Rendered Fat Content


"In Sou'Dakoda, though everyone seems to drive with a lead right foot,
time isn't so conveniently hurried away."

The Muse and I are fixin' to take a toodle northeast tomorrow, heading toward Sou'Dakoda, which we should enter the morning after. We're heading up there for a family event, one of those one-of-a-kind sort of gatherings we've mostly missed in recent years. The Muse especially feels those twinges pulling her back toward her home country from this latter-day homeland. The road between here and there runs through some of the most diversely interesting territory in the nation and also some of the most mind-numbingly uninteresting spaces. The Eastern Plains of Colorado fall under the latter category. I consider them a three hundred mile long dedication test, a gauntlet sometimes featuring fierce sidewinds, monster commercial semi-truck rallies, and undifferentiated khaki-colored prairie. Even with the willows finally showing some soft green along the riverbanks, that part of the trip promises distracting desolation.

Once in Nebraska, the Sand Hills add some variety to the panorama. We'll wend our way up into and through Nebraska, for there's no other way to cross the place. Grant Wood would have felt right at home there where the two lane black top twists and twirls through rough cut gullies and draws.
It's pheasant and deer country, fat-assed pick-up truck territory, farm and ranch land lightly speckled with towns featuring eighty-five octane gas and a small grocery store that's clearly near the end of every distributor's route. Once through the initial dedication test part of the trip, though, the pace slows and we both start to feel elbow room opening up around us. We feel as free as we're ever likely to be, bounded only by the wind and the sky. We hope for fair weather, though we carry no guarantees. We could catch some snow, though more likely some thunder and blinding rain. It's the same uncertainty every time we come up this way.

People who've never visited Sou'Dakoda envision a state filled with marble mountain statuary and badlands, but those features hardly represent the state as a whole. As a whole, Sou'Dakoda does not exist, for it's bifurcated, split almost right down the middle, with rolling prairie "West River" and flatter farm land to the east of the Missouri. west features wind-swept ranches. east, wind-swept farms. The East holds the larger portion of the population, with at least the remnants of a small town coming around every ten miles or so, leftovers from the railroad's push west. The railroad needed a town every ten miles. Now, one wonders how most of them have managed to hold on. Those whistle stops hold on with their fingertips now.

The Muse, who was born and raised East River, claims that the wind doesn't blow but sucks there. Either way, it only rarely ever stops to catch its breath. By May, the ravages of the receding winter will still be prominent on the land, with winter wheat showing the only reliable color. Depending, it'll likely still be too muddy for most to have planted their corn and beans yet. Once in state, The Muse will have a story about nearly every place we pass and will likely know someone or have known someone who hails from there. Sou'Dakoda remains a place more like Oregon was in the forties, when
pret-n'ar everyone knew someone who knew someone from everywhere there. Before the great diaspora, people stayed closer to home, maybe wandering off to The Cities, but returning for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and The Fourth of July every year. Now, I most often encounter Sou'Dakoda natives sitting next to me on airplanes, for offspring have become the state's most common export crop.

The drive will be of a different quality than the one we took earlier in the year up and over the Continental Divide. The panorama will seem narrower while actually encompassing almost a complete dome of sky in every direction. One of The Muse's childhood friends explained that on the Great Plains, one stands on the very top of the world, with the Earth seeming to fall away in every direction. Over the Rockies, the barriers to such perception tower in grandiose splendor, distracting the eye from realizing what narrow horizons one finds there. On the prairie, one encounters a different kind of wild and a different sort of alone. The road points the way forward and behind, each direction seemingly stuck on a single continuous compass heading. Evidence of human habitation never disappears after a century and half worth of years spent scratching the ground's back to eke out livings most wouldn't find acceptable anymore. It's a place for her to visit now.

I consider the drive daunting if only because it's seven hundred miles long. There is no direct way between here and there, freeways having been platted to cater to the East/West or North/South crowd. Few find any reason to choose the diagonal. We could, I suppose, just stay on freeways all the way, add a hundred a fifty miles and eliminate most of the subtle adventure crossing these Good Lands brings. We could project the grand illusion of making better time, maintaining a steady steed limit, rarely encountering a curve and seeing little beyond the guard rails which seem to swallow up the horizon on either side. We're not traveling to make time, but perhaps to lose a little bit of it. We could be in more of a hurry, but we've already managed to hurry away too much of this life. In Sou'Dakoda, though everyone seems to drive with a lead right foot, time isn't so conveniently hurried away.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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