A Libation for the Mother River

Across the wide Missouri — and she is extra-wide here, backed up by the Big Bend Dam (completed 1963) downstream into a winding reservoir called Lake Sharpe.

I wrote earlier about the hitchhiker whom I called Travis, a post writen on the 19th of October, mostly at the Twenty Below coffeehouse in Fargo, North Dakota, waiting to drive an old friend home to his tiny prairie town after he had been poked and prodded and MRI’d all day at the Sanford Medical Center.[1]All to be told, “No change. The tumor is inoperable.”

We still had some good time outdoors, working the new dog [2]The latest of his German wirehaired pointers under the big skies, driving  the long straight roads, and eating lunch at quirky small-town cafes. In one, I ordered a Reuben sandwich for a change, bit into it, and realize that something was different. Rather than the usual corned beef, it was made with roast beef. But the menu had promised local beef—and that probably was the case, whereas corned beef would have come off the Sysco truck or something like it. And it tasted good, so who cares?

Then on the 22nd  it was time to turn southwest again. When I cross the Missouri River on US 83 — the longest river in North America, actually — it’s always a homecoming, leaving the intensely farmed Midwest for the tan rolling hills of western South Dakota, a change of ecosystems and time zones all at once.

Once in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, I wheeled into a riverside parking lot. I had meant to stop at a municipal park in Pierre, on the east bank (Central Time), but it was full of construction materials and blocked to visitors — a new highway bridge is being built.

In thanksgiving for having returned to the West, I clambered down the rocky riprap with a plastic mug of Jim Bean whiskey and poured it (generously!) to Mother Missouri with a prayer of thanks.

And then on south to Valentine, Nebraska, which has its own poetic bridges across Minnechaduza Creek and the Niobrara River, if you know to take the old highway over the “most beautiful” Bryan Bridge.

Notes

Notes
1 All to be told, “No change. The tumor is inoperable.”
2 The latest of his German wirehaired pointers

Playing Heathen Neo-folk on North Dakota Highways

I was on my way to a little town in North Dakota where a friend lives about at the intersection of Norway and Washington streets — can you get any more perfect than that? And every little town is dominated by a Lutheran steeple.

A friend in Poland and I were emailing about how the eastern Dakotas and eastern Canadian prairies line up with Russia, ecologically. Only this is what you see instead of onion domes.

I drive on by, blasting Hedningarna (The Heathens) or some other Norski neo-folk on the Jeep’s speakers. The poor immigrants— their pastors thought that even Hardanger fiddle music was devilish. So much left behind.