraw a proposed water supply rule that they argue will override state authority.

The letter, dated Thursday, Aug. 22, comes in response to an Army Corps of Engineers rule meant to clarify its policies governing the use of reservoir projects. In a news release, Stenehjem’s office said the Corps argues it controls water from the Missouri River once it flows into its reservoirs and can require prospective users to sign a water supply contract.

The news release said the Corps also uses some of the policies to “justify its moratorium on allowing water withdrawals from Lake Sakakawea and Lake Oahe, which has been an on-going issue in North Dakota for the last decade.”

Stenehjem’s office said it appears the Corps is moving forward with finalizing the rule, which was proposed in the final weeks of the Obama administration.

“The notion that the Corps of Engineers can regulate or charge for the use of water that has always belonged to the citizens of North Dakota is unlawful and completely unacceptable,” Stenehjem, a Republican, said in a statement.

The Corps did not immediately return a message seeking comment.