This is a travel blog today as well as just a musing on the fact that it is Memorial Day and I've just had a visit home. Not home, home in Glendive, but rather my ancestral home and a place I spent many happy times with my family.
My mother grew up on a ranch in north western South Dakota, west river country, Perkins County. Her parents were homesteaders from Wisconsin arriving in October of 1912. Mom was the only one of the five children to be born on the ranch. She was schooled in the country schools in the area, attended the church her parents helped to found, was confirmed there and at last married there.
She also taught rural schools for many years in the area so whenever I am out in that country I keep thinking that I am seeing what she saw every day of her young life and what vistas my grandparents had from the time they settled until they died in 1959 and 1965.
It is not barren country. It is open country and there is a big difference between those two words.
After driving from Glendive to Miles City to Broadus where I visited a friend, then along Highway 212 east to Belle Fourche was my journey yesterday. Today I left Belle and headed east toward Faith SD, turning north at a little bump in the road called Mud Butte, SD. There used to be a gas station and small store, now it is a couple of microwave towers.
At Mud Butte you turn north, hit gravel and have seventeen miles to Zeona SD which used to be a store, a gas pump, post office and a place to get some friendly conversation.
Today the church remains. Some years ago the congregation hooked their phone up to the new fiber optics that came through. After years of paying a bill for a phone they never used, they took it out, saying most folks have cell phones now anyway. They leave the church unlocked for passersby who might need shelter. It is a long way between places on the Zeona Road.
My cousin's son and wife, scion of 10 children, have a buffalo ranch further north up the road. Three of their eldest children have formed a singing group called "Zeona Road". They are building a good following in Nashville and around the South Dakota Area. The youngest daughter of the family was named Quilla Zeona, so the name lives on.
I was about an hour early for church so I enjoyed the song of the prairies -- the wind, the birds and the sighing through the grass by the side of the road.
With the wind accompanying me, I walked among the graves for a bit. Beloved and loving, faithful grandparents, two aunts who married two brothers, (the third sister and her husband, also a brother are buried in Spearfish SD), a bachelor cousin, and a bachelor uncle. All precious.
After being welcomed by the church members which included another cousin, we worshiped together, prayed, sang and heard God's word besides sharing the news of the neighborhood -- who was sick, whose funeral was upcoming, who had a new grandchild.
I drove back to Belle, stopping at a roadside cafe in Newell SD -- roast beef sandwich, cottage cheese, and brownie delight ice cream! Also ran into some rain. Much needed this Spring on the prairies.
Our local cemeteries are never lovelier than on Memorial Day. The green, manicured grass, the myriads of wreaths and bouquets families lay on the graves of loved ones are a sign of the respect and love we show to those who came before. A drive through the cemetery of any community gives you some sense of how citizens view the history of their town and those who laid the foundations for what we have today. Love, respect, duty are all the watch words of the day.
My mother told how growing up in a ranching community, the children would pick wild flowers and take them to the various cemeteries laid out on the prairie. Called ‘Decoration Day’ back then, Memorial Day was established to remember those who served our country in the military, but also to honor all the dead who make up part of our own histories. To have lived a life on this earth deserves the respect of the living.
Glendive is fortunate to have two cemeteries that are well cared for. The summer crews have been busy preparing for this week-end. After the microburst last summer numbers of volunteers showed up to rake, gather branches, and cut down broken limbs. Broken tombstones were set right. It was the right thing to do. This year a new walkway has been laid in the military portion at the Dawson County Cemetery. Respect for the dead. To not forget we are part of that historic line which did not begin with us is a good ethic to teach our children.
Not only do we respect the dead, but of equal importance is our respect for the living. Memorial Day can be a time of new commitment to the future.Sometimes that is more difficult. The current tax bill coming to Congress threatens to cut trillions of dollars for the poor in the form of food programs and medical needs. If those proposals pass we will need to be ready to have a steady stream of food for our food bank to keep children and their parents fed. We need to advocate for the poor as a sign of respect for their needs and our ability to assist them. We will need to dig deeper into our pockets to help our churches and local and global programs to feed the hungry.
One author has written that to speak of leaving a dead planet Earth due to pollution and climate change and head out to the stars to find other places to colonize is not a noble venture, rather it is only taking our problems with us. We are all together on this single space ship called Earth, hurling through a Universe so vast we have no comprehension of its boundaries. We have to respect the past and those who lived in it; we have to care for today and give our children a future to grow up in; we have a beautiful, bountiful creation full of wonders that diminish anything humans can create.
Life, death; present and past. We have only this moment to make it work.