Before I recap our Wednesday, I want to offer a word about Mercy, the Jeep Wrangler we interrupted our journey to acquire and equip. It’s a tool, essentially, a means to an end, with the end being flexibility the bus alone doesn’t allow us in this crazy year.
Yeah, we learned that the hard way.
Our newfound mobility is liberating, of course. We’re improving the hitch-and-go routine each time we do it and mechanically the Jeep remains sound. Oh, there are a few things we’ll need to address, probably when we get back to Arkansas a couple of months from now, but nothing apparently ominous.
We’re camped in the middle of nowhere right because now we can. This relatively remote campground is where we could get in for a several-day stay. It puts us an hour or two from sights we want to see, but we’ll see them — Mercy makes it possible.
This morning I was up before the sun, and here on the eastern edge of Mountain Time that’s damned early. After the dogs and I handled business, I took a walk along the edge of the nearby reservoir, watched the sky brighten and the sun rise.
There’s just something about a sunrise. It’s both performance and promise, to me a symbol of the opportunities each day has in store.
I catch the sunrise whenever I can, and this morning’s show was worth waking up for — watching the warm glow creep across the plain brought light to the day and life to my soul.
I suppose either you get that or you don’t. Not everyone does, I know. But I can tell you this — the longer I live, the more precious each sunrise becomes.
Deb joined me outside some time later. We planted our camp chairs in a shady spot and watched the birds. After a while we got out our binoculars and began scanning the hillside a good distance away, our attention drawn by an enormous longhorn bull pasturing alone.
Panning to the south we discovered a group of prairie dogs — popping up out of the ground, playing, scurrying around. Trying to help Deb focus on areas with the most activity, I told her to look for the darker spots.
“Those are the burrows,” I said.
She squinted. “I don’t see any burros,” she said, totally serious. “Where are you seeing donkeys?”
And that’s when I explained the difference between an ass and a hole in the ground.
We chose to resist doing anything terribly ambitious today. Intrigued by a brochure we picked up at a rest area, as well as the attraction’s proximity to our campground, this afternoon we visited “1880 Town, Dakota Territory.”
It’s a reconstructed Old West town, reportedly an old movie set, and it’s pretty much what you’d imagine. We enjoyed walking the dusty street and peering into buildings staged with period artifacts. It actually was quite engaging.
Beyond the edge of town, in the corner of a pasture, was a tiny chapel. Farther out was an old homestead. If you look closely at the photo I’ve included of the homestead, on the right you’ll see what looks like an oil well — but it’s not.
What you’re seeing in the distance is a huge sculpture of a skeleton T.rex being walked (on a leash) by a skeleton man. I have no further explanation.
We grabbed cold drinks and snack food at a gas station and headed back toward the campground. Hoping to get a closer look at the longhorn bull we’d spotted earlier, we detoured onto a single-lane dirt road that led into the grassy hills.
Then we watched the sun set over the prairie.
Deb and I pulled our camp chairs over to an open area near the reservoir, away from our campsite and with an unobstructed view of the western horizon. A few wispy clouds accented the otherwise clear sky. Birds darted and dove overhead, feeding as the light faded.
The sun was a ball of fire. It painted a masterpiece.
We were reminded that most folks wouldn’t find the grasslands of South Dakota interesting enough to spend time here. Flat and boring.
Obviously, we see it in a very different way. We count the birds. We love the quiet. The wind is mesmerizing. The isolation is intoxicating.
The value we place on our time here can’t be matched. We’re living moments few others will experience and even fewer will appreciate.
That’s why we’re here. That’s why we took to the road.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.