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
December 05, 2005
Not long ago I had the pleasure of driving down the length of the Great Plains from my home in the Dakotas to South Texas. I passed through nearly all of five large states and as I drove I watched the land change. To the careful observer there is a world of difference in topography, flora, and fauna between the Missouri River breaks of South Dakota and the Cap Rock of Texas. Even the people change: from the stern northern European Lutherans of the Northern Plains to the slow talking Baptists and Hispanics of the Llano Estacada. But the similarities are overwhelming. Blue stem, grama, wheat-grass is everywhere. The pickup is seldom out of the gaze of pronghorn antelope and mule deer. Migrating hawks and waterfowl shadow your progress north in the spring and south in the autumn.View article
October 07, 2005
It’s five o’clock in the morning of the most important day of the year. Upstairs the coffee is perking and already I’ve stepped outside three times – just to bear witness, to feel what is taking place, to be touched in the same way as every other object and organism on this ranch. Last night the temperature slid below the magic bearer of freezing. The first frost. There is no adept metaphor. When I first stepped outside this morning the world was irredeemably different than it was when I went to bed.View article
September 07, 2005
An excerpt from the first full draft of his new novel, “Stolen Horses”.
The sun was touching the horizon as Leo and Carl topped the ridge on the way back to the house. Purples and reds shot over their heads and fanned out toward the east. The air was dead calm and the world was as quiet as it can be. Carl was thinking back on the afternoon, engrossed in the detail of memory, when a trio of grouse winged overhead. He wouldn’t have known the grouse were anywhere near if Leo wouldn’t have heard them and looked up. When Carl followed his dog’s stare he saw the birds flying high above just as the intermittent chuckles and the whir of their wings reached his ears.View article
July 07, 2005
One of the first buffalo that came to this ranch was a scrawny orphan with a crooked horn. He couldn’t have weighed over forty pounds and no one was betting that he would even survive, let alone thrive. The twisted horn is what gave him his name, Curly Bill, and it wasn’t long into that first tough winter that the little urchin began to win our heats. He was a bit of an ugly duckling and several buffalo managers more knowledgeable than I took one look at him and advised me not to make him herd bull. They said this with a chuckle and meant that Curly Bill should not be allowed to breed. They judged his genes detrimental to my buffalo herd and urged me buy some “quality bulls” to improve my herd.View article
June 07, 2005
I have never been to the Mission San Juan Capistrano but my mother told me about the swallows. What I remember from her stories is what many of us remember from the legend of The Swallows of Capistrano: There is an old Catholic mission somewhere in far off California where swallows return each year to mark the coming of spring. They leave in the autumn and the evens of the mission buildings are silent and bare all winter. We lived in Ohio where the winters can be silent and bare and my mother would mold that story of the swallow’s returning into a lesson of faith.View article
May 03, 2005
The day Jill was due to arrive home from France I got a call that an old friend had just died. Tim Hjort and his family had become my friends through Jill. She and Jilian had lived beside them years ago and something had clicked the way it sometimes does. When I met the Hjort’s it clicked for me too. Tim was just my age, a progressive man who had been raised on a Montana ranch and had ranched in South Dakota for decades. He could be as cynical and cantankerous as I can be. We enjoyed each other’s company and our families enjoyed each other, so greeting Jill with the news of Tim’s impending funeral was tough duty.View article
March 02, 2005
Now we move into Spring. Both the Ides of March and the Vernal Equinox have passed. Dawn comes a little earlier each morning; the sun eases itself little by little northward in the eastern sunrise sky. The prairie winds blow and whistle and sometimes howl. But if you are going to live in the prairie, you will live with the winds.View article
February 06, 2005
The holiday season has come and gone and I can safely say that winter, in its full attire, has arrived.
Let me get you caught up on what’s been happening out here.
Dan and Jill and Erney are deep in the process of taking up permanent residence here at the Cheyenne River Ranch. Needless to say “hectic” right now is normal. Jill’s daughter, Jilian, a senior at New Underwood High School is, along with being an honor roll student, an excellent point guard for the NUHS girls’ basketball team. (Never mind that in the last game she got her nose broken scrapping for a loose ball.) We all support her and go to as many games, both home and away, as we can get to. Jill commutes frequently to the Broken Heart and to the office in Spearfish to keep the administrative parts of Wild Idea Buffalo running smoothly. She also stays busy in her kitchen – which, believe me, is as busy as ever. Dan is presently away from the ranch. He has taken a visiting professor position for the winter quarter at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. He’s teaching a course in Environmental Science and also conducting an upper level course in Creative Writing.