December 03, 2006
It doesn’t look much like Christmas here on the Cheyenne River, but you can feel it gathering beyond the northern horizon. The landscape is brown and cold. Below zero this morning, but sunny. It is a good morning to sit at the word processor and stare out the French doors at the river a mile down-country. The buffalo are across the river in the roadless area. I know right where they are: at the head of Little Corral Draw, where the drainage makes a wide swing to the North. In that country the land breaks up into huge pedestals with eroded edges.View article
November 04, 2006
I began writing this monthly musing about Sir Nicholas Stern’s report on the economic impact of global warming but I couldn’t do it. The subject, and the report, is just too hard. I couldn’t read the entire report because it is 700 pages long and because what I did read was as cold and inhuman as, well, an economic report. I ended up Googling (or should I say that I got on The Google and found) “Sir Nicolas Stern on global warming”. After reading this Cliff notes version, the Earth shaking economic report on the cost of global warming came a lot more clear to this non-economic type.View article
October 05, 2006
Perhaps my best argument against the theory of Intelligent Design is the indisputable fact that the vast majority of the good things to do in life happen in the same month. I’m talking about October and more specifically, October on the Great Plains. Winter out here can be inhuman, the last few summers have been unbearable. Spring can be good, but unpredictable. The time of year we wait for is fall. And the fall month of choice is October.
September 07, 2006
I’ve been feeling mortal. I suppose it started when I came down with pneumonia and the doctor looked at my chart and said, “In light of your age, we’d better order some additional tests.” He was about thirty and had that wrinkle and flake-free tan that doctors get from being able to choose the sort of sun they stand in. I don’t begrudge those tans. I’m just jealous and feeling mortal.View article
August 03, 2006
In the mid-ninetieth century the word spread around the world that the United States of America was about to begin a project that would alter the future of that new country, North America, and the world beyond. It would be an unparalleled engineering feat that would bring transfiguring prosperity to the Great Plains and to the country as a whole. The plan was to build a transcontinental railroad and the railroad’s promoters heralded it as the agent that could bring settlement to the West, much needed raw products to the Coasts, and wealth to all Americans.View article
July 07, 2006
The first thing I saw when I pulled into Tuttle, North Dakota was a corner gas station that looked like it could have been the model for a Norman Rockwell painting. Everything was the way it might have been in 1958: the red and white frame building, the single mechanic’s bay, the “bubble gum machine” gas pump, and the public bench out front. The elements missing from that idyllic version of American’s past were the things that made Rockwell, and perhaps America herself, famous throughout the world. When I drove slowly past Tuttle, North Dakota’s only gas station I found no sense of pride, no impression of enterprise, and no hope of prosperity.View article
May 05, 2006
Is it our twentieth century lives or is it human nature that makes us pile too much on our plates? Or maybe it is me?
All my life I have felt like I’m running about a week behind. Sometimes, like this spring, I fall many weeks behind and the weight of it slows me to the point that the eternal funk that has been chasing me since childhood threatens to catch up. I fantasize that it has something to do with being a Midwesterner, with my desire to please, and with my inability to say no. Maybe it is the plight of the free-lancer, i.e. knowing that next month might bring no offers of gainful employment we cannot afford to say no to any job proposal. Then, occasionally, all the proposals come through and there you are – plate again filled to overflowing.View article
April 03, 2006
I was asked to speak to a local church on Easter Sunday concerning the joys of living on the Great Plains. There are a couple problems with this request: first, I have never been a big celebrator of Easter and second, putting one’s finger on the joys of living on the Great Plains is a difficult job. I can deal with the first problem by looking back about fifty years to the time when I did celebrate Easter, forgetting some of what I have learned about other religions and ideas over those years, and recalling that one interpretation of Easter is a day of renewal, optimism, and belief in a fresh start. Who among us does not want to believe we have a chance at getting life right?View article
February 07, 2006
A few weeks ago, on a warm winter evening along the North Platte River, I meet a small, gentle man by the name of Gilford Rauch. His day job is a mid-level executive for one of the big insurance companies in Omaha. I don’t know exactly what that means but by the looks of Gilford I figured he might be an actuary or, at least, someone who spends most of his days in a windowless room with long columns of numbers as his main stimulation. He is a bandy-legged man of perhaps sixty years but with a nearly perpetual contented grin under his substantial bifocals. As we shook hands I felt a delicate but wiry hand take hold with a strength and solidness that surprised me.View article
January 06, 2006
A fifty-degree, windless day in January is something to savor on the Northern Great Plains. So yesterday we saddled up the horses and rode off for the far side of the river – onto the immense expanse of “empty” land that is being pushed hard to be made an official Wilderness Area.
For this particular chunk of land there are all sorts of arguments about access, property rights, and even original intent of the framers of our constitution. The discussion is familiar. The arguments for the preservation of Wilderness and against the preservation of Wilderness apply to innumerable remote areas across America and beyond. I have made a point out of staying out of the debate for a lot of reasons but the main reason for my timidity is the inevitable mushy definition of Wilderness.View article