Friday, June 4, 2010

Stephen Fry in America, Episode Four: Mountains and Plains

Stephen Fry in America
Episode 4, Mountains and Plains
The original air date for this episode on BBC One was November 2, 2008.

In the state of Montana Stephen starts his journey at the Airborne Border Patrol Headquarters in Great Falls.  He flies along the 49th Parallel with the Airborne Border Patrol.  He speaks with Agent John Miller who takes him to the American/Canadian border.  He holds his hand over the barbed wire fence so his hand is in Canada while his body is in the United States.  He stands on a marker with his right foot in the United States and his left foot in Canada--literally straddling the 49th Parallel.  He drives to Glacier National Park and takes in the gorgeous scene in front of him.  Beautiful mountains, crystal clear water, blue and white skies and white snow.  He heads into southern Montana to visit Ted Turner at his two million acre ranch to see the 46,000 bison he owns.  Stephen and Turner drive out onto one of his ranches to see the bison after having breakfast.  They get out of the car to walk to view the bison closer and Stephen asks what reaction he should have if they charge to which Turner simply replies "run like hell".

Next, we move to Idaho.  At the Continental Divide on the state line of Idaho and Montana Stephen pours some water on one side of the Continental Divide and explains that it will drain into the Atlantic Ocean.  He then pours water on the other side explaining it will drain to the Pacific.

We enter Wyoming and see more snow covered mountains and wolves.  He visits an animal sanctuary to get a close-up look at the beautiful creatures.  Just over the mountains from Yellowstone National Park Stephen visits a remote cattle ranch.  He speaks with the ranchers, John and Debbie, about how they cope with the wolves that live in the mountains with them.  He learns how to harness Huskies for a dog sled then is off for a ride!

Stephen heads to Bismarck, North Dakota where he dines at Kroll's Diner for some German fare.  He eats a mountain of food before moving on.

Stephen arrives at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and stands before it with the camera in front of him.  With perspective, we get an idea what Mount Rushmore might look like with Stephens head carved into the rock.  He goes a bit down the road to the currently being carved Crazy Horse stone monument.  The monument was started in 1948 and while the face of Crazy Horse was completed and dedicated in 1998 but there is still a great deal of work to be done to complete the entire monument.  He moves on into the Badlands of South Dakota where he visits with the Dakota Sioux tribe at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Stephen shows viewers the Wounded Knee memorial monument and speaks with Russel Means, a veteran campaigner for Sioux rights.  He stops by the Pine Ridge College Center to see if the tide of despair may be turning.

In Nebraska, Stephen is impressed by the vast and open spaces the United States has to offer.  I-80, near Grand Island, Nebraska, Stephen stops at a large truck stop to speak with Bruce, a trucker about the lifestyle of being a trucker.  He stops by a truckers gift shop to browse the often humorous items it contains.  Stephen takes off with Bruce for a brief ride in the big rig and a bit more about what it means to be a trucker.

To the state of Kansas where again, impressed by the open space, Stephen opts to go to White Cloud, Kansas on the banks of the Missouri.  White Cloud is a town that is all but dead, almost a virtual ghost town.  He talks to "the head ghost, Wolf River Bob" who has lived in White Cloud since 1926.  White Cloud lost the steamboats and railroad and, because of that, could no longer support anything.  One of the more unusual places Stephen visits is the underground home of Ed Payden.  In the 1950's, the structure used to be an underground nuclear bunker built by the United States government.  Stephen tours the old missile site before entering the actual Peyden home.  As lovely as Ed and Diana Peyden are, Stephen cringes knowing there will be singing and flute playing to come.

Colorado:  On to Aspen for a bit of skiing.  He cannot see the point of skiing at all but he loves the relaxation and tasty beverages of ski holidays.

In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Stephen visits a branch of the Salvation Army.  He speaks with a volunteer at the Salvation Army, Heidi, who is, by day, a champion for the down and out and, by night a belly dancer.  Stephen gets to balance a sword on his head before heading off to a rodeo.  Our hero attends the rodeo complete with a cowboy hat.  He watches a "mutton busting" event before moving on.

Lastly, we visit the great state of Texas.  Stephen arrives in Houston, Texas and attends a fund raising gala with the super wealthy of Texas.  He takes the stage to help in the fund raising process.  He speaks with Shelby Hodges about the responsibility of the rich.  He leaves the rich to have a ball driving his little black cab on a beach.  He makes a stop to see the fabled Rio Grande river then heads to the Border Patrol Headquarters in El Paso, Texas.  He goes out for a ride with a Border Patrol agent.  He sees the strength of the Rio Grande and gets to actually see the apprehension of a few individuals that tried to illegally enter the United States from Mexico.  He enjoys a happy Mexican song and beer in a bar near the border.

Stay tuned for the second-to-last installment in this fantastic series on the United States where we visit a truly gorgeous section of the country:  The True West.

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