Day 14
Tuesday, May 26
South Dakota

Today I left the farms behind and went into real prairie -- exactly the flat, completely treeless, featureless expanse of grass that you think of when someone says "prairie". South Dakota prairie That is, when I could see it at all through the billboards. South Dakota is a regular billboard jungle, the kind of thing the humorist meant when he wrote

  • I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a tree;
    Indeed, unless the billboards fall
    I'll never see a tree at all.

prairie grasses
I was on Interstate all day, which is fast but hard to really experience the landscape. At one point I took an exit for a deserted ranch road, and parked by the side of the road for a rest. The wind made a hissing sound in the grasses, and made rippling patterns that fled over the surface of the grass, and the air was full of the calls of birds. It was wonderful. I hated to get back up on the Interstate again.

A later note-- it wasn't until about a year after this trip that it dawned on me that I was not driving through a landscape of miles and miles of grass-- those miles and miles, fenceless, houseless, virtually roadless, were wheat! Green with spring and looking just like grass, but wheat. Farming on a Brobdignagian scale that blows my mind to this day. Not fields of wheat -- unending landscapes of wheat! My God, the farms must be measured in square miles rather than acres! Wow!

Black Hills
The Black Hills are absolutely beautiful, particularly after driving through unchanging grassland for so many hours. Just when you think there is nothing in the world but grass, sky, and puffy clouds, suddenly there are these forested hills, which are truly black in the shadow. The darkness is all the more striking by comparison to the light sunlit greens of the prairie.

Tomorrow I will wind my way up through the Black Hills, then over to Devils Tower (the giant "tree stump" you will remember from Close Encounters), and then through Wyoming via backroads, leaving the Interstate behind.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore was a disappointment. It is another scenic feature that has been ruined by excess development. They are building the most huge, grandiose, mammoth visitor center that you can imagine. It quite dwarfs the mere sculptures on the mountain, and reduces them to an anticlimax.

(Having said that... I could not upload this page that night because the motel phone would not connect, and this morning I revisited Mt Rushmore by morning light and avoided the Visitor's Center in favor of various road turnouts. That gives you a much better experience of the carvings and I did appreciate it after all.)

The plastic wrapping on the whelping box finished disintegrating today, leaving bare wood bedizened by a few ribbony streamers of plastic and droopy swags of duct tape. Weather report said thunderstorms, so I stopped at a Home Depot-type store, bought a proper tarpaulin, cut the rags off the box, and redid everything as best I could. Hopefully the wind will not rip this tarp to shreds and it will shelter the box from the weather. Even more hopefully, my re-strapping will hold and pieces of the box will not strew themselves over Wyoming and Utah. My wrap job is getting a tryout right now, because a terrible thunderstorm is raging overhead. I'm amazed the furbeasts are taking it so calmly!

Another wierd happenstance today... I saw a Golden Retriever, a Poodle, a Rottweiler, and 2 other Keeshonds! One a shaved fellow en route with his family from New Hampshire to Oregon, and the other here in Keystone, SD at the foot of Mount Rushmore.


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