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Monday, May 18, 2009

On the Great Plains: Beauty and the Blast Furnace

There's going to be some overlap of yesterday's impressions with today's.

On our way north, out of Iowa, we saw our first wind farms. Joyce took tons of pictures. Lots more wind farms throughout the rest of yesterday's drive.

Many charming and well-kept farms, more and more beautiful countryside bursting into bloom.

So many flowers, mating (and apparently suicidal with lust as well) red-winged blackbirds, pheasants, geese and ducks in a hundred little blue ponds.

Turned left in Minnesota, which was a little dull and flat at first but then became almost as pretty as Iowa. Crossed the state line into South Dakota, and just couldn't believe how pretty it was! We didn't go far; just to Sioux Falls, where we had a two-day stop in puruit of Laura Ingalls Wilder and family.

Although we were freezing when we got up in the morning, within four hours of leaving Clear Lake: blast furnace! temperatures in the 90s! baked dogs! Okay, so that last one is a slight exaggeration, but it could happen if you weren't paying attention to the heat on the cement in the sun.

Drove north and west to De Smet, which the locals pronunce "duh-SMETT." This kind of thing drives me nuts. The correct pronunciation is "Dismay" as in the original name of the original French priest for whom it was named. Even the original settlers pronounced it "Dismay" and if you've read The Long Winter you can easily see why. Are Americans collectively such ignorant boobs that we have to have everything dumbed down for us? Can we not learn at least one more language that isn't a computer programming language? Can we stop expecting the whole world to conform to us? We are not the international cultural standard. Grow up, people. Open a book. Learn a thing or two from a source other than Entertainment Tonight.

Anyhow, because we like the Great Plains so much, it was no surprise that we enjoyed the Ingalls-Wilder homestead, and the town, too. One thing I learned is that all the pretty copses and groves weren't there when the Ingalls arrived. Almost every tree was planted by individual farmers or government programs. So it wasn't pretty then, or easy, or any romantic thing. Those PBS shows on frontier and pioneer life are pretty accurate. It was hard. We should have learned something from the native Americans who preceeded us, and left things as they were. The dogs loved the homestead, too, with all the animals and holes in the ground and interesting smells, but then, they are animals, and this land belonged to animals first.

On the return from De Smet, the weather turned really hot and windy again. It was really unbearable, and was another reason homesteding must have been so hard. We headed for the pool and didn't go out again until the sun was down. Next day: off to Wall, a 300-mile leg.


  1. I remember the blast-furnace heat in South Dakota when I was there. It was headtrippy hot. And a mondo hailstorm the night I spent in East Belvidere. Extremes of weather and stunning beauty.

    Speaking of dumbing down the pronunciations, when I was in New Orleans, I was on a street called "Deslonde" which I would presume is pronounced "Day-LAWNED" and I overheard a guy calling it "DEZ-land" and I nearly hurled.

  2. Well, as Maureen was reminded during her recent trips to Illinios and Kentucky, ear-wrenching pronunciation previals.
    DEZ planes (Des Plains)
    VER sales (Versailles)
    I'm still smarting from getting smacked around just after moving here from New Mexico and thinking that Vallejo should be buy-EH-ho instead of vah-LAY-ho.