Friday, April 15, 2016 Sioux Falls, South Dakota
I am doing my own rendition of Willie Nelson’s “On the road again”.
Leaving Glendive on Wednesday, I headed east and then south, crossing the border into South Dakota at Herreid and going on to Pierre to visit a cousin.
He drove me all around Oahe Dam. We walked in a park area and viewed the dam from lots of vistas. The flood in 2011 was a subject of interest with flood waters from Montana roaring into Garrison Dam and then Oahe. Flooding occurred all up and down the Missouri River. Looking at the huge area filled with water, flooded by the dam, is always amazing. If you have not read Wallace Stegner's book “Beyond the 100th meridian” you are not a true prairie dweller. The author records the history of the great plains or “the buffalo commons” as some now call it with broad sweeps of his pen. Others have written about the Missouri River with its colorful history and recorded the many stories that have come from its river banks and waters. “Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you. Far away, you rolling river. . .”
Today I crossed the Missouri at Chamberlain, South Dakota. The waters were high and wide, reminding me of the power of the waters, but also of their stormy love affair with the Great Plains. At Chamberlain the river was really magnificent -- wide and deep and at this time high. One can only imagine what pioneers must have thought as they crested a hill and saw what lay ahead.
The prairies are different here than they are at home in Montana. These prairies are more open with skies stretching long over the land. The elevations are not as high as even the badlands but the sheer power of the land makes you understand why this is called “The Great Plains.”
Across North Dakota, down through central South Dakota you can see the evidence of the energy issue -- oil wells, the result of fracking, are pumping; giant wind turbines fill the sky with their white pinwheels catching the wind, humming in harmony with its constant presence, and using the power to light the homes of the country, trains filled with wheat, cattle moving to the hay deposited by a pick-up for them to eat. It is a fascinating land that in one way seems to devour those who trespass on its mighty wastes. The Oregon Trail, the road to gold in the Black Hills, the Prairie Indian tribes migrating across the grasses to follow the buffalo. Here and there large communities dot the landscape but you still pass through them quickly before once again finding yourself on the open plains.