Wednesday, May 20
North Dakota and Minnesota
While it is not spectacular like Montana, North Dakota is very pretty country. It's a land-and-skyscape rather than only a landscape, and the cloud shadows give the land a myriad different smoky pastel shades. Again, it was something impossible to capture with a camera, but would make a beautiful painting.
As I travelled eastward and the land flattened out, it became more populous and farms began to replace wild grassland. By the time I reached the eastern part of the state, it was looking pretty tame, and was heavily dotted with sloughs and looking more deeply green -- although since I am travelling in Spring, the entire state is pretty green.
Another thing I noticed that seemed very different, about North Dakota and Montana too, is the number of bulls you see! I grew up in Arizona cow country, and you rarely see a bull there. Here, you see pastures with 4 or 5 big bulls in them. I wondered how they can keep bulls together like that. While I was stopped for a brief rest, I watched one bull threaten his pals; bellowing, scraping the ground with his hooves, lowering his head, looking like mayhem would break out any moment. The other bulls gave him the same back; and then they stalked up to each other and began scratching each other's backs in a most companionable manner. Go figure!
I was driving along about an hour west of Bismarck when my startled eyes beheld the most gigundo cow you can imagine, standing on a hill. It took a moment to allow my brain to believe what my eyes were telling it! I paid the buck to drive up to the cow and get a close look. She is truly gigantic, and a really uuuugggglllyyyy cow sculpture. She has a dignity and a rightness seen from a distance, though, perched up there on her hill like the Queen of Bovines. The furbeasts enjoyed the Giant Cow stop, because we were the only souls on the hill, a long dirt road away from the highway, so they got to get out and run free for a little while -- except for Shady, who can not be trusted to stay close. Shady stuck her nose in the air and said loudly, "RED ALERT! RED ALERT! REALLY BIIIIIIG CRITTER IN SIGHT!" Thought I'd die laughing. It was a great stop and I smiled for miles down the road, thinking of the unexpected giant cow and Shady's reaction to it.
Minnesota is thoroughly tamed and very Midwestern, real Garrison Keiler country. It is hard to imagine the original tallgrass prairie, because it has been completely replaced with farmland. One thing I noticed that you never see in the West -- every farm had at least one huge silo, more often 4 or 5 of them. They stick up out of the tree clumps all over the flat landscape, reminiscent of church steeples in New England. I wonder, is it because silos have to do with grain farming? But there are grain farmers in Calif (mostly rice) and they have no silos. Any farmers' daughters (or sons) out there with the answer?