A Prairie Journey
With a few days off from work, I headed north east from Colorado, into Nebraska, and north into South Dakota following the same roads that my family traveled often when I was a girl. In those days the road through the Nebraska Sandhills was narrow and winding with no shoulder. If one pulled off the road for a break, the sand was so soft that the car became stuck, so one kept carefully to the narrow road. Cars were not air conditioned and the Sandhills were brutally hot and dry. We hung cloth over the back and side windows of the car to keep it cooler and kept a thermos of ice water in the car, but inevitably it was melted and warm before we were halfway through the Sandhills. The journey seemed long and difficult, and I can remember how hard it was to find a place to stop for a cool drink. Today, the journey is easy with a broad easy road, many places to stop along the way and lovely air conditioning in the car. It gives one a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery. The hills were beautifully green for late July and blushed with a covering of yellow flowers on the southern slope of the hills.
In the northern Sandhills, the Valentine Wildlife Refuge has numerous lakes where it protects vital habitat for migratory birds and other wild life. The lakes and ponds shine like sapphire pools among the hills of green grass!
In South Dakota, the road travels through the hills of the Missouri River as it traverses the state. This is another road that is much changed from days of old when it wound for miles among the hills. The old road was beautiful, but it was long. Once again, the new road is smooth and wide and much quicker. The vistas are still gorgeous!
I spent the better part of a week visiting my Aunts and Uncles, one set in southeast South Dakota and the other in the west near the Black Hills. How good it was to sit and visit and to simply be there with them! When I got home, I realized that not once did I take my camera out to take a photo of their beloved faces. Though I did take a few photos in the area where my Dad's family was from. It's lovely farm country with many gorgeous barns.
I do love white barns. Much inspiration for future paintings! The weather was cool and cloudy most of the time I was there. In fact they set records for low temperatures! Imagine, 45 degrees for the overnight low in July! One day it barely made it to 63 degrees during the day. We wore sweaters the whole time.
The wheat and oat harvest was well underway so I was lucky to get this photo!
This field of barley is also ready for harvest. The saturated colors of the landscape were stunning.
As I drove west across South Dakota, the skies cleared except for large thunderstorms that swept across the landscape. Out here where there are no trees, the scale of the thunderheads is easily seen. They are immense and powerful!
It was lovely to revisit some of the paintings that my Aunt, Olive Fenenga, painted. She was a fabulous artist, painting mostly scenes of rural South Dakota. I think this one of a grain elevator may have been one of her best. It certainly caught the evening light of the prairie that I remember so well.
I heard many people lamenting about how few bees they had seen this year and how poor their gardens were as a result. But then my Uncle found this beehive tucked in a tree! We stood and watched the bees for some time. At first I thought it must be paper wasps, but no, it really was bees! The nest was so beautifully made.
On the way home, I drove south through the Black Hills and stopped to see Mount Rushmore, which I hadn't seen in probably 20 years or more. Still a fun place to stop, though I miss the old road which wound through tunnels in the rock that framed views of the sculptures.