This is Part Two of my report of a trip into western South Dakota on Highway 212; to understand where the middle west ends and the west begins, I wanted to cross the Missouri River and the 100th Meredian, which demarcate that line. I continued west on Highway 212 to Highway 73 where I swung north to Lemmon, South Dakota, before circling back towards Redfield on Highway 12 as far as Highway 281 in Aberdeen. Today we continue the report along Highway 212 a little west of Redfield, near the turnoff for Miranda, South Dakota.
Sign: "Miranda 3 miles"
down an asphalt road.
Hen pheasant getting grit along the roadside.
The land roughens. Still, there are bean fields. A cock pheasant takes off from the road, rises away into a field.
I have to slow for two more cock pheasants sneaking across the road in front of me. Yeah, right - they stand there like they own it.
Wheat on my left as far as I can see. Wheat on my right.
Here and there, a lone tree along a fenceline. Very middle western.
The smell of the mowed ditches, the grass drying. The call of a red-winged blackbird.
A trap shooting range.
I turn west towards "Faulkton, 5 miles." I can see its elevator ahead. I can almost touch it. The ridge coming from the south stops just before it reaches Faulkton, South Dakota.
Alfalfa, soybeans, rangeland, sadness.
Sadness, why? I don't know. So much is being lost. Now I see it - an abandoned house in the middle of a field, birds lined up on its abandoned antenna. My antenna picks up such sadness even before I see it.
A woman walking into the sun. Her arms at her side. She flicks a little finger wave in greeting as I pass.
Bright white Faulkton elevator. Blue water tower. Pop. 785. A fighter jet on a grassy patch towards the airport. Bauer's Super Valu and a short main street, another gas station, an imposing courthouse. An optimistic school district, I think - a new building, and a new addition going on it.
A pile of tires, tile of pyres.
Okay. We'll say the fog is gone. The sun is up and in command.
Grain, range, beans.
Great leaps of flatness. Hopscotch.
Corn, small grain, maybe it's wheat. We only ever farmed oats. An Iowa farmboy doesn't know much about wheat.
A muddle of ducks on water.
Wheat and range and a line of windbreak. Cattle at pasture on one side of the road, a building breaking down in the grove on the other side. Corn and beans and small grain.
Cottonwoods, angus, blackbirds, beans. More great round bales of hay than you can count. A John Deere at the edge of a hayfield.
A big powerline in the distance, running north and south. A field a corn. A blue tower like a silo, "Web 8." Corn, corn.
A great hurrah of corn.
Ah, the powerline. I pass beneath it. It runs northwest to southeast, actually. Barn and steel bin and silo at a farmstead just before the powerline.
Cattle on range. Small grain. Beans and corn.
Still the land is pretty flat. Still corn in some of the fields. Where the corn ends, the west begins, is that the rule, Tom?
To be continued....