The prairie of South Dakota (Photo: Bri Weldon)
Writer Linda Hasselstrom lives and writes on the South Dakota Prarie. It's a beautiful place that commands deep respect when the winter cold and snow arrive.
CURWOOD: This week we revisit "The Place Where You Live" - with another in the Living on Earth/Orion Magazine series. For more than a decade, Orion has called on its readers to put their memories of home on a map and submit essays on its website.
And now, we’re giving those reflections a voice.
[MUSIC: Edward Sharpe & The Magentic Zeroes “Home” from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes (Rough Trade Records 2009)]
CURWOOD: Home, home on the range may be the place where the deer and the antelope play - but increasingly it also where people want to live - which can be frustrating to long-time residents.
HASSELSTORM: My name is Linda Hasselstorm and I’m from Hermosa, South Dakota. I live on a ranch five miles south of that town and Hermosa is a once very small ranching community that has sprouted large numbers of subdivisions in the past 20 years. Many of the new residents feel that they need to have large so-called security lights that glare in all directions and tend to keep away the wildlife that they have moved out here to enjoy. You can tell the old ranches because they are dark at night.
CURWOOD: Still, the prairie is Linda's home - and at this time of year, she says it deserves special respect.
HASSELSTORM: One of the things about living in South Dakota is that things can change so quickly. We know winter is coming and we prepare for it. And some of us can smell it when it’s about to snow, but it can happen any time. We have to be ready, particularly ranchers because the cattle depend on us. And so, we have to be ready for anything at any time.
Blizzard. Pink sunrise. Snow hisses through the buffalo grass. I can barely see the road a half mile away. The highway patrol advises motorists to stay home. Four SUVs creep away from new houses where cattle and deer grazed a year ago.
The thermometer reads zero. The wind chill factor is thirty degrees below zero. My house moans with each wind gust. Snow ghosts dance on the rims of old drifts.
Twelve whitetail deer lie among the windbreak’s junipers. Porcupines doze in cracks in the limestone cliffs, digesting dried buffaloberries. A great horned owl hugs the trunk of a pine. One set of black horns shows on the southern horizon, telling me eleven pronghorn are gathered there. One head is always up, one set of eyes always watching.
The cattle lie along the dry streambed below the house. Backs to the north, they chew their cud and bat their icy eyelashes.
On this South Dakota winter day, the animals, aware of every shift in the wind, are living comfortable, normal lives. When the moon rises and the wind falls at dark, they will move out of shelter to search for food.
North of here, two trucks have jackknifed and a hundred vehicles skidded and swerved into a mangled mess. Emergency personnel will spend hours untangling the jumble.
The snow piles around tawny grass. Under the sod, roots wait for the moisture that will trickle downward with snowmelt. Only the humans fret and fume against the nature of this weather, against the nature of this place.
CURWOOD: Author Linda Hasselstrom lives in Hermosa, South Dakota. She writes about ranching and the environment and hosts writing retreats. Tell us about “The Place Where You Live.” To find out about the Living on Earth – Orion Magazine series and how to post your essay – go to our website LOE dot org.
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