Every now and then I have this urge to prove that “I still have it!” I don’t know what “it” refers to, but it has something to do with courage, ability, zest and just a plain measure of stubbornness. Like right now. I decided yesterday, in the moment, to take a couple of days and just leave town. I like to drive and I like my windshield time and so just going somewhere, anywhere is a treat.
So I decided to drive to Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and spend a couple of nights and just do nothing. My grandparents and an aunt and uncle lived for many years in Spearfish and then my brother and I were born in Deadwood when Dad was teaching in Lead and that was many moons ago. But anyway this area is rather like a roost to which our family likes to return like homing pigeons. I have two cousins who have lived in Chicago for over 60 years and the Black Hills, where they spent many summers with their parents and grandparents is still “home” to them. So, anyway, like the aforementioned homing pigeon I threw some things in a suitcase and left after church this morning.
I had a hint of what was coming when I saw pictures texted to me by family in Cheyenne talking about the approaching storm and another friend who warned me to drive carefully in the storm. To my credit I did pause for a moment but I was ready to go and didn’t want to wait.
The rain started about halfway to Wibaux, Montana and continued until I turned east from Baker, Montana, and then it started turning to snow. I watched the temperature indicator on the car and it hovered right around 31-33 degrees. To my credit I was wary of freezing on the wet highway. South of Buffalo, South Dakota, I ran out of the snow and soon the highway was dry. The clouds were low and dark looking the whole way. Some of the taller buttes in the area were crested with fog and I see patchy fog is expected tomorrow. I am in Belle Fourche and will be here until Tuesday morning when I will drive west to Alzada, Broadus, Miles City and home. My little outing-adventure at an end.
Driving along today I didn’t play the radio. I really had just my thoughts to entertain me and I have to admit a big share of the time I was not thinking of anything in particular. I suppose you could have called my brain “the dead zone”, but it was rather nice not to feel pressured to have to think of anything as mundane as conversation.
The traffic was surprisingly busy on Highway 85 going north. There was a lot of highway work on the shoulders on 85, but being it was Sunday and weather bad, the work was at a standstill for which I was grateful. The Black Hills, which I can usually see miles away, were shrouded in fog.
To my surprise I did see an antelope standing in the middle of the highway. He took off quickly but I don’t know that I have ever seen antelope much just being there. A couple deer ran across the highway and I saw hunters out. One couple had a tripod with the rifle mounted. When I heard the gun's report I was glad they were turned away from the highway! For awhile south of Buffalo I got stuck behind someone hauling a couple rolls of hay. He was stuck behind a slow moving pick-up. The rain made visibility a little difficult, but finally he passed and then I could as well.
The sweep of the prairies all along the way always moves me. I can get quite emotional as I see the land: coulees, creeks, grassland, buttes, bluffs and the fact that you can see forever on a clear day. You can better understand the descriptions of the frontiersmen and homesteaders as they crested butte after butte and saw the huge expanses of land. I am sure they were struck speechless. The prairies are so different from the Yellowstone Valley and while it is still part of the same geographic the emotions they elicit are not the same.
It was a humbling drive today as always and I am touched to the core by how fortunate I am to live where I do. Maybe that is what I mean I ask “do I still got it?” The sense of place and hearing the land speak to me once again.