No, this one isn’t a love story, it’s about meeting someone while blogging who looked at my world from a very German/Austrian world. They found me first, reading my poems and blogs and posting poetry and photography that I enjoyed. What changed was the fact that they were traveling in the United States. They were following roads that I have traveled with my family, with my parents, with my readings. I grew up in the Midwest and that’s a world far away from living near Washington, D.C.
I remember the wild flowers that seemed to sneak along country roads. If you had time to stop and see them up close, there was a symmetry to them as well as a beauty. There were fields of corn, wheat, soybeans, and the sunflowers in North Dakota that tracked the sun across the sky. My parents were involved with crop management and plant diseases. Dad was an Agriculturalist, Mom a Plant Pathologist. Both were active in many garden societies. They made sure we children each had a garden to mess about with and I loved mine. We spent money we earned shoveling snow or babysitting on plants. I always had perennials, iris and once a peony. There was the annual Iris Society auction that we could bid at. There would be one or two bids against us, before with wise smiles the adults would let me win. I liked yellow, blue, and purple iris. I wanted to breed my own colored iris, but I didn’t have time as I was growing up and time is fleeting when you are young. Dad taught me to root ornamental bushes so that new ones would grow. He forbade me to pull them up and check to see if roots were growing. I was as bad with carrots and potatoes.
We would head west once in a while, living Minnesota to visit family in North Dakota. We went to Jamestown where the world’s largest concrete buffalo lives. My uncle Jerome, Uncle Jerry, conspired with another man to buy and relocate real buffalo to live under the statue. He bought three females and the other gentleman bought a male. They flourished under the statue. There was a wild west town that was located above the field the buffalo were in. It had a school, a prairie church, a couple of houses with iron stoves that were powered with wood, coal, braids of straw in bad times, and sometimes even buffalo chips (But those would smell very badly.) I was never sure whether or not I was being teased back then, I believed most everything my parents said when I was young, trusting them not to lead me astray.
There is a show in Medora, North Dakota. If you ever travel through the area June through August, check into one of the hotels there. They’ll ask you if you want tickets to the show and you must answer yes. The entire town closes at sunset and you sit in an amphitheater with one escalator. The first joke is that it can go up or down. It was the whitest audience I had ever seen. A combination history (somewhat exaggerated) Of Theodore Roosevelt and his ranching there after the death of young wife and a revival of religion and local color and traditions it’s worth the time to sit and laugh and be part of the past. Theodore Roosevelt national park has wild buffalo, wild horses, rattlesnakes and horse trails so that you can feel what it’s like to be in the wild west the way it might have been. The prairie glows golden through the grasses, red next to the drop-offs into the badlands. There are so many different colors of red in that sedimentary rock. White clay, oceanic clay, for this was once a sea. There are fossils and coal veins that burn when struck by lightening. Eagles and owls overhead with their shrill cries. The owls at dawn and dusk move soundlessly feeding on gophers, mice, snakes. They have large appetites.
Heading west along I 94, you leave North Dakota for Montana and it’s sage and tumbleweeds. For those who think that North Dakota is flat, Entering Montana is flatter. The ground moves down and away from the highway, and the wild west is filled with farms, small towns and oil rigs. You take a left three quarters of the way through the state and you arrive at Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is full. It’s just full of people, wild animals, rangers, a probation work program for young offenders who wait tables and wash dishes. It’s a cheap labor force and one that does some good. there will always be some who seek out recreational drugs but most of the kids are glad for some cash in their pockets and something to do. Retired folks work in the gift stores, spending their off times in walking, driving and seeing the secrets hidden but waiting for discovery. Pelicans, I never knew there were so many, weather on Lake Yellowstone. Bison and Elk stand next to signs that say “Stay away from the wild animals. They are dangerous.” There’s always one parent throwing a terrified child with a grimace next to the beasts to take a picture. I’m amazed at how patient the animals are. Buffalo aren’t known for their patient natures. They are wild with the need to roam and smack horns, to defend their young and their herds. The elk seem more mellow, laying on the shoulders of the roads watching for wolves and poor drivers. They turn their heads back and forth, just watching. About five in the afternoon they wander away, finding other places to munch and watch for wolves. When you see the wolves for the first time, they run along the road, tongues lolling, happy. You can see the happiness that is their spirit. They can hunt and they will, with or without watchers. The elk are their favorites, seeking the old or new. Then you find the bears. One is head first into a bear proof trashcan right at the ranger stations. The rangers just shake their heads, for a black bear will find a way. Feet waving in the wind, it was the only black bear we saw in the week we were there. The moose that appeared with a crowd of human tourists chasing it for photos was displeased but it had somewhere to go, where the water was deep enough to shake the humans off. The grizzly was trying to cross the road. The humans surrounded the young bear who wanted to go feed. I went up to the ranger and asked he had ever had to shoot one. He wryly looked around at the tourists, then grinned at me and said, “No, but I have been sorely tempted.” There was no mistaking the humor of a man who was stationed amid the wild how had to deal with humanity out of control. I asked where we could find a grizzly from a distance so that we could really see it. He looked shocked, then told me to go one parking lot back in the direction we had come from. He said to sit there and wait. We did. A field of lupines on the side of a mountain, and after an hour, sure enough, the bear did come over the mountain. It was free of humanity and dug for roots, ate flowers and really didn’t pay us any mind. When he had covered half the distance to us, munching happily, we did as the ranger requested and got back in our car, put the windows up, and left when he was still 50 yards from the road. His ambling was precious, his path through beauty breathtaking. The moon rose, and we retired, only to find a small lizard on our hotel door. An anole of some kind.
It was the path that my fellow blogger had followed. I remembered things through the lens of their camera. I’ll have to go back to my pile of photos and scan them into my computer to share with you sometime. I miss the west, the sense of community. I miss the way people helped each other. I miss the pace of life. However, I am a Virginian now, and there are places out here equally beautiful to show people. I hope someday they will be in the area so I can show them Luray and Skyline Caverns. I’d love to show them the mountains and the ocean. I’d love to take them to a baseball game in DC and a show in New York.