Every year or so I re-read the Little House series. I’ve been a fan since my mom read “Little House on the Prairie” (and all the rest) to me as a child. I usually pick it up in the middle of a cold winter snap, starting with the Long Winter of only to remind myself that the winter DOES end.
As I wrapped up the reading this year, it coincided with a road trip I had planned to Rapid City to meet some girlfriends from Montana. I think it was the perfect beginning to this trip. Reading about Laura and her family riding in a covered wagon over the rises and falls of the prairie made me watch the landscape a little more.
While we have attempted to tame this land, there is still much of the wild that exists. We have cut modern roads that allow us to drive past at 80 miles per hour (I wonder what Laura would think of that!) and we can miss the tamelessness, timelessness that still is there.
Abandoned farms freckle the land. Typically on a rise, they stand is stark contrast to the green prairie that surrounds them. And I wonder who lived there and for how long before they gave up and left.
The prairie is not forgiving. It takes time and effort to tame. Without the modern road it through it, I marvel at the ancestors who rode bump after bump after bump looking ahead to the nothingness on the horizon. I can cross the state in less than a day. For Laura, a trip from De Smet to Brookings (49 miles), was unheard of. What kept them going west? The edge of the world seems to be at the end of your vision.
I do love the nothingness of the prairie, though I wouldn’t want to stay. It invites you for a short visit, come run my slopes, roll down and come back up. Climb to the summit. But the old weathered, deserted farmhouse will remind you of the solitude, the quiet, the echoing loneliness that still remains.